There are plenty of misconceptions surrounding the relevance and benefit of apprenticeships, especially for getting into less vocational careers. However, it’s worth trying to dispel these myths considering apprenticeships have existed in all kinds of career paths for decades.
But to truly empower the next generation of aerospace workers, there are plenty of things those of us in the industry can do. Let’s look at some of the common misconceptions around apprenticeships and what companies can do to encourage their use.
It’s fair to say we can break the main myths around apprenticeships down into three categories: age, relevance instead of/after university, and the focus on vocational training rather than “real” jobs.
Firstly, apprenticeships aren’t just for school leavers. Most are suitable for anyone over 16, although you may need to be over 18 for some roles. A lot of this misconception comes from the fact that apprenticeships are offered to those for whom university might not be suitable, typically straight from school.
However, you can start an apprenticeship at any age, and the benefit of earning while you learn actually makes them ideal for those looking to switch careers later in life. It means you take less of a risk because you can still support yourself and your dependents.
Apprenticeships are a fairly broad category of qualifications. You can do an apprenticeship to gain a degree or degree-level qualification, and you can do one after going to university. For example, some courses offer master’s-level apprenticeships, while others offer qualifications equivalent to a bachelor’s degree.
The bottom line is that there’s no reason to overlook apprenticeships if you’ve been to university, or you want to go to university. They’re a great option for topping up your skills and gaining on-the-job experience.
This is perhaps one of the more enduring myths around apprenticeships and is, unfortunately, based on quite a considerable amount of bias. In short, apprenticeships exist for vocational roles and for plenty of other industries too, such as engineering, journalism, IT, and more. Anything that can be learned practically can be taught through an apprenticeship.
Perhaps the most important thing those in the aerospace industry can do to encourage apprenticeships is champion their use. Plenty of companies offer apprenticeships, whether we think of major national companies like BAE or smaller more localised companies. In fact, many have partnerships with local learning institutions to make better use of resources.
However, we can also be more vocal about their relevance in our industry. For example, we can share success stories from those who got into aerospace through the apprenticeship route (and there are loads). This would hopefully dispel any misconceptions and show the viability of apprenticeships as a way into aerospace.
Finally, there’s the simple option of advertising. This doesn’t have to be explicit advertising of apprenticeship schemes; it could be advertising their potential, the range of roles they lead to, the kind of projects they work on, what’s offered on the course itself, and much more. The potential longevity and relevance of apprenticeships lie in their versatility.
Those of us already in the aerospace industry may be aware of the usefulness of apprenticeships. However, it’s vital that we make this known to those looking to get into the sector who might not think they’re “academic” enough for the university route. So, what can we do to encourage apprenticeships? Simply put, we can show how fundamental they are to our industry.