If you are reading this page, you might be thinking about selecting an apprenticeship instead of further formal education. Perhaps you are about to complete your GCSEs and are wondering whether continuing in school is the right path for you. You might be finishing sixth form, but having second thoughts about attending university. Or maybe you’ve been working for a while and are thinking about changing careers. In any case, consider whether an apprenticeship is the right path for you.

There is still a lot of social pressure to attend university after you complete your compulsory education. Teachers, parents and academic advisors often promote the idea of going to university as the most desirable outcome of your educational journey. Over half of residents 17 to 30 years old enrolled in higher education in the 2018/2019 academic year, according to UK government statistics—the highest proportion of the population ever. But that leaves almost half of young people looking for an alternative. And that doesn’t even take into account those who attend university but don’t complete their studies—or perhaps they finish, but regret their choices.

If that sounds like you—not wanting to wait to launch your career, or perhaps having earned your degree but looking for a different path—think about the possibilities that government-backed apprenticeships offer. You may not have previously considered the option based on their past reputation. However, thanks to increased government development and industry adoption, apprenticeships are becoming highly respected and effective entry points for professional development.

Nestlé is an enthusiastic supporter of apprenticeships because we believe there are different paths to success. And with an apprenticeship, you can begin to earn money while learning new skills on the job.


University isn’t the only path

How apprenticeships have changed

Finding the perfect apprenticeship for you

Choosing the right employer

University isn’t the only path

Deciding when to leave school—and what to do afterwards—isn’t easy. Attending university offers many benefits, including a great education, social connections and a higher average annual salary. And social bias against school leavers still lingers in some quarters.

But this path is not without its pitfalls. Tuition fees in the UK are the highest in the world, at an average of over £8,000 a year; add to that living expenses and it quickly becomes beyond many budgets. That is a lot of debt to carry when you may not even be sure of what career you will actually develop when you finish your studies, and the burden is even heavier for those who come from an economically disadvantaged background. You might need to start earning money rather than spending it to pursue more formal education.

The good news is that the UK apprenticeship system offers a way to explore your career options while earning money and learning skills. Companies like Nestlé view their apprentice employees as valuable members of the workforce, giving them responsibility and support alongside structured training and development.

Indeed, at Nestlé, we set up our own development function for emerging talent, the Nestlé Academy, to support our apprentices and other early careers talent in pursuing career growth both inside and outside of academia. We combine workplace training and study with a real, value-add role in our business. We offer a wide range of apprenticeships at different levels across Nestlé, each providing great opportunities within our teams. You’ll wind up with a debt-free, recognised qualification and invaluable work experience.

How apprenticeships have changed

Vocational qualifications were not always seen as equal in value to a university degree. But these days, thanks to improved governmental standards, apprenticeships have become a respectable—and lucrative—route to career success.

In a 2015 study from the Centre for Economics and Business Research Ltd, two thirds of the public surveyed said they consider apprenticeships as a positive force in society, offering good opportunities to young people. That esteem may stem in part from analysis that shows the lifetime earning gap between university graduates and apprentices narrowing to 1.8%—an average of £4 a month difference.

Apprenticeships range in duration from 1 to 6 years, depending on the level you choose and the qualifications you already have. Apprentices spend 20% of their work hours studying and training, according to the UK government guidelines. This “off-the-job training” involves essential learning to help you gain the skills you need to successfully complete your apprenticeship.

Subject experts may teach theory in the form of formal classroom lessons and lectures, or they may conduct practical training such as job shadowing and mentoring. Employers will provide support for your learning and time to write assignments. Some employers conduct training in-house, while others partner with universities and other educators.

Because of this rigorous training, each level of apprenticeship, from 2 to 7, allows you to achieve education levels from GCSE through to a bachelor’s or master’s degree—at no cost to you. Meanwhile, you are earning money, receiving holiday leave and gaining job experience.

You can begin an apprenticeship as long as you’re at least 16, live in the UK and are not currently enrolled in full-time education. In some instances, you can participate even if you already have a degree. Level 2 apprenticeships, called Intermediate, allow school leavers to finish their GCSE through real-world experience. Level 3, Advanced, will get you an A Level. Enrolling in a higher level apprenticeship, Levels 4-7, will let you earn your degree. Some apprenticeships have qualifications such as a GCSE or other completed courses.

Each apprenticeship culminates in an end-point assessment (EPA). This tests whether you have learned the skills and knowledge you need in order to be considered “occupationally competent.” The assessments are designed and conducted by industry experts. You will only get your apprenticeship certificate after you have successfully passed your EPA.

At Nestlé, we view apprenticeships as every bit as good as a degree or even a graduate scheme, and apprentices report being treated with respect by the business from the beginning of their time there. We give you responsibility, support and structured training and development.

Finding the perfect apprenticeship for you

Because of the government push to improve and expand apprenticeships, you can find opportunities in just about any field you want to enter. At last count, there were over 250 industries represented in the UK apprenticeship landscape. Many programmes focus on one subject, but what you learn can be applied to almost any large business.

Say you have always been interested in building things. You may want to pursue an apprenticeship in engineering and manufacturing. Opportunities include such varied roles as wood shop operative, broadband cable technician and software engineer. At Nestlé, for example, you could work towards a Food Manufacturing Apprenticeship while you earn a wage.

Or perhaps you enjoy solving physical challenges—how to move things from one place to another. An apprenticeship in transport and logistics might be the path for you. Logistics covers vital industrial areas like supply chain. You could focus on making sure cacao beans got to the Nestlé warehouses in a timely manner so that workers could keep making chocolate.

If you have a head for numbers, look into legal, finance and accounting. Every business needs accountants, and most corporations have a legal department. As a Finance Apprentice at Nestlé, you could help ensure suppliers get paid accurately and on time, which is good for everyone.

Choosing the right employer

Apprenticeships are available across dozens of industries and occupations, including protective services, health, education and law. When thinking about your future career, consider what your life goals are. If you value stability, growth and becoming a force for good, look into the FMCG sector.

FMCG, also known as Consumer Packaged Goods (CPG), provides people with the things they need every day: food, drinks, cosmetics, and products to clean the home and body. The essential nature of these goods means that the sector is stable, and even expanding as wants, needs and populations grow. That stability and opportunity for growth makes FMCG a good choice when looking to establish a career.

A 2021 survey by Pew Research found that 69% of Gen Z respondents felt anxious about the future when they read about climate change. With so many people becoming aware of environmental and social issues like that, FMCG companies are keen to explore how they can make life better by adapting their business practices. Nestlé is invested in the principle of Creating Shared Value, a vision that aims to improve the wellbeing of its customers, its surrounding communities and the planet we all share. As an apprentice here, you can begin actively working to make a more sustainable and ethical world.

In addition, FMCG companies like Nestlé know the value of having a diverse workforce. New perspectives can lead to both better representation of the variety of people who consume our products and to innovation inspired by those differences. We believe that respect for all people means supporting equity and inclusion, whether employees or customers—or both.

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