Soaring tuition fees are a hot topic these days with many students giving up their dream of going to university simply because they can’t afford it. And let’s face it, starting your career owing £30k or more isn’t exactly an exciting prospect.
Take former student Simon Crowther, for example, whose open letter about the high cost of student loans and interest payments recently went viral. His civil engineering degree left him with more than £40,000 to pay back.
However, if you’ve just finished A Levels and university is out of reach because of money, an apprenticeship can give you degree-level qualifications without saddling you with huge debt.
Unlike traditional degrees where you study full-time, with a higher apprenticeship you will be gaining valuable experience, studying towards a high level qualification, such as a Bachelor’s degree, but without having to cover tuition fees. And you get paid as well.
You may find doing an apprenticeship will give you a head start on your contemporaries who’ve opted for the university route because you will have on-the-job experience and a foot already in the door with a good employer.
Charlotte Adnams had her heart set on going to university and studying PR but the financial constraints stopped her. Instead she embarked upon an Intermediate Apprenticeship in Business and Administration with PR firm Quattro.
She says: “Recent fee increases meant I couldn’t afford to go to university so I instead started looking into an apprenticeship.
“The apprenticeship set me up for my career perfectly. I can take my skills in PR into any company as I have the experience, which to me is more valuable than a degree.”
Charlotte successfully completed her apprenticeship, gaining an NVQ Level 2 in Business and Administration. Quattro was so impressed with her strong work ethic they went on to sponsor her taking a Higher Apprenticeship in Public Relations.
Thousands of careers available through apprenticeships
At any one time there are 28,000 apprenticeship vacancies in everything from banking and engineering to legal services. Among those you’ll find a myriad of opportunities for higher and degree apprenticeships with more coming soon.
The qualifications you get from level 4 and 5 higher apprenticeships are equivalent to a foundation degree, a higher education diploma or a higher education certificate. Level 6 is equivalent to a Bachelor’s degree and level 7 is the same as a Master’s degree. Apprenticeships offer the same high standards as traditional university degrees and are generally a combination of academic, work-based and professional learning.
All apprenticeships last at least 12 months but if you are undertaking a degree apprenticeship it can take up to four years to complete.
Joe Turton wanted a career in his favourite subject, science, but wasn’t sure university was the best route for his style of learning. Instead he found an apprenticeship opportunity with Fera Science Ltd through the Find an Apprenticeship website.
He says: “When I started my apprenticeship, I wasn’t certain of my career path. In completing my apprenticeship, it allowed me time to confirm my interest whilst getting paid. Now I’m able to continue my education, confident knowing that it’s an industry I want a career in.”
During his apprenticeship Joe learnt various laboratory and analytical techniques alongside problem-solving and independent learning. He developed skills that were directly relevant to the workplace and allowed him to take on more responsibility. As a result, Joe was promoted to Assistant Scientist after completing his apprenticeship and plans to undertake a part-time BSc in Environmental Science.
“Looking ahead, I want to continue to enhance my scientific knowledge on the job and develop into a more senior role at the company,” he concludes.