JTL Blog


No need to debate education vs experience – choose an apprenticeship

female apprentice with tutor

Whether you’re looking at your post-16 options or contemplating a career change, we firstly encourage you to consider your skills, think about your long-term aspirations and to be honest about your strengths and weaknesses. It’s important to explore all the avenues available to you and keep an open mind, as the same route isn’t right for everyone – remember, there is no right or wrong answer.

Education vs experience

It is a debate that has been going on for many years – what matters most when it comes to getting a job? Does having a degree allow you a foot in the door, or does your past work experience matter more? Furthermore, will your experience or your education serve you better in terms of staying employed, developing in your career, and making a good living for years to come?

The arguments for higher education vs. work experience are varied, including:

  • Achieving a higher education only proves you can succeed in academia, not necessarily in a real-world job situation. Whereas success in actual work can demonstrate to prospective employers more about what you have to offer.
  • Work experience can make you a good candidate for a particular job now, but without higher education you may lack the skills that are important for development in the future.
  • A degree can show a potential employer that you have knowledge or technical skills in a specialised area that can be transferred to the workplace with minimal on-the-job training.

Furthermore, in light of the on-going pandemic and economic landscape, people are now more likely to consider on the job learning such as an apprenticeship rather than choosing a university education.

Earning potential

A recent briefing paper from the London School of Economics found that young people who choose an apprenticeship or equivalent course can earn £1,000 to £7,000 more a year – without the student debt. Its findings suggested that at the age of 26, those with level 4 qualifications – equivalent to an apprenticeship, certificate of higher education or certain other vocational courses – had higher earnings than degree holders.

By the age of 26, men with level 4 qualifications had average earnings of £30,400. Male graduates of the same age could expect to earn £23,000.

However, men with apprenticeships or other equivalent qualifications have annual earning of £37,000 – more than £5,000 a year more than their graduate equivalents. The findings revealed that all higher-level qualifications improved earnings.

Become a Trainee

Not to be confused with an accredited apprenticeship, a Traineeship can sometimes be referred to by tutors as a ‘pre-apprenticeship programme’. It can be useful for people who have not yet gained an apprenticeship, as well as successful apprenticeship candidates who are still waiting to be placed with an employer.

The programme gives trainees an insight into the industry as well as providing them with employability and basic maths and English knowledge if needed over a shorter period (10-16 weeks), as well as health and safety training which will enable them to progress onto an apprenticeship or go straight into employment. Find out more about what a Traineeship entails here.

Have you considered an apprenticeship?

If you’re questioning whether you should go down the education or experience route, then why not consider an apprenticeship – where you can do both! Apprenticeships allow you to gain valuable first-hand experience in the working environment, all whilst training for industry recognised qualifications and getting paid to do it all too.

At JTL, we deliver apprenticeship training in the building services engineering sector, which forms part of the construction industry. Apprenticeships have become a popular choice for those who want to gain industry recognised qualifications and job specific skills, without the hefty debt of a student loan if attending university.

Ideal for people who enjoy hands-on activities, a JTL apprenticeship is the practical way to get on the career ladder, while enjoying a very reasonable income and the security of a long-term profession. No two days on the job are the same and best of all, apprenticeships offer fantastic opportunities for progression. If you’re highly motivated and keen to learn, you could start off by qualifying as a domestic/commercial/industrial plumber, gain your qualifications and then become a consultant or public health engineer – there’s so much opportunity!

For many years, apprenticeships have been considered only for school leavers or young people entering the world of work, however this is simply a myth as apprenticeships are for all ages. Furthermore, since the introduction of adult apprenticeships, more and more older people are opting to take this route rather than going back into full-time education. Check out our ‘It’s never too late to start an apprenticeship’ blog to read more.

For more information on becoming a JTL apprentice and how it could benefit you, visit our apprenticeships page here.

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