Doing an apprenticeship was the best decision I ever made

Tuesday 7 March 2017

Claire HMany people think apprenticeships are for people who weren't 'clever enough' to go to University and get, what they think, is a proper education. I just do not agree. For someone like me, who was desperate to start earning money when I left school, apprenticeships can be a fantastic way of providing for yourself as well as getting a quality education.

Friends of mine, many with degrees, who are trying to get jobs often say that employers don't think that they have enough work experience. Learning on the job with an apprenticeship provides you with ample experience that no degree could beat.

Don't get me wrong - they're not all perfect. They are far too many apprenticeships that pay far too little (the apprenticeship minimum wage is £3.50 but when I was doing one back in 2014 it was £2.68) and, if you're under 25, you have very little access to benefits (other than a little bit off your council tax) so living on your own or away from home is pretty much impossible.

Most employers do not seem to appreciate rising travel costs associated with getting to work either and it would be easy for an apprentice to spend 2 hours’ worth of wages every day on travel. I think employers should learn a lesson from the Showroom Cinema in Sheffield who are currently looking for a Commercial Apprentice. It may be on minimum wage but you get a travel pass so you can save more of your wages!

They could also benefit from reading Young Women’s Trust’s new ‘Good Practice Guide’ for employers. They have 10 tips to make apprenticeships work for young women which includes tips, such as offering more part time and flexible apprenticeship and ensuring adequate pay, above the apprenticeship minimum wage.

The majority of apprenticeships are also only offering Level 2 qualifications which is the equivalent of GCSEs. These can be a fantastic opportunity for people who left school without enough to get the job they want but it also shuts the door on thousands of young people who want to kick-start their career but already have that level of education.

My own experience with apprenticeships has not been a smooth journey. I was lucky enough to be offered A Level 2 apprenticeship with a great employer, but living on my own and trying to get by did leave me with some debts. Thankfully, I’ve been able to pay those off because the work experience I had in my first apprenticeship allowed me to join the Civil Service Fast Track Apprenticeship Scheme. Here I studied for a Level 4 NVQ in Business Administration whilst earning a good wage. Last week I found out that I've been successful in getting a promotion to another department too - at the grade that graduates join.

Doing an apprenticeship was the best decision I ever made. I want employers to listen to the Young Women's Trust recommendations of making them more flexible, better paid and allowing us to get on the career ladder and not be punished financially for it.