Apprenticeships and Graduate Schemes. What are the options for my business? 

Natalie Chapman

It’s great to have different types of experience in your workforce, as both can bring unique sets of skills and life experience. So, both apprenticeships and graduate schemes can benefit your business. 

 But you’re probably wondering what the options are for your company when choosing to hire a graduate or an apprentice? Well, depending on the position and industry, one could suit you more. But both have benefits from a hiring point of view.  

Last summer, a record number of students took up a place at a UK University, 425,830 in total. Whereas the number of people who started apprenticeships between August and October of 2022, was considerably lower at 122,290. They aren’t as popular. But, apprenticeships are impactful! As apprentices are gaining the important skills needed and learning the ways of the business.  

How can apprenticeships work for my business? 

For school-leavers (aged 16-19) apprenticeships are a great way to get the next generation into the business sooner. They can learn on the job, which will speed up the learning process. As learning and working simultaneously will give them a better understanding of the processes in your business. Also, not everyone is an academic. So apprenticeships means that you’re not missing out on talent. 

Another great positive for apprenticeships is just that, learning. Whilst working at your business, apprentices gain solid knowledge of the business, industry and how to success in the working world. Also, as they’re learning the internal processes of the company, they can be moulded to use your processes sooner.  

Apprentice wages are on the lower side, to compensate for the subsidised training costs. Whilst this has its benefits, it shouldn’t be taken for granted. As low wages doesn’t equal cheap labour.  

The Apprentice Decent Wage Pledge encourages businesses to pay a fair wage to apprentices. Unfortunately, because of the low wages, many apprentices drop out as they can get more money elsewhere. In this cost of living crisis, it’s not about apprentices accepting low wages because that’s the apprenticeship reality. It’s about upping the wages so they can justify doing one. As sadly, many feel it’s a better choice to take a job that they’re unhappy with if they can earn more.  

In April of this year, we’ll be seeing apprenticeship wages increase by 9.7% to £5.28. This is huge for apprentices! As it shows they’re valued and that businesses (and the government) are investing in them as the future generation of the workforce.  

Something else to note as a benefit of offering an apprenticeship is that the course is already in place. So you won’t need to put together any training materials. And we’re in 2023, there’s a huge range of courses available in almost any industry! 

Negatives to Apprenticeships  

On the other hand, there are some negatives to apprenticeships. It takes time to train them, and this mentorship responsibility is given to someone already in your business. Which means their workload increases. This can sometimes lead to members of your existing team becoming unhappy and in worse cases leave. There’s often a negative stereotype associated with training up an apprentice. But they can be a great addition to the team and are willing to learn.  

There are also safety risks that could be a factor when considering hiring an apprentice. In some industries, there’s higher risk of injury. It can take time to lay out the laws and regulations that are essential to know before even learning how to do the job. And there’s the added level of monitoring, as the person watching over them will be held responsible for any potential incidents.  

Apprenticeships are a vital way of getting into the industry. If you’re wanting to invest for the future, it’s a great way of bringing in talent that can be shaped to suit your business. Which will pave the way for years to come. 

Apprenticeships aren’t just for school-leavers 

It’s important to remember that Apprenticeships aren’t age restricted.  

If you’ve got someone in your team who would benefit from a training course or wants to progress, sending them on an Adult Apprenticeship may be something to consider. The requirements differ based on the course provider. But it will generally be a combination of between GCSE’s, Level 3 qualifications or work experience. Adult apprenticeships are becoming more and more popular. As it allows on-the-job and formal training to run side by side, whilst someone is still physically in the business.  

Not only could an apprenticeship really benefit some of your team but it also benefits your business in the long run. As you’re improving current employees’ skills and knowledge. However, it’s important to take into consideration employees’ personal requirements, as apprenticeships are a long-term commitment so wouldn’t suit everyone.  

How can Graduate Schemes work for my business? 

Graduate schemes/jobs are a great way for graduates to get into the working world. They’re leaving University with a qualification filled with knowledge and have gained life experience. So, are another example of someone who would be easily mouldable to your business.  

A recent survey has shown that 59% of students work whilst studying. This means most students will have worked, but not necessarily in the environment they want a career in after graduating. So, they are generally able to be shaped to your business processes. 

Another positive for hiring a graduate is that they’ll come already equipped with lots of transferable skills and a developed skillset they can use. Giving them a head start on the job. They may also have an understanding of overall business practices. This means they’ll not only fit better into your company but also think of the business priorities and ways they can improve it.  

Something else to consider is that graduates typically come with more life experience than an apprentice. This can mean they need less support when they start and are able to support themselves in a way. Especially when they’re surrounded by other graduates, who they can speak with and relate to. Consider hiring more than one graduate at a time, if you have the means to. As this can really make a difference in their collaborative way of working and how supported they feel in your business.  

Filling graduate roles or schemes is often quicker. As there are more students out there looking for work, compared to suitable apprentice applicants. You may want to consider this if you’re wanting someone to come in as soon as possible – when the need for an extra person is crucial as it’s negatively impacting the business. 

Negatives to Graduate Schemes 

A graduate scheme or job may be the answer for your business. But before you make that decision, you might want to consider the negatives. One reason a graduate scheme may not be right for you – the clue’s in the name – is that you’ll need to create your own scheme. You’ll need to set out projects for them to work and set targets for them. Then you’ll need a timeframe of how long the scheme will be and implement clear progression routes. Finally, you then need to guide them through this.

For many organisations, schemes aren’t possible because of how much it takes to create them. In which case, a graduate job may be more suited to you. This is where you just simply hire a graduate (any time of the year). 

Something else to consider when wanting to hire through a graduate scheme, is that you need to typically take on grads in September or July, after they’ve left University. So you’ll be limited on when you can take in applications.  

Even though graduates may have more life experience, they may not have exact work experience. But, experience working in retail or hospitality can really benefit the business. As they would have a wider perspective on working life and more motivation to start their career.


At the end of the day, you need to make a decision that’s right for your business. Sometimes an apprentice is better suited for you. Sometimes you need a graduate to make the transition easier.  

But, value is only brought when you allow them to learn and develop their skills. Which doesn’t happen by making cups of tea. You can’t go and give them an opportunity that’s misrepresenting the reality of the role and your intentions of hiring them.