Apprenticeships for graduates: a growing market?

  • Anna Vall Navés
  • 03 January 2020

Since they were introduced in 2015, Level 6 and 7 apprenticeships have made apprenticeship programmes a potentially appealing option for university graduates. But four years on, 70% of employers are still marketing their apprenticeships exclusively to school leavers—are they missing out?

Is there a market for apprenticeships among university students and graduates?

Of the employers we surveyed in 2019, 30% were already marketing their apprenticeship programmes to school leavers. Additionally, we found that it is becoming increasingly common for companies to align their graduate schemes to a Level 7 apprenticeship standard, meaning graduates obtain qualifications equivalent to a master’s degree after joining the company. Tax and assurance graduates at EY, for instance, now have to complete a Level 7 apprenticeship. But is there genuinely an interest in apprenticeships among university students and recent graduates?

Our research suggests that there is an interest in graduate apprenticeships—and that it’s growing. When we asked school leavers if they would complete an apprenticeship after they graduated from school, only 38% said yes. Yet when university students were asked the same question, the number rose—perhaps surprisingly—to over 66%. In 2018, 47% of university students said they were interested in apprenticeships post-graduation, suggesting that  the appeal and awareness of these programmes among undergraduates is increasing.

Several reasons were cited by undergraduates in 2019 for considering a post-university apprenticeship. While some students consider apprenticeships a last resort and would only complete one if they could not find any other relevant job, students for the most part seem to recognise the value of apprenticeships. For the most part, answers related to the need to acquire more work experience and practical knowldge—which university degrees generally cannot offer—and to the fact that apprenticeships can provide more support when it comes to entering the world of work.

It is unsurprising that the vast majority of graduates (over 73%) would consider doing a degree apprenticeship, which would complement or expand on what they already know and their qualifications. However, it is worth noting that 15% of university students would contemplate a higher apprenticeship, and a smaller proportion of students would also consider advanced or intermediate programmes.

How should employers market their apprenticeship programmes to graduates?

While there is a growing market for graduate apprenticeships, maximising the appeal of these programmes requires dispelling common fears and misconceptions about these programmes. When we spoke to groups of university students, we found that some of the most frequently-cited reasons for avoiding post-university apprenticeships were often founded on a lack of awareness about what they actually entail.

Some university students mentioned the misconception that apprenticeships are for people who are not smart enough for university, or that an apprenticeship is like a backward step after graduation; that it is an alternative to a graduate degree, rather than a step forward in one’s career. Of course, this neither of these rationales take into account the fact that Level 7 apprenticeships are equivalent to master’s degrees—definitely a higher level of qualification than an undergraduate degree. Other concerns were related to apprentices having lower wages, but this does not always hold true—particularly in the long term and when it comes to completing apprenticeships as part of a graduate scheme (as in the case of EY’s tax and assurance graduate programme).

But eliminating these misconceptions and actively marketing apprenticeships to graduates can be extremely beneficial to an organisation. Graduate apprenticeships can add value to any business, providing candidates with a strong academic record with further specialised knowledge and experience. Graduates often have good time management skills and a more defined idea of what they want their careers to be like, and with specific roles that can be hard to fill, broadening the search to graduates can provide a better chance at finding the right person.

And there are plenty of ways you can extend your apprenticeship marketing efforts to graduates and increase their awareness of these programmes. If you’re already hosting insight days about graduate schemes for undergraduates, an excellent strategy might be to discuss graduate apprenticeships in these as well. Discussing these options face-to-face is often the best way to engage students, clear up doubts about apprenticeships and highlight their benefits. At AllAboutGroup, we help employers organise insight days and in-office events, and we can even pre-screening candidates for you beforehand to ensure the most productive engagement event possible.

Online, pages like AllAboutApprenticeships, AllAboutCareers and AllAboutFinance receive millions of visitors each year, and they are the ideal place to promote apprenticeship opportunities to graduates and university students. Our employer profiles on these pages, as well as our targeted email campaigns, guarantee that you will attract large numbers of candidates and will be able to promote and inform them about the opportunities available at your organisation. 

If you’d like more information about the services we provide, or if you’d like more information on marketing apprenticeships to graduates, please do not hesitate to get in touch here.