Are Engineering Apprenticeships Worth It?

engineering apprentice looking at engineering drawings

If you’re ready to get stuck into the working world and don’t fancy going down the education route, an engineering apprenticeship might be the perfect option for you or someone you know. With engineering consistently being a top contender for a long and successful career, the opportunities and skillset provided are endless.

What is an engineering apprenticeship? 

Engineering apprenticeships offer the opportunity to gain real-world experiences.

You might be wondering what exactly an apprenticeship entails and how these programmes differ from a college or university course. Engineering apprenticeships offer the opportunity to gain real-world experiences through specific industry knowledge, technical skills and even come with a salary. The process is normally conducted over 1 or 2 years and includes both on-the-job training and classroom sessions so you're still enjoying those younger years. 

Benefits of an engineering apprenticeship

There are many reasons why people go down the apprenticeship route. Whether you're looking for more financial freedom or know exactly what you want to do as a career, here are just a few benefits you can gain from doing an engineering apprenticeship. 

  • Earning a paycheck: One of the main reasons people opt for an apprenticeship is the paycheck at the end of the month. Instead of paying for education, you’re the one getting paid to learn. 
  • On-hand experience: Many people prefer to learn through physical activities. Whilst lectures and note-taking suits some, those looking to get into the mechanical or engineering industries are normally kinetic learners and prefer a hands-on approach. 
  • Gain a qualification: If you’re looking into an engineering apprenticeship post-school leavers or post-graduation, there are many programmes that offer qualifications at the end of the course which are equivalent to a degree, A-levels or even masters. There’s also always the possibility you can gain more than one.
  • Post-apprenticeship opportunities: Many apprentices end up staying at the place they’ve gained work experience from, resulting in full-time employment and a successful career. Even if you don’t stay at the same company, having this real-world experience sets you up nicely for interviews and future opportunities. 
  • Diverse learning environment: Although hands-on experience might be your preferred learning style, an apprenticeship does also include the theory side of classroom education. It’s important to remember that this is still vital in your development and can cover subjects such as health and safety, maths and science. 
  • Meet like-minded people: Like most programmes and courses, you’ll be spending a lot of time with team members of both the scheme and the businesses involved. Meeting with like-minded people is good for anyone and helps to build confidence and lifelong friendships.
  • Multiple sectors: Some programmes will let you specialise in a certain engineering sector. This can include aerospace, automotive, biomedical, construction, transport and manufacturing. 
  • High-demand career: The good thing about becoming an engineer is the world will always need them. This career path is a secure one and has endless opportunities worldwide. 
  • Any age is welcome: Whether you’re 16 or 26, an apprenticeship is there to help anyone get into the line of work they love.
  • No tuition fees: If you’re choosing to do an apprenticeship over university, the main difference you’ll notice is the tuition fees. Some large schemes may even offer free accommodation or a grant for your equipment. 
  • Student discounts: Just like if you were to stay in education, as an apprentice, you are still considered a student and get all the perks that come with it. This includes student discounts on activities, shops and experiences. 
welding concept engineering apprenticeship

Degree apprenticeships:

You can gain both an undergraduate and postgraduate degree from a degree apprenticeship.

Degree apprenticeships are for those 18+, looking for an alternative to university. This method combines university learning with industry employment and is funded by the employer and government. You can gain both an undergraduate and postgraduate degree from a degree apprenticeship, but they’re sometimes considered a ‘degree-level’ qualification. 

Although this route is becoming more recognised, there are still limitations regarding apprenticeship opportunities for specific industries. 

Entry requirements for an engineering apprenticeship:

Most engineering apprenticeships only ask for proof of age and school leavers qualifications. 

The good thing about an engineering apprenticeship is you don’t need any specific experience to take forward. Whilst some apprenticeship programmes require work placements or volunteering, the majority of engineering apprenticeships only ask for proof of age and school leavers qualifications. 

This does change depending on what level you are joining. For example, if you sign up for an apprenticeship post-college or sixth form, you will usually need at least a 4/C in GCSE Maths and English, plus relevant A-levels. Each apprenticeship programme will have its requirements listed, so it’s worth checking these out first. 

Alternatives to an apprenticeship:

Depending on your age, future plans and current qualifications, there are a number of other routes you can go down if you’re looking to get into the world of engineering. This will depend on your current circumstances and what you're looking to gain from the experience. 

College qualification:

For post-16 school leavers, moving onto college seems the most popular next step. Whilst most school sixth forms don’t offer these in-depth courses, a sixth form college will. These institutions also sometimes offer the course at different levels, running from level 1 BTEC to level 5. 

University degree:

Considered a good choice if you’re wanting to specialise in a certain area, gaining a degree in engineering offers many benefits. Degree courses can cover a range of topics and areas in the trade, with in-depth knowledge for those who know exactly what their future plans are. Alternatively, there are more broad options available for students who are still unsure and don't want to limit themselves. 

Full-time employment

Once you no longer legally need to be in education, you might want to get stuck straight into full-time employment. This can be beneficial in terms of company growth and can pay off in terms of loyalty and hard work. 

Is an apprenticeship worth it?

An apprenticeship is considered just as valuable as a university degree.

Everyone’s goals and aspirations in life are different, so when it comes to employment and learning, this is a personal decision that will benefit everyone in different ways. Unlike a few years ago, an apprenticeship is considered just as valuable as a university degree, with many arguing it gives a greater level of knowledge and experience. An apprenticeship is ideal if you know exactly what you want to do and where you want to be in a few years' time, offering a foot in the door and a real insight into what to expect. 

About the author:

Rob Gavin, Director, Aluminium Bending Specialists -

Rob performed a management buy-out for ABS many years ago and has been running the business ever since. Developing innovative new processes and adding to the services the company offers, they now produce aluminium windows across the UK and work with some of the best architects available.