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Myth-busting: top five apprenticeship myths challenged

By Dan Teuton
29 June 2017

Annelies James, business development manager at Solent University, busts some apprenticeship myths and explains why you should consider upskilling your staff

The Government apprenticeship reform has been implemented to encourage economic growth, increase UK productivity and to plug workforce skills gaps, particularly within higher-level roles. The vision is to increase apprenticeship take-up and fulfil a quota of three million apprentices by 2020. The changes put employers in the driving seat with over 200 trailblazer groups being formed to design apprenticeship standards in line with industry need.

However, from talking with local employers, what this means in practice for businesses isn’t always clear, so here are my top five apprenticeships myths:

1 Apprenticeships are only for young people

The mindset is that 16-19 year olds are the typical candidates for apprenticeships. However, there is no age limit. Also, the changes and introduction of the Apprenticeship Levy means education providers will see many more existing members of staff enrolling onto apprenticeships. These may include staff who work in management roles but have never had formal training. Apprenticeship standards are currently available up to Level 7 Masters level, so anyone of any age could access this training.

2 Apprenticeships aren’t real qualifications

Apprenticeships are now made up of ‘standards’, but you can still access ‘frameworks’ if required. Education providers are attaching additional qualifications to these to add value. This adds quality to the study programme and allows candidates to gain recognised and exchangeable credentials. There are also higher and degree apprenticeships, such as the ones offered at Solent, where employees come out with a full degree at the end, just as if undertaken via the traditional route. 

3 Employers don’t have any say in an apprenticeship

As an employer you can choose an education provider that offers bespoke solutions to ensure you aren’t losing people out of the office at a detriment to your business. And you can control the process by choosing to pay your preferred apprenticeship supplier either through the Digital Apprenticeship Service (DAS), or directly (SMEs). The standards that have been developed are also specific to industry job roles, so you can select apprenticeship training that is relevant and impactful to your business.

4 There are no real benefits to an apprenticeship

The benefit of an apprenticeship can include:

  • For the apprentice
  • The opportunity to earn and learn.
  • Recognised and transferable qualifications, without the cost of tuition fees.
  • For the employer
  • Workforce growth and (if younger) a member of staff who can be moulded.
  • Investment in existing staff, in turn increasing staff retention.
  • Competitive edge over other businesses.
  • For the economy
  • Economic growth and increased productivity rates.
  • Plugged skill gaps particularly in higher level sectors.

5 Apprenticeships are expensive and pay pittance

One of the long-standing myths is that apprentices don’t get paid very much, however they must be paid the minimum wage of £3.40 per hour or higher (the wage is often aligned with the expected job role). As apprenticeships run from inexperienced candidates through to director level, the amount paid can also vary greatly; if you are an employee taking up an apprenticeship alongside your role, your salary is unlikely to change.

The introduction of the levy means that some businesses with a PAYE in excess of £3 million will actually waste money by not introducing the apprenticeship scheme into their workplace. Employers can choose from a vast array of apprenticeships so there is no reason not to use the levy. Different ‘standards’ of apprenticeship have been allocated funding bands between £1,500 and £27,000 per year. SMEs will be able to maximise on apprenticeship training because they will only pay 10% of the cost, as the Government contribute 90%, which makes this training option very accessible.



For more information on apprenticeships, visit

Annelies James

[email protected]



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