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The Truth About Apprenticeships

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Posted: 14/02/2017 Written by: Ellie Brown

Being paid minimum wage, not being taken seriously and endless tea-making. That’s what makes an apprenticeship. Wrong!

After countless conversations with school careers advisors, family members and peers, I came to the conclusion university wasn’t for me. I was left with one of two options: either stay in my current part time job of scanning people’s weekly shops, or enter the world of apprenticeships.

 

Knowing PR was the industry I wanted to progress into I researched current apprenticeship placements and discovered Genesis PR. I secured an interview, and after completing a couple of weeks’ worth of work experience and finishing my A-Level exams I was offered a PR apprenticeship – one of the first in the country.

 

Up until a few months before applying to Genesis I was, as I’m sure many people still are, a bit in the dark about what apprenticeships are and the benefits of them.  I had a basic idea as to what I thought they were but, as I soon found out, most of these were very wrong. Due to this, in an attempt to set the record straight, I’ve listed some of the most common misconceptions when it comes to apprenticeships.

 

Misconception 1 – apprenticeships are for 16 year olds leaving school

 

Apprenticeships are certainly advertised heavily towards school leavers but this is due to the fact when you are 16 years old you can apply for an apprenticeship for the first time. This doesn’t mean that apprenticeships are exclusively for 16 year olds. In fact, the majority of apprenticeships aren’t even available to 16 year olds due to their entry requirements.

 

There are four main types of apprenticeship: intermediate (‘Level 2’ or equivalent of 5 GCSEs); advanced (‘Level 3’ or equivalent to 2 ‘A’ levels); higher level (‘Level 4’ or equivalent to a Foundation degree / 1st year of a degree course) and higher – equivalent to a full degree. 

 

I am currently completing a Higher Level 4 PR Apprenticeship, delivered by the industry’s professional trade body the PRCA. This includes a mix of on the job and off the job training and an outside trainer-assessor visiting regularly to progress me through it.

 

Misconception 2 – apprenticeships are for young people

 

Since 2010 the majority of apprentices have been aged 25+.  Many employers are benefitting from upskilling their adult workforce through apprenticeships training.

 

Misconception 3 – you are used as cheap labour

 

If this were true, which it isn’t, it wouldn’t only be a waste of my time but a huge waste of the company’s. Genesis have provided me with the perfect opportunity to learn on the job exactly what it’s like to work in PR.

 

With no previous experience in the industry, I’m learning to the standard expected of Genesis and providing them with a perfect opportunity to train me from day one to work in a way that suits their business. It is highly unlikely for any company to waste an opportunity like this, especially when 96% of employers who take on an apprentice report benefits to their organisation.

 

Misconception 4 – you are seen as less able than everybody else

 

It is without a doubt that the Genesis team are fully aware I am an apprentice. But this is certainly not a bad thing – far from it, in fact.

 

I can honestly say that since starting at Genesis I have never been treated any differently to anybody else in the team. With that in mind I have also never been made to feel as though I’m expected to know everything after only six months working in the industry.

 

Genesis have the perfect balance of treating you like a professional whilst always being aware that certain tasks may require additional help or explaining.

 

Misconception 5 – if you are an Apprentice you must have failed University

 

Believe it or not I chose not to go to university and instead apply for the PR apprenticeship instead.

 

For me, university wasn’t essential and the fact I didn’t have a degree wasn’t going to hold me back in the industry I want to progress in. I was willing to pay literally thousands of pounds to spend the next 3-4 years of my life studying for a degree that would potentially aid me in securing a job in PR.

 

Therefore, when I discovered I could jump straight into the job role, not end up in debt but instead earn money, for me personally there was an obvious choice.

 

I hope this short blog has helped clear up a few of the misunderstandings surrounding apprenticeships and, in a time when it is statistically more likely to be accepted into Oxford University than it is to be offered an apprenticeship at BT, I think it’s time we changed the way apprenticeships are viewed and start to properly look at the facts.

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