I’ll be honest, when I hear the word ‘apprentice’ part of me (the childish part) immediately conjures up an image of Mickey Mouse dressed in wizard robes. When I hear ‘university graduate’ I think of someone wearing a similar costume to Mickey, but with a slightly stupider hat.
So, Apprenticeship or University?
This is, of course, an impossible question to answer. There are lots of benefits to both. It’s all about you.
If you are the kind of person who loves to research, write and complete projects, or if you’re likely to change your mind about your chosen career, then a health and social care undergrad course is definitely for you.
However, if you’re someone with a more hands-on attitude, if you like getting stuck into a challenge and know that you want to work in the health and social care field, then a healthcare apprenticeship is your golden ticket to kick start your new career.
Apprenticeships: Earn While You Learn
We’ve all read the apprenticeship mantra “earn while you learn”, and we’ve probably all thought “perfect”! But what is the reality?
The truth is, the starting minimum wage for an apprentice is only £2.68 an hour. It’s not quite enough to cover your travel expenses and certainly not enough to cover your Friday night out. However, (assuming you’re working the minimum required 30 hours a week), you will be earning upwards of £4,000 a year. That’s not a bad sum of money when you compare it to the £9,000 your friends are forking out to sit in a lecture theatre.
Apprentices at Work
In 2013, qualified apprentices scored 4% higher than university graduates on the “employability scale”. That’s 15% higher than the average person!
There are many benefits to a healthcare apprenticeship, but it’s the “experience” that really sets you apart from the rest of the pack. When you sit down for an interview or to fill in an application form, your potential employer will always ask you to detail your experiences of healthcare work. As an apprentice, your experiences are endless, wonderfully varied and, above all, relevant. The university graduate, on the other hand, is trying to decide which seminar gave them the best hands on experience.
What will I gain from my apprenticeship?
Your apprenticeship will give you a great qualification, which is valued very highly among huge companies (such as Barclays, John Lewis, and the BBC) right across the United Kingdom.
You will gain valuable contacts among people who work in your chosen field and you are likely to be offered a job. 83% of apprentices are given jobs after completing their placement (providing both you and your employer like the work you’re doing).
Despite the low minimum wage, you will probably earn quite good money during your apprenticeship. The average wage for an apprentice last year was £11.10. That is higher than a quarter of graduates, 20% of whom are working as waiters, shop assistants and in secretarial roles.
What do I gain from three years at University?
University was the best time of my life. I gained the most unusual and magnificent memories and made the most fantastic friends. Friends who are almost as passionate about my chosen subject as I am and friends who could turn out to be great business contacts in the future.
However, I graduated with a BA degree in my hand and a “what now?” on my lips. I had virtually no prospects in the wake of a double dip recession and I became one of 42% of graduates taking jobs that didn’t require a degree that year. I worked as a shop assistant and discovered one of my colleagues had a PhD in astrophysics!
In 2014, we’re rising out of that recession and young people are finding that the job market is opening its doors again, but one thing never changes, and that is the need for potential employees to have “relevant work experience”.
University graduates are undoubtedly qualified, but you are not experienced in the ways of the adult world. My 9am media lectures consisted of 75% pyjama-clad-morning-haters, 20% party-goers-who-haven’t-made-it-home-yet and 5% party-goers-who-are-still-partying. None of these are acceptable in the working world and certainly won’t help you with those difficult interview questions.
What about the debts?
The truth is, you won’t notice the debts. It’s not like that credit card bill, which is always lurking in the darkness, growing larger by the second. Your university debts will only start to be paid off once you’re earning enough to afford it and it doesn’t matter how long those student loans are left unpaid, they won’t increase with interest. Yes, you might be paying off those bills for a really long time, but that’s not a good enough reason not to avoid university altogether. Student Finance is a brilliant scheme which can benefit you whatever your financial situation and if university is the best choice for you, then don’t let the mounting fees put you off.
What does all this mean for me and my career in healthcare?
An apprentice is often better qualified, more employable and has more of that valuable ‘experience’ than a graduate with a degree in the same field. A career in healthcare is often more about the person’s skills than what they are able to remember for an exam. Their interaction with a client and their familiarity in a variety of potentially difficult situations is what sets the great social carer apart from the good one.
However, if you’re at all uncertain about your career path, don’t choose an apprenticeship. They are fantastic for those people who know exactly what they want to do, but you will find it difficult to become a mechanic with an apprenticeship in social care.
If you’re ready to start your career in social care then maybe it’s time to start looking at your options. Care Credentials Wales is one of many great apprenticeship companies out there and finding the right one for you is paramount.
See our courses page for more healthcare apprenticeship ideas or, if you’re still unsure about whether social work is for you, why not check out our “Am I Right for a Career in Healthcare?” blog. For answers to all your other burning questions see our Apprenticeships FAQ page.