For school leavers considering whether to go to university or do an apprenticeship, the decision no longer has to be either one or the other: it is now very much possible to do one after the other. And, with two-thirds of university students claiming they would be interested in doing an apprenticeship after graduating, there seems to be a fast-growing interest precisely in this possibility.

Of the employers surveyed by AllAboutResearch, 70% were marketing their apprenticeship opportunities to school leavers exclusively. But is there a wider talent pool employers should be trying to reach with their apprenticeship recruitment campaigns? Should they be marketing them to graduates too? And if so, how?

University students, graduates and apprenticeships

In the past two years, our research has suggested not just that there’s an interest in graduate apprenticeships among students, but also that this level of interest is quickly growing. We asked university students whether they would want to complete a Level 7 apprenticeship as part of their training with their graduate employers, meaning they would obtain qualifications equivalent to a master’s degree after joining the company. This practice is becoming increasingly common, with EY’s tax and assurance graduate scheme incorporating such an apprenticeship. In 2018, 47% of students said they would do a graduate apprenticeship. In 2019, this figure rose to almost 74%.

There may be several reasons behind this increase in popularity for graduate apprenticeships; the main one, however, seems to be that students are becoming more and more aware of the benefits. When we asked students why they would consider doing an apprenticeship after graduating, most of the answers related to the need to acquire the practical knowledge that university degrees do not generally offer. One student, for instance, said that they “wanted to gain the work experience that university does not provide”, while another answered: “I feel like I have theoretical knowledge, not practical knowledge.”

Many students, it seems, are becoming increasingly knowledgeable about the advantages that apprenticeships offer when it comes to entering the world of work. And unsurprisingly, most university students would want to complete apprenticeships that would build on the qualifications that they already have. 73% of students said they would choose to complete Degree Apprenticeships (equivalent to undergraduate or master’s degrees) after graduating. However, 15% of students said they would be happy to complete a Higher Apprenticeship, and the remaining 12% would consider doing Advanced or Intermediate Apprenticeships.

Marketing apprenticeship programmes to university graduates

Albeit the increasing awareness among university students about apprenticeship programmes, there are still many common misconceptions preventing students from actually applying for them. If recruiters are to effectively market apprenticeship programmes to this demographic, it is essential that these myths are gradually dispelled. 

When we asked university students for the reasons they would not consider an apprenticeship after graduating, the answers often mimicked fears and misconceptions about apprenticeships that are common among parents and school leavers too. Many respondents cited “poor pay” as one of the reasons they wouldn’t do a graduate apprenticeship, while some also saw apprenticeships as a “step backwards” or as being somehow inferior to university degrees. One student, for example, cited “the stigma of [apprenticeships] being for people who aren’t smart enough to go to university” as a reason they would not complete one as a graduate.

Neither of these reasons necessarily take into account the reality of what many graduate apprenticeships are like, however. Equivalent to master’s degrees, Level 7 apprenticeships cannot be considered to be a step backward for a recent graduate, and it is not necessarily the case that graduate apprenticeships pay badly—particularly when these are completed as part of a company’s graduate scheme. 

Graduate apprenticeships can add value to any business, allowing students with strong academic records to complement their knowledge with practical experience. However, there is a significant amount of misinformation about apprenticeships that should be addressed for employers to be able to attract the best graduate talent to their apprenticeships. One way to do this might be to discuss these apprenticeship opportunities at insight days for undergraduates, engaging students directly and underscoring the many benefits of apprenticeships even after university. We help employers organise insight days and in-office events, and we pre-screen candidates beforehand to ensure everyone present meets your selection criteria.

Alongside raising awareness of apprenticeship programmes face-to-face, it can also be useful to promote them online, as this is where many students learn about career opportunities. Platforms such as AllAboutApprenticeships, AllAboutCareers and AllAboutFinanceCareers are popular among university students, with millions of visitors each year. Signing up for an employer profile on these pages, or for our targeted email campaigns, can ensure that your apprenticeship programmes get the attention they deserve among undergraduates.

Attracting the best talent to your company is a complicated task. If you’d like to learn more about how we can make it easier, or if you’d like to know more about the services we provide more broadly, please do not hesitate to contact us. 

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