What They Don’t Tell You About Apprenticeships

Hello everyone! Today I’m back with the second instalment of my ‘apprenticeship series’. Last time I explained the reasons why I chose an apprenticeship, but this time I’d like to talk about some of the things that you aren’t told before becoming an apprentice.

As far as I understand, apprenticeship providers receive funding for every apprentice they place into a company. So they will say anything to get you to join… often missing out some less desirable features of the course. So today I am going to EXPOSE THE TRUTH ABOUT APPRENTICESHIPS.. Ok, it’s really not that dramatic, but it still might be useful if you’re thinking about doing an apprenticeship.

It is more academic than you’d expect

For anyone who doesn’t enjoy school or university, and is thinking about doing an apprenticeship instead – BE WARNED – it is still pretty academic and there is a lot of coursework involved. You have to do a number of assessments to even get onto the course, and it is a requirement to complete your Level 2 Maths, English and ICT exams – yes, exams – if you have not done so already. If like me, you don’t mind an academic course then this isn’t a bad thing, it’s just something to keep in mind.

The pay is bad

I’m not going to sugarcoat it, apprenticeship wages are not good. The national minimum wage for apprentices is £3.40, and most companies are reluctant to pay much more than that. So if you think you’re going to be a working girl or guy living the high life, think again. But, like I said in my previous post, a small amount of money coming in every month is better than nothing!

Apprentices are often taken advantage of

Don’t worry, I’m not saying you’re going to get abused just because you’re an apprentice. But quite often managers and existing employees will see apprentices as a cheap extra resource, who doesn’t really know much about the industry or the working world in general, and they may take advantage of that.

I’m sure you’ve seen videos on Facebook along the lines of ‘we tricked our apprentice’ – and while these are all light-hearted and fun, it reinstates the fact that apprentices are at the very bottom of the food chain. All the more reason to work hard, and work your way up!

Recently I was chatting to my friend Amrit about this matter (she also used to be an apprentice and we worked for the same company for a while), and she expressed some great points, so I thought hey, why not include them in this article! Here’s what she said:

Smaller companies mean smaller roles. One thing I wish I was told about apprenticeships is that even the smallest companies can get involved and hire apprentices – which may be a good thing to begin with, but it can soon turn into a nightmare. Smaller employers often take advantage of apprentices and give them demeaning tasks such as boxing or clearing up. It’s all well and good when you are starting out and you don’t really know any better, but from personal experience, when you end up working for a larger company that actually respects you as a person, you can feel like quite a fool.”

Companies that hire apprentices are often unstable

This leads on from the previous point, but as harsh as it sounds, a lot of companies who hire apprentices are simply looking for cheap labour. So it’s a very real possibility that that company you are placed in could have financial issues – which never usually ends well.

Amrit and I can speak from experience, as the company we worked for had a team that was primarily made up of apprentices or interns. Needless to say, the company was struggling financially (unbeknownst to us!) and it ended up going bust… it was a messy situation and was extremely stressful. Not ideal for your first full time job! But it’s not just happened to us, I’ve seen a pattern of unstable companies hiring apprentices, and I personally know a number of apprentices who were placed in companies that ended up closing down.
So just a word of advice; do some research into a company before you agree to an interview!

You are thrown in at the deep end

You might not realise, but when you start an apprenticeship you are literally thrown into a fully operating business and expected to adapt as fast as possible. There are no training sessions explaining how to work in an office, or how to act in meetings or how to produce work up to your managers’ standard – these are all things you have to learn on the job. It’s a challenge, but I think being thrown in at the deep end is often the best way, as it forces you to use your initiative and basically, grow up.

You can find your true passion

The best part about an apprenticeship that you aren’t told, is that you might happen to stumble upon your passion, and learn how to turn it into a career. This is another thing that I discussed with Amrit, and it seemed more than appropriate to include her thoughts:

“Going into an apprenticeship was a little scary, but one huge thing I managed to get out of it was finding a passion for blogging. I always loved writing but actually doing it for a company was the moment I realised I wanted to start a personal blog. No one ever told me that my apprenticeship would lead me into blogging but sometimes a little experimenting can go a long way, so much so that you find something that you really love, even if it’s not entirely related to your job.”

You’ll make friends for life

One thing that I never anticipated for this apprenticeship, was the amazing friends I’d make in just a year. Of course everyone’s apprenticeship journey is different, and although I’ve been kind of unlucky with the companies I’ve worked for, I wouldn’t change my experience for the world – mainly because of the friends I’ve made along the way!

On the subject of friends, I’d like to thank Amrit for her contribution to this article! If you’d like to hear more of her thoughts on apprenticeships, fashion, beauty and more – check out her blog, Off Duty Living.

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