news

Apprenticeships versus higher education – what’s best for you?

For students facing the end of their A Levels, the decision of what they should do next has always been a trial

For students facing the end of their A Levels, the decision of what they should do next has always been a trial, but not for generations has the choice between apprenticeships and university higher education been so tricky.

There was a time when apprenticeships were for those going into manual jobs, while university was for those following professional or academic routes. But these days things are not quite so simple.

Increasingly, universities are opening their doors to less academic, more vocational courses, while these days apprenticeships are not just the route into work for tradesmen – with everything from law firms to software companies offering increasingly competitive apprenticeship routes.

(Image: Handout)

As higher education tuition fees rise, the option of a training route where you actually get paid to learn, becomes particularly compelling.

A recent study published by The Sutton Trust, also argued that a high-quality apprenticeship is likely to offer you as much long-term financial security as many undergraduate degrees.

The think-tank calculates that youngsters who opt to study for a Level 5 higher apprenticeship – equivalent to a foundation degree – will earn around £1.44m over their lifetime. That’s almost £52,000 more than a student who studies at a non-elite university. These graduates can expect to take home around £1.39m.

Students who graduate from the elite Russell Group university, though, will earn around £1.6m. That’s £160,000 more than someone who does a higher apprenticeship and around £212,000 more than a student at another university.

Those who gained a degree from Oxford and Cambridge have the highest earnings power, with average lifetime earnings of around £1.79m.

About 10,000 higher apprenticeships are undertaken each year, the report says, and are available at different levels, including foundation level, undergraduate degree and masters.

Are apprentices for you?(Image: handout)

A poll conducted as part of the study found that 80% of young people, who said they were more likely to go into higher education than start an apprenticeship, thought that getting a degree would be better for their career prospects.

Sutton Trust chairman Sir Peter Lampl said: “If undergraduate degrees are seen as a gold standard, these vocational qualifications are too often seen as second best, or a fall back option.

“But some of the UK’s most famous and successful entrepreneurs were formerly apprentices – from the celebrity chef Jamie Oliver to the billionaire jeweller Lawrence Graff to the late fashion designer Alexander McQueen.

“Success can come through apprenticeships, but work is needed to boost their quantity and quality and change their public perception.”

New figures show that apprenticeships are more popular than ever – with almost 3m created since May, 2010, as part of a government drive to create opportunities for all.

The latest official stats show a rise in the number of people reaping the benefits of apprenticeships with around 905,000 people in an apprenticeship in the last year alone.

The figures also show that there are more young people starting apprenticeships, with more than 130,000 starts by under 19-year-olds during the 2015 to 2016 academic year.

Traineeships play a significant part in the government’s commitment to creating the highly skilled workforce our employers need. The latest figures show that there were 23,900 traineeship starts in 2015 to 2016, a substantial increase from 19,400 in 2014 to 2015.

Traineeships equip young people who are looking for work with the skills, confidence and vital work experience they need to gain an apprenticeship or other job.

View full mobile page