5th February 2020 The Kingsley School

Talking Apprenticeships with Mrs Bennett

Head of Careers, Mrs Bennett, is keen to further increase awareness and understanding of 21st century apprenticeships, busting the myths and sign-posting students, parents, and teaching staff to helpful resources. She says, “It is our responsibility as educators to ensure our students have a full and informed view of all possible routes to a successful career.” As an Apprenticeship Champion, Mrs Bennett was recently invited to participate in an Apprenticeship Consultation event at the Houses of Parliament. Her advice follows…

Whilst the majority of Kingsley students head to university after Sixth Form, we ensure they are informed about all pathways, including the apprenticeship route. Degree Apprenticeships are relatively new and growing, and offer an excellent opportunity for young people to get a debt-free, industry-designed degree and leap straight into a career. Apprentices split their time working for an employer and studying part-time (20% must be spent doing off-the-job training), with the cost of their university tuition fees covered by the Government and their employer.

Some talented young people don’t feel university is the right route for them. Sometimes they prefer to experience learning in the workplace, or maybe they know the job they want to do and are  eager to start doing it. Previous Kingsley girls have secured apprenticeships at PSA Peugeot Citroen, KPMG, Harrods, Siemens and Boots. Aside from graduating without paying tuition fees or taking out student loans (The Institute of Fiscal Studies suggests students in the UK accumulate an average debt of £50,000), apprentices get the chance to progress their career from day one, earning and learning at the same time. Recent vacancies include opportunities in digital and technology solutions, civil engineering and project management, with top schemes at larger companies offering a starting salary of around £22k per annum (and it’s good to know apprenticeship schemes are approved by the Institute for Apprenticeships to ensure good quality training and assessment). Not surprisingly, many view Degree Apprenticeships (Level 6) as the smart way to get hands-on experience, meaning you are highly employable at the end of your apprenticeship – whilst staying debt-free. Advanced (Level 3) and Higher Apprenticeships (Level 4) also offer some amazing opportunities, such as the chance to train as a paralegal or junior journalist.

Students – if you are undecided between going to university or applying for an apprenticeship, it’s worth knowing that you don’t have to decide right away. There’s nothing to stop you from applying to university through UCAS in the autumn of Year 13 and then, over the next few months, keeping your eyes open for apprenticeship vacancies that interest you. Apprenticeship schemes don’t follow the same application and deadline patterns as universities – the deadline for submitting your apprenticeship application will be down to the individual employer, and you’ll apply to them directly (you’re not restricted to one apprenticeship application either if you’ve seen more than one you’re interested in). To be clear, it is a not about applying for a course, but competing for a job; this requires excellent time management to balance searching for and applying for opportunities, at a time when your Year 13 studies are crucial. The application process can be challenging for some of the more competitive schemes but we can offer lots of support along the way, arranging workshops to practice interview skills, and even mock assessment centre workshops.

So what are the downsides? Demand outstrips supply currently, but numbers of Degree Apprenticeships are increasing year on year (the number approved by the government has increased by over 40 per cent in the past year). And, of course, taking this route at 18 does not provide the typical ‘university experience’; apprentices start a job with a minimum of 30 hours a week at work and it can be hard balancing this with studying too. You are also committing to a job, so if you are unsure whether this is the profession you really want to work in and would like to keep your options open, heading to university or even taking a gap year could be the best move at this point.

At Kingsley, students have benefitted from hearing first hand from some young apprentice visitors who are forging successful careers with companies such as EY, IBM and JLR, to name just a few. Brilliant role models for the students, they have highlighted the benefits and dispelled worries around the ‘FOMO’ factor of not going to university, or any concerns about getting ‘pigeon-holed’ into a career too early. If anything, testimonials suggest early career progression for apprentices, being in a stronger position at 21 than when new graduates join the company to work alongside them (TES quoted research in 2018 from the Institute of Student Employers that suggests employers receive on average 19 applications per apprenticeship vacancy versus 68 for a graduate vacancy).