We are familiar with this rhythm of life. Finish school, get a degree, work until you’re 65, then retire. This is the package that society promotes us to take. It supports the government and gives you a relatively balanced life with a stable income and enough money to get by.

In the past this was arguably the best and only option for most people to create a living. It worked well back in the day when people relied on corporations and factories for an income. Today however, you can create an income in many different ways and there is no set “path” to take given the amount of change and competition in present times.

This change requires new ideas and ways of thinking. This is where things like entrepreneurship and apprenticeships come in. These offer alternatives to the ever more expensive degrees that we all know are limited in what they offer. These alternative paths are becoming more and more feasible and valuable in our modern times. Today I’m going to focus on apprenticeships since I am doing one myself, but further resources on entrepreneurship can be found on the Successful Dropout website.

Allow me to introduce myself. My name is Enzo and I’m in the first year of my 4 year degree apprenticeship in aerospace engineering. What this essentially means is that I am both an employee and a student. I am currently in ‘training’ which means all my fees for my degree are covered and I’m given a salary. This means I can work, learn and earn at the same time!

 

What is an apprenticeship?

Apprenticeships are essentially a scheme in which you join a company as an employee. They offer you a salary and cover your training costs at the same time until you are skilled enough for your given role. This could mean them sponsoring you on a degree or helping you get certified for the role. It’s also likely the company will offer you a job to see the greatest return on their investment.

These schemes are a win win for the company and the employee. It allows the company to train loyal and skilled staff for a good price in the hope that the employee will return the favour with long term employment. It can also help reduce hiring costs while creating a strong community and brand image.

The benefits for the employee are quite profound. It gives you a chance to earn money instead of paying thousands, or tens of thousands for a degree – while building a strong network and body of knowledge for the rest of your career. It helps you feel valued, sets you up financially, and facilitates personal growth. It gives you a career foundation similar to a degree with the addition of hands on experience in the work environment.

Is it hard work?

Don’t get me wrong, it’s not all butterflies and roses, since these apprenticeships can be hard work. You’re expected to study for your exams and work at the company simultaneously. It’s usually 5 days a week with full time working hours – which means studying takes place in your own time. As a result, your workload can be quite large compared to the average student, but trust me your effort will be rewarded! In some cases it can also take longer to finish your training, since you won’t be a full time student – this is not a fast track degree programme my friends.

The extra work is definitely worth the effort since the company values you, invests in you and helps you grow because they have great incentive to see you flourish and evolve in your role. They can help give you a head start in your career and help you build strong networks – all while being paid! Pretty decent right?

Also, something to note is that apprenticeships might not work in fields like medicine and dentistry where a normal degree is required. Or they may not be very common depending on where you live. If this is the case, nothing is stopping you from researching and applying to apprenticeships in another country. When possible they outweigh a degree in many categories if you’re willing to put the work in.

 

How to find and apply for apprenticeships?

So I bet you’re thinking ‘Well that sounds great but how do I get one and what are they like?’

The answer involves looking around online or your local area to see if any companies offer apprenticeships alternatives to a degree. With some research you should be able to find something that suits you.

You can then apply online normally. This involves an online application, online test and interview. It can be a bit rigorous at times but they want to make sure they select the right people since they invest a lot into you as an employee. You may be able to do this offline if you know the right people and have the required skills.

Here are some resources you might find useful:

US:

UK:

Europe:

Australia & New Zealand:

Asia:

These links will be of use to learn more about apprenticeships and to find some near you. Options may be limited in some countries so consider going abroad if you are really committed. Be aware that some fields like engineering offer more apprenticeships than others so do your own research as well!

This good thing is the income from the apprenticeship will in most cases be enough to cover all your living expenses and still leave you with enough money for savings. This may be important to know if you are considering an apprenticeship in another country or city.

 

This flowchart summarises the normal application process and I’ll elaborate on this below.

  1. Research the company, its values and what it does. Be familiar with its history, markets and competitors. Also research the role and what will be expected of you. This way you won’t make a fool of yourself and you’ll know what you’re getting yourself into.
  2. The online application process requires attention to detail and research. Take your time on the long answer questions and attach any useful documents like your CV, letters of recommendations or portfolios.
  3. The online tests are normally not too challenging but they require you to prepare and research. They can include things like Maths, English, people skills and so on. Just get used to the format and you should be fine. Although these first two hurdles are small, make sure you pass them otherwise you won’t make it to the next stage.
  4. Interview is the next big step. This is where you need to research and practice before the time. My advice would be to show your skills, experience and character traits that make you valuable to the employer. Show your people skills and interest in the company. They want to invest in you as a person with confidence so ensure these points come across in the interview. Try to share stories from group projects and explain how you solved problems.

 

It should be noted that not all apprenticeships involve getting a degree. Some may give you an honours or a certification needed for your role. As such, the application process and requirements can vary greatly so this is why proper research is crucial!

Once you’re accepted, you will be given a tour of the company, meet your colleagues and complete all the necessary health and safety stuff. Then, you begin working quite promptly on a schedule which may be something like working 2 days a week and training 3 days a week. You will need to balance your time well, work hard and be mature since you’re expected to be an employee – just with a little extra support.

I wouldn’t be afraid of this responsibility and workload but instead see it as an opportunity to develop your skills, learn quickly and progress your career. It’s not easy but it’s a very fulfilling experience.

You know what they say ‘If something is hard work, it’s worth fighting for’

 

Why you should consider apprenticeships

In summary:

  • They offer an opportunity to develop your skills, network and career – all while being paid!
  • You are very likely to get a job offer after the apprenticeship which saves you the hassle of getting a graduate job
  • You get the benefits of being a student and an employee at the same time
  • The company will value you by investing in your training and ensuring you succeed
  • You will have a heap load of money compared to getting a degree
  • The company also benefits by building its workforce with loyal and skilled staff
  • You’ll have a great time by building long lasting friendships, learning lots of new things and giving yourself a great foundation going forward in life

If you aren’t convinced that apprenticeships aren’t worth applying for, then I don’t know what will! Trust me, they are becoming more and more popular and once you finish, employers will love you because they know you must be hardworking and one of a kind.

Meanwhile, a degree in isolation will leave you with much less experience and you may struggle to get a graduate job in the competitive world we live in today. Yes a degree is less effort overall but you will be less equipped at the end compared to someone with the degree and years of experience at the age of 22.

As mentioned before, of course not all degrees are useless. If your parents are mega rich then studying at Harvard may not be a bad idea – it all depends on you and your situation. Degrees, apprenticeships, entrepreneurship, they all have their place and there is no one size fits all. That being said, don’t be afraid to go against the grain and stand out because doing what’s right for you is what matters most at the end of the day.

I’ll leave you with this closing thought:
“Whenever you find yourself on the side of majority, take time to pause and reflect” Mark Twain

I hope you found this useful. I’d be more than happy to answer any questions you may have around apprenticeships, degrees, the application process and so on.

Leave a comment and I’ll do my best to help.