7 September 2023

The Social Perks of Being an Apprentice

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If you’re leaning towards doing an apprenticeship, you’ve probably got zillions of questions, concerns and fears.

Where will I live? How much will I earn? How will an apprenticeship help me get my foot on the career ladder? And, most importantly, will I be missing out on the ‘university experience’?

You have a lot to learn young grasshopper. Firstly, you need to decide what’s important to you. If you want to party until 5am on a Wednesday and not have to get up for work in the morning, an apprenticeship probably isn’t right for you.

On the other hand, if you’re not that bothered about doing three more years of exams, essay-writing and deadlines, you need to weigh up whether the parties and house sharing are worth graduating with an average debt of £45,000

Did you know that you can meet new people, make lifelong friends and even move out of your parents’ house if you do an apprenticeship? We’ve put together this no-nonsense guide to give you an insight into the social side of apprenticeships.

How can I be sure I won’t miss out on some of the broader experiences you get at university?

Just because there’s no Freshers’ Week and your mum might still make you tidy your room, doesn’t mean you won’t enjoy yourself on an apprenticeship.

In fact, 20% of each scheme is dedicated to off-the-job training, which could include anything from learning how to manage your money to connecting with other apprentices.

RateMyApprenticeship.co.uk’s top employer BAE Systems takes on around 600 apprentices every year. They organise team-building activities, charity events and the Apprentice Innovation Challenge with apprentices from across the business. Brilliant, eh?

This is an opportunity for apprentices to develop their engineering, teamwork and project management skills by solving real-life problems. All of which are marvellous ways of making friends.

Larger companies

If you join a larger company, it’s likely you’ll be working alongside hundreds of other apprentices and graduates, so there’ll be lots of opportunities to socialise with people who are a similar age.

Don’t just take our word for it… Keep reading to hear what it’s really like to do an apprenticeship from four real-life apprentices:

1. James Pearce, winner of RateMyApprenticeship’s Ou​​tstanding Higher Apprentice of the Year Award in 2018

“When juggling work, training and university commitments, it’s crucial to set aside time for socialising – this is often made clear by our Apprentice Development Lead. Having time to relax is extremely important in maintaining both your performance at work and your wellbeing. As a group of apprentices, we hold social events throughout the year, both independently and as part of the company’s Apprentice and Graduate Association – a group who organise discounted events such as go karting, bowling and other group activities.”

2. Higher Laboratory Scientist at Pfizer​

“The Pfizer network focuses on trying to develop a tight-knit community of apprentices, so we get involved in social activities such as quizzes, meals, BBQs, fundraisers etc. This is particularly great for those who relocate to work at Pfizer and may not know many people or the area very well. Most departments also have Christmas celebrations / parties, which are always good fun. There is even a running club and on-site gym.”

3. Operations Technician at Hiscox

“Hiscox hosts a variety of fantastic social events throughout the year, including a summer party and a Christmas party. Hiscox goes all out on these events and they are some of the best nights / days you will have. There are also lots of sporting events, be it football, netball or rugby, and there are internal and external tournaments all year round.”

4. Jasmine Joynt, winner of RateMyApprenticeship’s Outstanding Intermediate Apprentice of the Year award in 2018

“I have been treated like a full-time employee and part of the team since the beginning of my apprenticeship! I mix with people from across the company during work hours and networking events, and sit with members of my team on my lunch break. I am often invited to events outside of work, such as bowling, celebratory meals and evenings out.

Watch this video to find out more about Jasmine’s everyday life as a Co-op apprentice.

“I want to go to university so I can move out and live with friends”

Some apprenticeship programmes provide you with accommodation and many higher-level programmes pay enough for you to be able to rent a room away from home.

Others require you to carry out your training at a residential training centre, where you’ll join a close-knit support network with other young people in the same position as you.

A great example of this is the Honda Institute apprenticeship scheme. As part of the scheme, apprentices from across the country live in shared accommodation while they complete their training at the Honda Institute Centre of Excellence.

Why apprentices have all the fun

An apprenticeship gives you the financial freedom to do the things you love.

Here are three key reasons why:

#1 Avoid student debt

One of the biggest draws of going to university is the buzzing social life. However, the rise in tuition fees has piled on the pressure for students to graduate with a decent degree.

While students have flexible schedules, apprentices can do what they want in their free time without worrying about mounting debt.

Did you know you can now get a debt-free degree? Offering the best of both worlds, a degree apprenticeship allows you to earn a salary and get a degree at the same time.

#2 Earn a real wage

As an apprentice, you’ll be paid a regular salary from day one. Apprenticeship salaries depend on the role, employer and level that you are studying at, but you can expect to earn around £192 a week.

Imagine what you could spend all that hard-earned dosh on. You could start saving for your first house. Or spend it on holidays with your friends, McDonald’s deliveries and the latest Nike Air Maxes.

#3 Enjoy paid holiday time and discounts

Apprentices are entitled to a minimum of 20 days paid holiday, plus bank holidays. Combine that with your juicy salary and you’re laughing.

Whether you want to go on a romantic city break, a wild Ibiza trip or just take a few days to chill with family, you’ll be paid for your time off. Plus, you can apply for a TOTUM card and get brilliant savings on eating out, gym memberships, your favourite brands and more.

Work can be sociable too!

You may have got the idea in your head that entering the world of work means sacrificing your social life. But that’s where you’re wrong my friend.

True, you’ll be working eight-hour days, five days a week while your mates at university will have the luxury of midweek lie-ins and all-day Netflix binges. However, most people don’t just stop having fun as soon as they put on a suit. Quite the opposite actually.

Work vs university socials

If it’s a social life you’re looking for, you might even be happier surrounded by people at work than studying for a degree where you may only have a few hours of lectures and seminars a week.

Companies are increasingly investing time and money into making sure their employees have fun at work. Paperwork and meetings are now balanced out with after-work drinks, fitness and wellbeing classes, charity fundraising events, Christmas parties and much more.

London-based PR agency PHA Media even has a staff budget for extra-curricular activities such as paint-balling, afternoon tea and theatre tickets.

Worried you’ll miss out on the chance to meet your future girlfriend or boyfriend if you don’t go to university?

Don’t be. According to a YouGov survey, one in five people meet their husband or wife at work. Just look at Jim and Pam from The Office. Or Bob and Phyllis…

If you know which industry you want to break into and you’re hungry to learn, an apprenticeship is a fantastic way to fast-track your career.

Apprenticeships are different to university

The world of work is a completely different experience to university and may not be right for everyone. It’s a good idea to think carefully about what you want to get out of the next few years before making any decisions.

Just remember, there’ll be plenty of opportunities for you to let your hair down and make friends on an apprenticeship – so don’t let the five-day week put you off.

Read more about choosing between apprenticeships and university.