This is a question that we're asked regularly when we're speaking with people about apprenticeships. Often that's because they have a view that a traditional academic education is more highly prized than a qualification with a technical and professional focus.

That view isn't necessarily shared by employers though. As recently as 2019, the CBI reported that 45% of businesses ranked work-readiness as the most important factor they look for when recruiting, with 44% feeling that academic study doesn’t prepare people for work.

So actually, an apprenticeship that helps someone develop a work ethic, understand the important part they play in a business, and gain the skills they need to make a positive contribution to bottom-line profits actually seems like one of the best options that you could consider.

But back to the question: are they easy? Here are three reasons why our answer is an emphatic 'no':

The entry criteria are high

Although apprentices have time for study protected in their contracts, balancing learning with work creates a time pressure which means apprentices need to be functioning effectively in key skills like English, maths and ICT from the start. Success in these topics at GCSE and beyond is incredibly important. In fact because of this, many apprenticeship programmes will have stricter entry requirements than other types of study.

It's highly-competitive

To be an apprentice, you have to get out there, apply for work, impress at interview and be offered a job. You need to stand out as a must-hire candidate that an employer can see will be a good fit for their business with the potential to grow into the role and progress in the organisation. That's not easy. People wanting to be an apprentice, particularly at age 16, need to be highly-motivated, determined and driven to succeed.

It's not all coursework

Again, some people we've spoken to question the robustness of training that they think is assessed entirely through coursework. That's not the case. Apprentices undertake end-point assessment at the conclusion of their studies, that rigorously tests their knowledge and skills against the requirements of their programme.

So in our view, an apprenticeship isn't easy. But it is worth it. The combination of gaining work experience, building your skills, gaining a formal qualification and proving that you're ready for work  - all while being paid - is hard to match and a brilliant way to either start your career or gain the recognition you need for a promotion.

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