Let's Talk: Career Pathways

By Dayna Spear, November 28, 2018

Let’s Talk: Career Pathways

In 2017, 37.4% of English 18 year olds applied to university.*1 That’s 286,484 people. *2

In 2016/17, there were 491,300 apprenticeship starts in England (of all ages and levels.) Just 7% of those were higher, degree level apprenticeships - that’s 34,391 people. *3

And breathe. After spending a concerningly long time working out those stats, jabbing at my calculator, we can see the vast differences between the two options - there were more than 8X the number of starts of 18 year olds at university in 2017 than there were starting degree apprenticeships.

And, it’s not only 18 year olds who apply to university - many young people attend after a gap year, or two, or three even.

Deciding what to do after you finish your A-levels or school studies is a big decision. You might be asking yourself, should I go to university? Or, should I be building up my work experience with a job or an apprenticeship?

There’s no right answer to that question. After all, the decision is completely down to the individual. Some people love university and what it has to offer, but for others, it’s not a good choice at all. And that’s fine - but, we want to beat this frankly dated stigma that university is the ‘better’ option, because, well - it’s simply not.

Let’s look at the stats again, though - of course more people applied to university - there are far, far more opportunities to study at university than degree apprenticeships. That’s just a fact. Not every young person can enrol on a degree apprenticeship, simply because there aren’t enough of them… yet. But this is what Future are trying to change - we want more opportunities for our youth, and more knowledge of what’s actually out there.

How many people do you think didn’t apply to degree apprenticeships, simply because they didn’t know they existed? I for one wasn’t aware of their existence until I became an apprentice myself.

And what if the degree life just isn’t for you, via an apprenticeship or university?

The majority of apprenticeships aren’t degree based - only levels 6 and above are. So, why not consider applying to one next year? If you’re interested in building up your skills, work experience and avoiding the debts of university, sign up to our service to learn more about your options. We can help you.

Let’s compare the options between university, degree apprenticeships and non-degree apprenticeships (levels 2-5.)


  • Gain a degree in your chosen subject
  • Get the ‘university experience’
  • Leave with an average of £50,000 debt
  • Leave with little/no work experience (unless you have a placement year)

Degree Apprenticeship:

  • Gain a degree in your chosen field
  • Earn a wage
  • Avoid the debt of university
  • Gain years of work experience in your chosen industry

Non-Degree Apprenticeship:

  • Gain a qualification in your chosen field
  • Earn a wage
  • Avoid the debt of university
  • Gain work experience in your chosen industry

When you look at it like that, I know which I’d rather go for.

Don’t get me wrong - I totally understand and respect that some professions genuinely require degree-level education. It just baffles me how our youth are still being ‘funnelled’ into university, no matter their skills, interests or ambitions, yet denied a great deal of knowledge of apprenticeships? In my opinion, this needs to change. Why are we not encouraging young people to explore all of their options, rather than just one?

It’s one thing not knowing what you want to do. It’s another thing not knowing what you can do.

So, why is this happening? Why aren’t schools and colleges shouting about apprenticeships? Is it just because university has the name, the reputation?

I don’t believe it’s because teachers don’t want to talk about apprenticeships. I think it’s because they simply aren’t given the resources or knowledge to discuss it confidently and correctly.

So how can you find out about apprenticeships or employers on your own? That’s what we’re trying to help with.

Finding a good opportunity career-wise can be a battlefield - especially when you’re so young. How can you be something you’ve never heard of?

Future want to ease this stress for our youth - so, sign up to our free career matching service, tell a friend, your cat, your dog… you get the picture. We are confident we can guide you in the direction to an amazing apprenticeship opportunity that you will love.

*1 UCAS Key findings - February 2018

*2 Based on data of the no. of 18 year olds in England from the Office of National Statistics

*3 Findings fro the House of Commons Library - Apprenticeship Statistics England

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