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10 myths about construction apprenticeships

Sue Husband

National Apprenticeship Week (NAW) 2017 brought together employers and apprentices from across England to celebrate the many benefits that apprenticeships can bring, writes Sue Husband, director of the National Apprenticeship Service.

In its 10th year, NAW is an ideal opportunity to showcase how apprenticeships help people of all ages “get in and go far” to gain the skills and knowledge they need for a rewarding career. 

With construction being one of the top sectors for employing apprentices, why are more industries not following construction’s example? Below are 10 myths surrounding apprenticeships that need to be debunked.

Myth 1. Apprenticeships are for people who don't do well at school

Apprenticeships are simply an alternative route into skilled employment. They are a great way to earn while you learn, gain vital work experience and set yourself on a fast-track to a successful career. 

Myth 2. Apprenticeships are only available in manual industries

While people may associate apprenticeships with sectors like the construction industry, this is no longer the case. In fact, apprenticeships are now available in more than 1,500 occupations across 170 industries, ranging from nuclear to fashion, law, banking and defence.

Even within the construction industry, apprenticeships are more varied than some might think. The construction managers of the future can now begin their careers as construction management apprentices – and with 3,200 needed every year, the apprenticeships pipeline of talent is much needed.

Other types of apprenticeships could see people working as quantity surveyors, laying drainage, or maintaining roads.

Myth 3. Apprenticeships are low quality

On the contrary – quality is at the heart of apprenticeships which is why the government is launching a new Institute for Apprenticeships this April to ensure all apprenticeships deliver the same high-quality training.

A group of employer “trailblazers” have also been involved in developing new apprenticeship standards so that apprentices can be sure that they are learning the skills that employers need.

Myth 4. Apprenticeships don't lead to good qualifications

Apprenticeships offer a ladder of opportunity so learners can progress from traineeships and intermediate (Level 2) apprenticeships right up to higher and degree apprenticeships. More and more people are now choosing an apprenticeship as an alternative to university while nearly a fifth (19%) of advanced apprentices progress to higher education over time following their apprenticeship.

Former JCB apprentice and now a senior manufacturing engineer at the company, Ben Emery, started his maintenance engineering apprenticeship in the industry 10 years ago – and knew it was the right thing for him. Now, at 26, he holds a First Class Honours Degree, alongside a host of other technical qualifications.

Myth 5. Apprentices will never earn very much

Apprentices must receive at least the national minimum wage (currently £3.40 per hour for 16-18-year-olds and those aged 19 plus in the first year of their apprenticeship), though many employers choose to pay more. In the long-term, individuals with an advanced apprenticeship earn between £77,000 and £117,000 more over their lifetime than similar individuals with level 2 qualifications.

Those completing a higher (degree level) apprenticeship could see increased earnings of an estimated £150,000 over their lifetime.

Myth 6. Apprentices are only given donkey work

Apprentices are trusted with a wide range of responsibilities. Higher level apprentices can find themselves as construction site managers or commercial managers on projects, giving them the skills and experience to thrive in the sector.

Apprenticeships are full-time paid jobs with training and many high-quality, prestigious companies offer them. According to Department for Education research, a quarter of former apprentices (23%) secure a promotion within 12 months of qualifying.

Myth 7. Businesses are not taking apprentices on

Apprenticeship participation reached a record high of nearly 900,000 in 2015/16, with 625,000 individuals starting their apprenticeship since May 2015. And at any one time there are up to 28,000 quality apprenticeship vacancies available on Find an apprenticeship.

The construction sector is leading the way in taking on apprentices: in 2015/16, there were 21,000 apprenticeship starts in England in the construction, planning and built environment sector. Construction apprenticeships are available across England, with organisations such as Sustrans currently looking for a construction civil engineering technician apprentice, the Arup Group hiring a design technician apprentice, and the Mott MacDonald Group recruiting a civil engineering apprentice. 

Myth 8. Apprenticeships are only for school leavers

Apprenticeships are available to people of all ages, making them a great option for anyone looking to change career, improve their skills to secure a new role or re-enter the labour market after having taken time out for whatever reason.

Myth 9. Employers don't value apprenticeships

Research indicates that apprenticeships boost productivity to businesses by, on average, £214 a week so more and more employers are now choosing to grow their business through apprenticeships. And with employers saying that former apprentices are 15% more employable than those with other qualifications, apprenticeships genuinely provide a stepping stone to a brighter future.

Myth 10. An apprenticeship won't lead to a full-time job

In fact, more than 90% of apprentices stay in employment after their course ends, with 67% remaining with the same employer. 

For more information, visit www.gov.uk/NAW2017. You can also call the National Apprenticeship Service on 08000 150 600 or go to www.gov.uk and search “apprenticeships” or “traineeships”.

Comments

As a recent ex-apprentice, I would wholeheartedly agree with almost all the points and commend CM for dispelling the myths around apprenticeships. Work absolutely has do be done, though, around points 3 & 4. There are, unfortunately, a lot of poor quality apprenticeships about with an absence of structure and appropriate development throughout as well as plenty that fail to consider what to do with apprentices post study. Equally, there is still a gap between what is often valued as 'good' qualifications by industry and what is on offer by apprenticeship providers. Having studied at both university and higher apprenticeship level, I can say that the quality of teaching on apprenticeships varies wildly and is often lacking.

  • 15th Mar 2017, at 11:08 AM
  • Ex-Apprentice

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