5 common myths about apprenticeships, busted

We are pleased to announce the launch of Easy Apprenticeships, our new apprenticeship gateway and recruitment solution for businesses all across the UK! This week’s blog post is a re-share of an article first published on the Easy Apprenticeships website.

Although over 700,000 people in England are participating in apprenticeships, there are still many myths and misconceptions about what they are. Some employers and potential apprentices are put off because of these misconceptions, but the reality couldn’t be any more different. Here are five common myths about apprenticeships, and the facts behind them.  

Only school leavers can do apprenticeships

It’s true that apprenticeships are growing in popularity with school leavers (those aged between 16 and 18), who are looking for an alternative to university and higher education. The Department for Education reports that in the 2019/2020 academic year, under 19s made up around 23.6% of new apprentices. However, age is no limit! People of all ages can complete apprenticeships; the same research from the Department for Education found that 46.8% of new apprentices in the 2019/2020 academic year were over 25. 

Apprenticeships are a great option for people who already have a few years of work experience under their belt for a number of reasons. A survey from LinkedIn has found that 94% of employees would stay with a business longer if it invested in their learning, so offering apprenticeships to your employees is a great way to both help them upskill and demonstrate a commitment to their professional development. 

In addition, there are different qualification levels available depending on the apprentice’s previous experience, with the highest level being equivalent to a master’s degree. If someone is looking for a career change or a new role after having time off from work, an apprenticeship is a good way to get them trained and prepared for this change. 

University degrees are more valuable than apprenticeships 

A common misconception is that apprentices are often stuck on a low salary, while university graduates start earning tens of thousands of pounds almost as soon as they’ve graduated. However, many apprenticeship programmes are just as financially competitive as any graduate scheme. Sky News reports that in some sectors such as the arts and publishing, apprentices can earn almost three times as much as university graduates over the course of their careers. Personnel Today adds that degree apprenticeship salaries are rising faster than that of graduate roles; the wage gap between apprentices and graduates is narrowing every year, and may soon be eradicated completely. 

In addition, there is the benefit of ‘real world’ learning that apprentices gain years ahead of university students, which can give them an advantage in the job market. Research has shown that the majority of apprentices (85%) stay in employment after finishing their studies, many of whom (64%) stay with the same employer. Apprenticeship schemes are tailored to a specific company, which perfectly prepares apprentices to stay on with that business, and continue to develop their career with them. 

Research from Barclays Apprenticeships has found that 48% of graduates regret going to university, due to reasons such as the debt created by student loans, so apprenticeships may prove to be the more attractive option in the future.

Apprenticeships are for only useful for people who want ‘manual’ jobs 

It’s true that there are a wide variety of apprenticeship providers for manual trades such as construction, plumbing, and hairdressing to name a few. When many people think of apprenticeships, their minds go towards these ‘blue collar’ jobs, as apprenticeships have traditionally been a popular route into these careers. There is also the assumption that apprenticeships are for people who don’t perform well academically, but this is also outdated and untrue. 

There are apprenticeships available in a range of sectors and industries, including for more office-based careers such as those in marketing, computing and law. Furthermore, degree apprenticeships are an option for those with some work experience, or those who want to achieve a qualification equivalent to a traditional university degree.

Employers are impressed by candidates who have completed apprenticeships, because in many cases they have experience and transferable skills which can be applied in the workplace from day one. Most university graduates lack this same experience, so in some circumstances, completing an apprenticeship may actually put you at an advantage over other candidates. 

Apprenticeships are too expensive for employers

Many employers are entitled to government funding, which covers part or all of the costs of training and hiring an apprentice. Since 2017, an apprenticeship levy has been in place for all businesses with a pay bill of £3 million or more, which is 0.5% of a company’s pay bill. Employers who do not pay this levy have to pay for 10% of training costs, with the government paying for the other 90%.

How much an apprentice gets paid depends on factors such as their age, and whether they have completed their first year. For apprentices under 18, and those who are over 19 and in their first year, the current minimum hourly rate is £4.30 an hour, but an employer may choose to top this up. Those who are over 19 and have completed their first year are entitled to the national minimum wage for their age. For more information about apprentice pay and what it needs to cover, check the latest government advice here.

The government is also currently providing incentive payments to encourage more employers to take on apprentices. If an apprentice’s start date is between 1 April 2021 and 30 September 2021, you can claim a payment of £3000, which you can use to help cover training costs, uniform, or to top up their salary. Applications close on 30 November 2021, so if this is something your company is interested in, you should prepare your application as soon as possible- and at Easy Apprenticeships, we can help you get the paperwork ready quickly and effectively without compromising quality. 

Hiring an apprentice takes too long and involves too much paperwork

You would be forgiven for thinking that hiring an apprentice requires a lot of time and the need to cut through a lot of red tape. However, a lot of the work for hiring an apprentice is actually completed by a training provider or college. As an employer, you will need to contact these organisations to determine the total costs of hiring an apprentice, then relevant candidates will be sourced on your behalf. You then continue the interview and hiring practices as you would with any other job applicant. 

When hiring an apprentice, it’s important to make sure that the training is up to standard and that all regulations are being met. Therefore, it might be necessary to allow slightly longer for this process than you would when hiring an employee. However, considering the potential long-term benefits of an apprenticeship scheme, it’s more than worth the initial investment!

Final thoughts

We hope this article has helped bust some of the most common myths about apprenticeships, and shed some light on the truth about how they work. Apprenticeships are a great way to provide new opportunities for school leavers, career changers and current employees, and also have several benefits to employers to enjoy as well. If you need any more convincing, check out our article with our top 5 reasons to consider hiring an apprentice here

Want to help build the next generation of workers? At Easy Apprenticeships, we can help you with every step of the hiring process, with a fully managed recruitment service and a dedicated team of advisors to support you along the way. Find out more about our process on our website here, or call us today on 0203 982 7600 for a free consultation!