The subject of apprenticeships is regularly debated. But despite government led initiatives, investment in the quality of apprenticeships and the breadth of employers now offering these programmes, there is still significant skepticism from some school leavers as to how far your career can go without a university degree.

At global professional services firm EY, we have long recognised the benefits apprentices bring to our business and the value that an apprenticeship can add to an individual’s career. National Apprenticeship Week is a timely reminder of why UK businesses should think about supporting an apprenticeship programme, if they aren’t already, and why school leavers should seriously consider one, when thinking about their future career.

Finding the right talent for the workplaces of the future

Today, one of the biggest challenges for businesses is attracting the right candidates with the right skills; apprenticeships can help them address that challenge. They provide a powerful combination of study, professional qualifications, with on-the-job experience, which makes for a positive all-round start to a career.

In addition, apprenticeship programmes give employers the opportunity to shape the next generation of business leaders, by developing their skills through hands-on experience in the workplace; good news for apprentices, the labour market, businesses and the economy.

Growing on the job

For school leavers, apprenticeship schemes have proven to be extremely valuable in terms of employability and improved career prospects. Figures from the Department for Education (Apprenticeship Core Brief – November 2016) suggest that employers find qualified apprentices 15% more employable than those with other qualifications, such as university degrees. The report also shows that after finishing their course, the majority of apprentices (90%) stay in employment, with seven in ten (71%) remaining with the same employer.

Apprenticeship schemes help school leavers to start their career straight after school or college. Once enrolled, they experience daily life in a workplace environment, have access to quality learning and development (training), on-the-job coaching, and in EY’s case, the opportunity to work with our clients on a range of projects, fully supported.

EY Business Apprentices study for a globally-recognised industry qualification, the same as our graduates. However, our apprentices could complete their qualification quicker, one year less from the time they left school, compared to a graduate, who pursued a university route, and without the cost of tuition.

Moreover, once they have completed the apprenticeship they will have access to the same great career options as any of our graduates, which means unlimited potential for someone full of ambition. We have many leaders in our business that didn’t go to university and have climbed the career ladder – now sitting in leadership roles.

In fact some would say apprenticeships offer a competitive advantage; a fast-track career option.

Explore the alternatives and meet potential employers

This year marks the 10th anniversary of National Apprenticeship Week, and one of the best ways for school leavers to decide if an apprenticeship is the best option for them, is to engage with potential employers and explore the opportunities that apprenticeships offer, whilst exploring more traditional routes such as university. At EY we offer a range of initiatives including office open evenings, insight days, and a week-long work experience programme to help them to make more informed decisions about their next step.

This week, EY is hosting a number of our open evenings in our offices across the UK, where our apprentices will provide insight into what it’s really like to work in a global organisation, inspire others to take that first step into the world of work, and help guide the next cohort of apprentices through the decision-making process.

So how far can you go without a degree?

Apprenticeships can unlock career opportunities the same way as a degree can. It is up to each individual what route is best for them. Whatever option decided, seize the opportunity and make it work for you and your ambitions.

Steve Keith, Employer Brand Manager, EY UK&I

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