Sponsored feature, words by Russ Thorne

Hot on the heels of National Apprenticeship Week, we spent a little time with the BPP Professional Apprenticeships team to take a look at what a vocational qualification can offer you. You might be surprised by some of the results...

1 – Apprenticeships now lead to a professional career

You might already know that an apprenticeship can qualify you for a lot of things. What you might not know is that they now include a high flying career as an accountant, a lawyer, a HR professional and a whole lot more besides.

Take Ryan, for example, who is a Level 2 Legal Secretary apprentice, studying with BPP while working for law firm Taylor&Emmet LLP. “I wanted to start gaining experience from day one and get my foot in the door with a company where I could work my way up,” he says. “My apprenticeship opens up pathways to other opportunities all whilst earning money and working towards a professional qualification.”

You can find out more about professional apprenticeships with BPP here.

2 – You can gain degree level qualifications

An apprenticeship is made up of academic qualifications studied at a college or with a training provider like BPP, alongside on the job training gained from working with an employer (while getting paid, which is always handy).

Some of those qualifications are equivalent to GCSEs, Higher National Diplomas and more, while others are at a higher level: a Higher Apprenticeship leads to an award that's the equivalent of the first year of a degree, opening the door to further study.

In other words, an apprenticeship can be a great alternative to university. “I honestly think that too many people go to university in the belief that an apprenticeship is second rate to a degree,” says Sam, a Level 4 AAT Higher Apprentice (in accounting), “but I’ve learnt that nothing could be further from the truth.”

3 – There are opportunities in lots of areas

Apprenticeships cover a huge range of careers. Whether you're drawn to agriculture, nuclear decommissioning or zoology, there are programmes out there to suit you.

If you know that you'd like to head down the finance, business or legal path, there are even specialist institutions like BPP who can help you. Their apprenticeships cover accounting, financial services, marketing, business admin, law and many others, with different levels to suit whatever stage your education might be at. To find out what's on offer, head to their website.

4 – An apprenticeship isn't a poor cousin to a uni degree

Thinking that it is constitutes one of the great big apprenticeship myths, and is actually about as true as the candidates vying for Lord Sugar's attention every year are shy, retiring and self-aware. An apprenticeship with BPP can be every bit as valuable as going to uni, it's simply a different option. Some students fit into uni life better; others suit an apprenticeship down to the ground.

More than ever before, companies are looking to recruit intelligent, driven young people earlier and train them within their company.

“I weighed up all the pros and cons of both university and an apprenticeship and came to the conclusion that the apprenticeship route was the best option for me,” says Rachel, a Level 4 CIMA Higher Apprentice at Fujitsu . “I could qualify as a Management Accountant in five years, rather than the six years it would take if I went to university first.”

You can find out more about what being an apprentice involves here . It's got nothing to do with being yelled at by Lord Alan Sugar...

5 – They're not just for plumbers in the 1980s

The other lingering prejudice around apprenticeships is that they're educational dinosaurs, relics from the days when Sinita was an actual pop star and not a prop on the X Factor.

Not so. Whether they're training skilled labourers or solicitors, apprenticeships are an important part of the modern working world. They're designed with the help of employers to make sure students get the right skills for the job. BPP's courses, for example, are put together with companies including BT, J.P. Morgan and Fujitsu and offer great opportunities for both apprentices and the employers themselves.

To make the most of those opportunities, have a good snoop around to see what's available. “Consider all of your options and do your research regarding the different types of apprenticeships on offer so you can find the perfect one to suit you,” says Rebecca, a Level 4 ATT Tax Higher Apprentice with a large Chartered Accountancy firm McEwan Wallace.
BPP’s website is a good place to start.