10 common apprenticeship scheme myths, debunked

Posted on: 19 March, 2024

We’ve teamed up with national property consultancy Vail Williams LLP to explore some of the common myths and misconceptions about the apprenticeship route.

By Tanya Horscroft, Learning & Development Manager at Vail Williams

Vail Williams has a growing apprenticeship scheme with four apprentices currently studying to become Chartered Surveyors.

In this article, Vail Williams’ Learning & Development Manager, Tanya Horscroft, explores ten of the most common misconceptions about apprenticeship schemes.

Dispelling 10 of the biggest apprenticeship myths

As apprenticeships continue to grow in popularity, I wanted to take a look at some of the many benefits of these schemes – and bust a few persistent myths along the way.

For the first time since the pandemic, it’s great to be able to say that apprenticeship take-up is back on the rise. The latest data shows that 2.4 million people have an apprenticeship as their highest level of qualification. That’s 5.3% of England’s population – a figure that has nearly doubled since 2011. In the current academic year alone, apprenticeship starts were up by 7% on the same period last year.

It’s not just take-up levels that are soaring – so are the ratings. Analysis of more than 6,000 reviews on RateMyApprenticeship shows that apprentices score their experiences 8.4 out of 10 on average, and a whopping 97% of apprentices would recommend their scheme to a friend.

To me, the benefits of apprenticeship schemes are obvious – apprentices often enjoy quicker career progression as well as gaining skills for life, all whilst earning a good wage. Offering apprenticeship schemes also boosts staff morale and increases retention – figures show that 75% of apprentices stay with the company that provided their training.

But there remain several myths and misconceptions, which I want to take the opportunity to correct below.

1. Apprenticeships are only for “the trades”

Apprenticeships aren’t just for plumbers and electricians: employers can offer apprenticeships in a whole host of roles, from office administration and engineering to commercial real estate and marketing.

A quick browse of the government’s ‘Find an apprenticeship’ search tool will show you just how diverse the range of modern apprenticeships really is.

2. Apprenticeships are hard to set up

It’s easier than you might think to set up an apprenticeship scheme. There’s plenty of advice online, including a step by step guide that takes you from weighing up whether an apprentice is right for your business to choosing a training provider. There’s no need to worry about paperwork either – your training provider should handle most of the admin for you, including a health and safety check. UCEM certainly made it easy for us!

3. Apprenticeships are for people who aren’t ‘academically inclined’

Apprenticeships are designed to be accessible to everyone, with the range starting at Level 2 (GCSE equivalent) and going through to Level 7 (Master’s degree equivalent).

As an employer, you have complete control over the entry requirements for your apprenticeship scheme – you can choose whether to ask applicants for GCSEs, A levels or equivalent, or no formal qualifications at all.

4. Apprentices just make the tea

Apprentices are employees, not volunteers or interns. That means they are paid to add value to your organisation from day one. And because apprenticeship schemes are tailored to the needs of the employer, you can give them ‘real’ jobs that make a difference.

Of course, the level of responsibility needs to be on par with the experience of the particular person, and this will ramp up as they gain more knowledge and experience in the role.

At Vail Williams, this means going out to do property inspections themselves, not making the tea – or at least no more than the rest of us would!

5. Apprenticeships are only for 16-to-18-year-olds

There is a pre-conceived view that apprenticeships are just for those not wanting to go on to further or higher education. However, there is no upper age limit for apprenticeships.

Indeed, one of our own apprentices, Leanne Conroy, is 40 and has a young family. She joined our apprenticeship scheme in 2023 and is doing so brilliantly that she won the Rising Star award at the Built Environment Apprenticeship Awards 2024.

In the current academic year, under-19s accounted for 32.7% of apprenticeship starts. This shows it isn’t only school-leavers who want the flexibility of earning while they learn. There is no upper age limit for apprenticeships, meaning they are a practical and affordable way to develop professional skills or even make a career change later in life.

6. An apprenticeship doesn’t lead to a ‘real’ qualification

A degree apprenticeship ends with a degree. This is of the same value as a degree attained outside an apprenticeship.

Your apprentices get all the accompanying pomp and ceremony too: a certificate, a graduation, a cap and gown, the ability to put letters after their name. It’s the same, except they get to earn a wage at the same time! Speaking of which….

7. Apprenticeships are the same as unpaid internships

Apprenticeships are paid. From 1st April 2024, the national minimum wage for an apprentice aged under 19 (or 19+ but in their first year of apprenticeship) is £5.28 per hour. However, many employers choose to pay more: the national average salary for a first-year apprentice is £28,000.

8. Apprenticeships are for people new to a business, not existing staff

Absolutely not! Employers don’t have to use apprenticeship schemes to recruit new apprentices – they can also use them to upskill their existing employees. This is a great way to expand the skills of your workforce and reward staff by investing in their learning and development.

9. Apprenticeships aren’t ‘proper jobs’

Some might argue that an apprenticeship is actually more difficult than a ‘proper job’.

Alongside doing the day job with real roles and responsibilities, apprentices must dedicate several hours per week to studying in order to achieve their qualification.

10. The apprenticeship route is a male-dominated path

Apprentices can go into almost any sector and an increased number of females are taking up the opportunity. 50% of our apprentices at Vail Williams are women which is particularly important in a sector which has historically suffered with a lack of diversity.

Vail Williams is a national property consultancy employing over 170 people across 12 offices in the Midlands and North, South East and South Coast. An IIP Gold accredited company, the firm specialises in commercial and residential property advisory services.

For more information visit vailwilliams.com