How do apprenticeships compare to a university degree?

University without the debt

The Apprenticeship Levy

Thales Group - 173 Apprentices
On Thursday 6 April this year the government is introducing the apprenticeship levy, requiring all large UK companies to invest in apprenticeships. Thales currently has a population of 173 apprentices across its UK business, and was one of the first companies to start offering degree apprenticeships in 2015. This year will see their largest intake to date, with just under 100 roles available this September.

Degree Apprenticeships vs University 

An increase in tuition fees has seen graduates leaving full time university with a significant debt before they have started earning. This, coupled with a lack of opportunity for work experience, has seen a rising interest in degree apprenticeships. A Thales degree apprenticeship allows school and college leavers to immerse themselves in their chosen industry, earn a salary and gain a fully funded degree qualification. Recruited into a full time permanent role from day one, at the end of the programme they progress into a higher level position, on, at least, a graduate level salary.  As well as being debt-free, having focussed industry experience is a huge draw.
After combining academic study with practical knowhow, a Thales apprentice will have had the chance to gain an in depth knowledge of the company. Throughout the apprenticeship they will have gained a breadth of experience across their chosen role, giving them a good idea of what they enjoy and what they are good at. From a learner perspective this in invaluable; for the employer it creates a well-rounded employee with an understanding of how the business works from the ground up. Because of Thales’s support throughout the programme the apprentices will feel invested in, and secure in the knowledge that they have been given the experience they need for a positive start to their working lives.
It’s not just the individuals who benefit from apprenticeships: by supporting students through their studies, Thales is ensuring that they are bringing the right talent into the workforce. Apprentices tend to be more invested in the company, having high levels of loyalty, engagement and retention. Those who have spent quality time within the business while completing their degree can also bring fresh ideas to existing processes and can help shape how Thales does things in the future.

The Apprenticeship Scheme

Current apprenticeship intake across Thales in the UK
Current apprenticeship intake across Thales in the UK
The apprenticeship scheme at Thales is not just for prospective employees, however; it is also a development opportunity for the existing workforce either to progress onto higher level qualifications or to support those looking for a career change or returning to work after a period of leave.
This year Thales in the UK has its most diverse offering of degree apprenticeships available, with approximately 40 programmes in engineering (rail, electrical, electronic, mechanical, software, systems, networking), manufacturing, business (procurement, HR, sales and Business Development, IT systems) and finance. The apprenticeships stretch across all qualification levels - Level 2 Intermediate, Level 3 Advanced, Level 4 Higher, Level 6 Degree and Level 7 Masters - in order to be accessible to a wide pool of talent.
Taking a proactive approach to encouraging students, Thales goes into schools, colleges and universities to talk to young people about the benefits of apprenticeships. It also runs work experience programmes and site tours to encourage interested parties to apply.
To find out more about and apply to become a Thales apprentice you can take a look at the UK Early Careers website. There is information on all the apprenticeships that Thales offers, as well as the entry criteria needed for the different levels.
National Apprenticeship Week begins on the Monday 6 March.