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Higher Level Apprenticeships- are they right for you?

University isn’t the right choice for everyone so before you dive into a degree course, check whether you might be better off doing a higher level apprenticeship

With University tuition fees set to rise again, it’s time to take a serious look at the alternatives and Higher Level Apprenticeships are the obvious choice.

So what are Higher Level Apprenticeships?

Apprenticeships come in all shapes and sizes: the vast majority are either ‘intermediate’ or ‘advanced’ (level 2 or 3) and are really aimed at those leaving school with 5 GCSEs or fewer. But for those leaving school with 2 or 3 good A levels,  it is levels 4,5, and 6 that are the real prizes. These are the apprenticeships that lead to either a foundation degree, an NVQ level 4 or above or an undergraduate degree, all of which employers value highly – in many cases as highly as a traditional university-based degree.

Don’t make the mistake of thinking that getting on one of these schemes will be a doddle- it won’t; competition can be as fierce as getting a place on a graduate scheme. And you can see why- starting salaries for apprentices at this level can be over £20000. The programmes typically last between 18 months and 6 years: so in the time it takes to accumulate £40000 of student debt you could have earned that and a whole lot more!

The great thing about apprenticeships ( apart from the money!) is that not only do you get first class training in a particular skills area but you are also accumulating all the other employability skills along the way- often giving you several years advantage over graduate recruits joining fresh from Uni.

Are Higher Level Apprenticeships right for you?

If you’re heart is set on going to Uni, then clearly this is not for you. But if you’re worried about taking on a student loan, or you’re itching to start earning or, maybe, you just don’t want another three years of straight studying, then Higher Level Apprenticeships could be right up your street.

An apprenticeship is great for those who know what field they want to work in and enjoy learning on the job. You also need to feel ready to work alongside people of all ages – suddenly moving outside own peer group can come as a bit of a culture shock.  You’ll be given responsibility early on and expected to use your initiative- for those of you who can’t wait to get stuck into something in the real world, this can be the most rewarding thing of all.

Obviously it’s great to be earning money but remember, at some time soon you may need to leave home for work so what might seem a fortune now, might not go quite as far as you think when you are paying rent, food and bills.

Some students need the three years at Uni to help them figure out what they want to do; but if that’s not you, then you might as well start on your chosen career path sooner rather than later. And remember, some Higher Level Apprenticeships will actually pay you to get a degree!

So which organisations offer Higher Level Apprenticeships?

Well, many of the top companies and organisations in the public sector do: check out our list of the major players:

Civil Service: offer 2 year apprenticeships in the following areas- business, commercial, finance, digital and technology and project delivery. Salaries range from £19500-£22000.

BT: offer a range of higher and degree level apprenticeships in various areas including finance, engineering, business, IT and HR. salaries can be up to £18000 p.a and programmes run between 2 and 4 years.

PWC, Deloitte, KPMG, EY, Grant Thornton, BDO, Smith and Williamson: for students who want to qualify as chartered accountants, work as tax/risk advisors or business consultants, these firms offer 2-4 years training plus help you prepare for professional qualifications. And you get paid, of course!

Army, Royal Navy : the Services offer a variety of Higher Level Apprenticeships from working in Intelligence and National Security, to becoming qualified as an engineer.

BAE, Rolls Royce, Sellafield, National Grid, GE,  Airbus, Jaguar Land Rover, SiemansThales, Qinetiq, : if you’re interested in engineering, science, project management, these firms offer a host of opportunities for degree level training. Some also offer Higher Level Apprenticeships in finance and commercial areas too.

Cisco, SSE, IBM, Capgemini, GCHQ, CGI, Vodafone, Accenture : if you want to work in technology, then check out what these companies are offering.

Balfour Beatty, Laing O’Rourke, Mace, Arcadis: these companies in the world of construction offer a variety of opportunities in engineering, quantity surveying, construction and facilities management.

Barclays, Lloyds Banking Group, JP Morgan, Santander: if you fancy working in the finance sector, there are opportunities in areas such as banking, HR, technology.

GSK, BBC, Unilever, Transport for London, Astrazeneca: these companies offer Higher Level Apprenticeships in different fields so check out if there is one that suits you.

Tesco have higher apprenticeship programmes in Business, Commercial and Retail areas as well as a special fashion buying and merchandising programme where F&F have teamed up with the Fashion Retail Academy.

Morrisons will sponsor you on their own special degree programme where you will learn all about the world of retails and how it operates..

Not everyone has to go to Uni and Higher Level apprenticeships offer  a real alternative. But just like any other other career path you need to do your homework and be prepared to do some research into the organisation before you apply.

UCAS have more information on higher and degree level apprenticeships, as do Not Going To Uni and All About School Leavers.

But you need to hurry – many of the programmes starting this September are recruiting now!

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