You’ve probably heard a lot of people talking about apprenticeships lately, as an alternative route into work instead of university or college. The Government wants to create three million apprenticeships by 2020  – and at Hinkley Point C we aim to facilitate 1,000 apprenticeships during the build of the new nuclear power station.
In fact, apprenticeships are actually one of the oldest training schemes around; with the first national apprenticeship programme introduced nearly 500 years ago . But, as you can imagine, they’ve gone through a lot of changes since then! As a result, there are a lot of misunderstandings about what apprenticeships really are, what they involve and how they differ from other routes into the workplace.
We’ve put together these five myths about apprenticeships: to help you separate fact from fiction, and decide if apprenticeships might be a careers route you want to consider for your future.
Myth 1: “You earn about £3 an hour”
Not true. The amount you earn depends on your age, the type of apprenticeship and level. Some of the higher skilled roles or apprenticeships for in-demand jobs – like welding and pipe fitting – will pay out considerably more. You can also expect to earn more as you progress through your apprenticeship.
It’s worth considering the impact of an apprenticeship on your future options too: on average, achieving a level 2 or level 3 apprenticeship boosts earnings by 11% and 16% respectively. While higher apprentices could earn £150,000 more on average over their lifetime, compared to those with level 3 vocational qualifications .
Plus, don’t forget that an apprenticeship is like a proper job, so you’re entitled to paid holiday: at least 20 days paid holiday per year, plus bank holidays. And the hours you earn aren’t just those you spend working on your apprenticeship, but also include the hours you spend training as part of your apprenticeship (usually one day per week).
Myth 2: “Apprenticeships are an easy option if you don’t want to go to university or college”
It’s certainly true that you don’t have to pay any tuition fees if you take up an apprenticeship; in fact you don’t pay for any training at all, as the costs are covered by the government and your employer. You also earn while you learn, so you get paid to develop new skills… result!
But the idea that an apprenticeship is an “easy option” for those who don’t want to stay in formal education is a complete myth. Many apprenticeships have stringent application and interview processes, so you’ll need to demonstrate your commitment to the role from the outset. Also, entering the workplace requires a mature and responsible attitude; you’ll be judged on your behaviour and approach to work by your manager and colleagues.
The other thing to remember is that apprenticeships are available at many different levels, up to and including degree equivalents… so you could end up with a degree and a skillset that’s come from learning – while earning – on the job.
Myth 3: “There aren’t any decent job prospects after the apprenticeship is over”
Not true. 92% of apprentices believe their career prospects had improved from taking up an apprenticeship . Whether you want to stay with the same employer you trained with – like 64% of apprentices do  – or venture elsewhere, a third of all apprentices received a promotion within a year of finishing their training and, in their lifetime, they can expect to earn £150,000 more than their peers without an apprenticeship .
Remember: there are lots of advantages to learning on the job – and employers increasingly recognise this. A survey in 2018 found that employers favoured work experience and apprenticeships over degrees . Their argument was that learning through apprenticeship and other on-the-job schemes gives young people familiarity with the world of work: they know what bosses expect of them and how to behave in a practical workplace environment.
The point is that your options are open to you following an apprenticeship: you can continue to work and develop your skills on the job, continue to train for a higher level of apprenticeship or other qualification, or expand your professional skillset… The world is yours for the taking!
Myth 4: “You have to have good GCSE results to get an apprenticeship”
Not necessarily true. It partly depends on what level of apprenticeship you’re applying for. This handy guide from UCAS gives an overview of the entry requirements and qualifications required for different levels. But also check the criteria required for each role, as the qualifications required can vary. Also, consider that some employers are willing to provide training in some GCSEs if the candidate can demonstrate the qualities they’re looking for in members of their workforce.
In fact, these behaviours and additional skills are increasingly being viewed as more important by employers than traditional qualifications. These skills include things like your ability to work in a team, act responsibly in the workplace or communicate effectively with others. This is where an interview can help if your qualifications don’t meet an employer’s requirements. Also, remember to reference any experience you have that can demonstrate these softer skills and behaviours in the workplace.
Myth 5: “Apprentices only make tea and run errands for the boss”
Not true at all. Today’s apprenticeships are formal approved programmes of study with a detailed training plan, workplace learning, 'off the job' learning and assessment. This is to ensure you leave with the qualifications, skills and experience required by employers .
Furthermore, most employers will expect you to behave like any other member of the workforce: getting involved, showing initiative and working collaboratively with others. You’ll most likely be expected to hit the ground running and demonstrate these behaviours from the outset.
The research out there about apprentices also doesn’t back up this outdated myth: 89% of apprentices are satisfied with their apprenticeship, according to the Government survey, and 92% felt that their apprenticeship had had a positive impact on their career. This wouldn’t be the case if most apprentices had spent their days making tea for everyone or running errands for the boss!
If you’re interested in finding out more about apprenticeships at HPC and any current opportunities available, visit our jobs and training page. If you’re aged between 16-21 and not already signed up to our skills programme, Young HPC, you can register here and be first in line to hear about apprenticeship opportunities at HPC.