With growing demand for higher education providers, apprenticeships in the UK offer an exciting alternative to the ‘standard’ university pathway — allowing young people to gain industry skills and experience, while skipping the student debt.

UCAS forecasts that the number of higher education applicants will soar to at least a million by 2026, highlighting the urgent need for investment and reform within the UK’s higher education systems. 

With our universities and colleges full to bursting, higher education through an apprenticeship allows young people to gain valuable experience and mentorship, and earn while they learn. Meanwhile, the versatility of apprenticeships just keeps on evolving. 

Matt Bungay, Head of Apprenticeships at City University in London — where apprenticeships combine full-time work with part-time study — has been working on making apprenticeships more widely accessible, while dispelling some common myths.

Matt Bungay, Head of Apprenticeships at City University in London

 “From my own experience — having trained as a chef at a younger age — it was commonly accepted that an apprenticeship was for those lower levels; Level 2, Level 3; but actually, you can now do an apprenticeship in so many different industries, on so many levels,” Matt says.

“People can be in a full-time, paid job and get funding to become a solicitor, for example. To enhance their career as a leader, they can get a masters or a degree in leadership.”

More and more businesses are growing their apprenticeship schemes and investing in tools to help new and existing apprentices thrive, while filling skill gaps within the industry.

Marks and Spencer has been making it their mission to equip apprentices with the right tools, and help them build a solid foundation for their future careers. Apprentice Coralie Marsh has relished the opportunity to earn her Level 4 Retail Management diploma, while getting on-the-floor retail experience. And earning money.

“I think it’s a great route as an alternative to university. It allows you to earn a qualification while not having the student debt, so it’s been really good for me.”

Watch the clip to learn more about her experience.

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To highlight the experiences of apprentices and explore how UK apprenticeships are evolving, ITN Business is launching ‘Apprenticeships: Pathways to Success’, for National Apprenticeship Week (6-12 February, 2024).  

Featuring apprentices from different backgrounds and sectors, the news-style programme will explore the advantages apprenticeships bring to individuals of all ages — from earning while learning, to spending valuable time with senior business leaders.

Discover more about the upcoming programme here.

You can also take a look at our 2023 programme, The Apprentice Experience‘, to explore what role employers, government, training providers and organisations like The Association of Apprentices (AoA) can play in supporting apprentices through to completion and beyond.