Apprenticeships: A Smart Choice for School Leavers in Wales

updated on 15 February 2024

Are you a teacher or a parent of a young person who is finishing school and wondering what to do next? 

Do you want to help them find a rewarding and fulfilling career path that suits their interests and abilities? 

If so, you should consider the benefits of apprenticeships and degree apprenticeships in Wales. 

Apprenticeships; The Basics

Apprenticeships are a terrific way to gain qualifications while you work and earn a wage. They combine practical training on the job with formal learning and study, leading to a nationally recognised certificate or diploma. 

Apprenticeships cover a wide range of sectors and levels, from level 2 (equivalent to 5 GCSEs) up to degree level. 

Degree apprenticeships are a new and exciting option that allow you to work towards a full degree. They are designed in partnership with employers and universities and are fully funded by the Welsh Government, so they are not saddled with debt. 

The average debt for Welsh graduates in 2023 was a crippling £35,780. Not just that, the interest rate is now 7.6%. This means that the debt grows faster than inflation and faster than most grads can repay, the average debt after 5 years grows to £50,800. There is an alternative route to a degree which avoids this huge debt... and it is a Degree Apprenticeship.

Apprenticeships; The Benefits

We are often sharing the benefits of an apprenticeship with Gen Z across Wales; here's some of the top reasons yours might want to consider an apprenticeship. Pass them on:

👍 You can start your career from day one; you will be instantly employed and in the labour market, unlike your traditional university going peers, who will learn for 3 years then start looking to enter the labour market.

👍 You will not have to go through the traditional academic route, no essay and exams, oh and did we mention... no accumulation of student debt for the privilege.

👍 You can earn a salary while gaining valuable work experience and skills that your employer (and others) really wants.

👍 You can learn by 'doing' not by reading about someone else doing it, with teaching and access to professionals and mentors, you will apply your knowledge in real-work situations – where it counts!

👍 You can achieve a recognised qualification or degree that can open more opportunities for progression and development, and you will have both the quals and the experience!

👍 You will have the support and guidance of your employer, your training provider, and your peers throughout your apprenticeship journey.

👍 You can gain three years more experience. Employers want experience, you'll have years more than your peers that choose the university route.  

Welcome to the Skills Economy; The Timing Couldn't be Better

Skills shortage vacancies have more than doubled in Wales over the last 6 years, but the trend in Welsh school leavers going to university is relatively stable, the university pipeline will not fill the shortage and employers know it. In today’s skills economy - where skills are the currency of the future - there has been a noticeable shift in the UK job market with regards to the requirement of a university degree.

Skills are the currency of the future, it's a concept based on the idea that in the rapidly evolving job market, it’s the skills that a person possesses, rather than their academic qualifications or job titles, that are becoming more valuable

Recent trends show the shift towards apprenticeships  

  • The requirement of a degree in a job ad has decreased since 2018.
  • Industries such as Education, Finance, and Health & Nursing still have a high degree requirement, but relatively few digital, IT & software jobs require a degree. This could be an indication that more tech companies are offering apprenticeships or focusing more on experience and/or the soft skills needed to learn and thrive in the industry.
  • Major companies like Delta, General Motors, Google, Apple, and IBM have dropped the bachelor’s degree prerequisite for many positions.
  • This shift towards skills-based hiring suggests that employers are placing increasing value on skills, experience, and a willingness to learn on the job... yep, the exact components of an apprenticeship.

Apprentices; In their Own Words

Clearly we are advocates for the apprenticeship route, but don’t just take our word for it, here’s what apprentices have to say about their experience: 

“As an apprentice in the NHS, you do feel you’re supported. I’ve never felt so looked after. I couldn’t just go and do a nursing degree, so the apprenticeship gave me that opportunity to get my foot in the door.” - Sarah 

“My apprenticeship has given me the motivation to succeed and do well in the career path I have chosen. As a plumber you can earn £60,000, so I knew there was a lot of potential in the job. I’m debt free and have a secure future.” - Lee 

“Being an apprentice has been the best time of my life, I’ve been able to do things that I’m passionate about. I’ve been able to meet so many different people. I’ve built up my confidence. It’s been the best experience it could have been.” - Alim 

“I wasn’t a hundred percent sure what I wanted to do after 6th form. Then, my mum showed me an ad in the local paper for an apprenticeship. I want to be earning six figures by the time I’m thirty. And that’s the beauty of starting young, it’s all possible.” - Ella 

“I chose not to go to university – it was the best career decision I ever made, a degree is no longer a requirement for job applicants. It’s about time!” - Ella B

Ready to support your Gen Z? Here's the Next Steps. 

  1. There are 10 Training Providers that offer apprenticeships in Wales; check out the list and explore their offers. 
  2. Some Further Education College’s offer apprenticeships too; check out the list and explore their offers, too. 
  3. Careers Wales are responsible for promoting apprenticeships in Wales; go to their search engine for live vacancies. 
  4. You can explore the employers that offer apprenticeships, here. (Search by sector, especially the priority and growth sectors where skills needs will be in demand.) 
  5. For higher level degree apprenticeships, explore what this list of Welsh universities has to offer. 

Apprenticeships and degree apprenticeships are a great decision for school leavers in Wales. They offer a unique opportunity to learn, earn and grow in a career that aligns perfectly with the employers. Take action to inform your young people today and lets just see where it takes them! 

You've got this 😎✌️

Gem Hallett. miFuture Founder | @miFutureSkills

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