My most asked student questions

By Lucy Marshall

Pictured: Lucy Marshall, Community Manager, Workplus with students from Dunclug College, Ballymena.

As the school year comes to an end, it’s an opportunity to reflect on the busy year we’ve had visiting 3,600 students across schools in Northern Ireland.

Here are some of the most asked questions I’ve heard from students …

Are apprenticeships just for 16 year olds?

Apprenticeships reimagine work and education, at a variety of levels. There is an apprenticeship to suit everyone. In the past year, the majority of school visits I have made have been for Higher Level Apprenticeships (HLAs). I’ve been in 57% secondary schools and 43% grammar schools.

As I speak to students, there are a number of pathways that suit different people. For some who are making post–16 career choices, they will be looking at Level 2 or 3 apprenticeships. Others looking to make career choices post–18 (after A–Levels or equivalent) will be looking at Level 4+ apprenticeships.

Although a large part of my work involves school engagement, apprenticeships are not just for school leavers. We receive a number of applications each year from career changers.

How competitive are apprenticeships?

We receive a large number of applicants for each apprenticeship so while there is competition, particularly for Higher Level Apprenticeships, if you commit to writing the best application you can, have work experience to demonstrate your skills and if you’re passionate about getting a head start in your career through an apprenticeship, you’re in for a good chance!

If you’re invited to an interview, research the company and take the time to practice with someone to make sure you’re well prepared.

Why are there apprenticeships only in some sectors?

Jobs are changing and new jobs are being invented! The government are keen to fund apprenticeships in growth areas to support our economy. This means that where there is an undersupply of people with skills (a demand for jobs), you will often find an apprenticeship course is available in that sector. So if you are unsure about the next steps in your career, and there is an apprenticeship in a sector that matches your interests, it’s a great option to consider. You’ll be in demand!

How much money do apprentices earn?

Apprentices are receiving competitive wages and most of our employers offer above minimum wage. We’re hearing that apprentices are getting promotions during their apprenticeship, as well as all the employee benefits such as pension plans, private healthcare, and other company perks. They’re getting rewarded for the great work they’re doing and they’re making a difference. Apprentices are living the student life, just not the bad aspects of it!

How do I know if an apprenticeship is right for me?

It’s worth considering if an apprenticeship is a good fit for you before you apply. You don’t want to waste an employer’s time if you’re not sure and you don’t want to take a space from someone else. For some people, they’re ready to work and get a head start in their career. Some school leavers are driven to balance their studies with their work as they don’t want to delay putting into practice what they’re learning. If you prefer working and learning at the same time, flourish while having a routine, and are motivated by doing what you enjoy, apply for an apprenticeship.

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