Busting seven myths about apprenticeships

Blogs 14 Sep 2022

Not sure if apprenticeships are the right fit for your business? Accountancy apprenticeship provider AAT bust seven common myths about apprenticeships to help you see the benefits of the qualification.

Apprenticeships offer employers an easy, affordable and practical way to build a talent pipeline. Partners help with the heavy lifting, and government funds are available to assist with the cost. 

So, what's stopping your business from launching its first scheme?  

Could it be you're under the influence of one of the outdated myths that still cling to modern apprenticeships? 
If so, read what other employers say – and let the truth about apprenticeships set you free. 

1. Apprenticeships are hard to set up 

Apprenticeships sound good – but does the prospect of a lot of bureaucratic paperwork send a shiver down your spine? Relax. You'll find partners – such as training providers and professional bodies- to help you do the heavy lifting.  

Becky Glover is Finance Director at VNC Automotive (VNCA), a small software company. She used apprenticeships to put together a finance team.  

“When I started at VNCA, I was the only person working in finance. I needed to build a successful team. My first port-of-call was the training provider I’d studied with eight years previously. Within a couple of days, the job was advertised on gov.uk and we were inundated with applications.” 
Helen Bloodworth, Senior Manager - Professional Qualifications at RSM, agrees: 

"Training providers are brilliant. They've got so much knowledge and are always there to help navigate through the processes."  

With the help of training providers and professional bodies, all sorts and sizes of organisations run successful apprenticeship schemes.  

2. Apprenticeships are expensive  

If you are a small business with a wage bill of less than £3 million, the Government will fund 95% of the cost of an apprenticeship. And if you're company is above this threshold, you'll already be paying into a levy pot, which you can use to fund your apprenticeship scheme. 

“Recruiting an apprentice is remarkably easy and very low cost for the value that they add. We received funding for the first £8,000 of George’s apprenticeship fees. However, given his cost was just over £8,000, we only paid less than £500!” says Becky Glover of VNC Automotive. 

Helen Bloodworth, Senior Manager - Professional Qualifications at RSM, agrees: 

"We find apprenticeships are really good value for our investment, if you like. Apprentices can complete their skills and behaviours which ensure that not only are they achieving the qualification, but they're also gaining the skills and behaviours which enable them to apply their learning to the workplace and become well-rounded professionals." 

3. You'll spend all your time 'babysitting' your apprentice 

No babysitting is required, according to the employers we spoke to. 

“As a small company we haven’t got resources to ‘baby sit’ an apprentice. Luckily, the training provider is a massive help here,” says Keith Cook, Group Accountant at waste management specialist Storefield. 

Catherine Walsh, of Buzzacott, agrees: "Your training provider will provide you with the talent coach from day one. This talent coach will look after your apprentice for you and will hold regular meetings with your apprentice." 

According to Helen Bloodworth, of RSM: "It's no different to line managing a member of staff. They have to have catch-ups, which you should if you're line managing someone. When we've looked at it now retrospectively, there's not really any additional time managing an apprentice."  

4. Apprenticeships are only for school-leavers  

Apprenticeships are for everybody, including career changers and those climbing the ladder of social mobility into a better-paid job. As long as they're excited about the opportunity, an apprenticeship can be applied to absolutely anyone, no matter their age. 

"We have senior managers, mature students, and parents returning to work on our reskill apprenticeship programmes. So, they're definitely not just for school leavers," says Lizzie Morris, Early Careers Development Manager at KPMG.  

"We have more people that aren't school leavers on our apprenticeships schemes, than we have school leavers," agrees Helen Bloodworth of RSM. 

The same picture emerges at Buzzacott:  

"Apprenticeships are open to everybody, as long as you can evidence that the apprenticeship is providing you with new learning," says Catherine Walsh.  

5. Apprenticeships are only for new employees 

One of the best-kept secrets of apprenticeships is they are an excellent way for employers to train existing employees. 

“Perhaps the biggest benefit of Amelia (our first apprentice) joining the business is that it inspired others within the finance team to upskill,” says Keith Cook, of Storefield. He tells how these colleagues also went on to apprenticeship schemes to gain finance skills. 

“Before, the finance team was pretty much self-taught with little professional qualifications. Today, we’ve got one employee who’s completed AAT Level 4 and another on Level 3 – all paid for through the government funding.” 

Many firms are beginning to realise the benefits of using apprenticeships to train people already on their payroll.  

Accountancy firm RSM offers apprenticeship schemes for existing employees. "Our new level apprenticeship, an MSc in data, is a good example," says Helen Bloodworth. "The whole cohort are existing employees and were drawn from a wide range of grades."  

6. Apprenticeships are low-level and second-best to a degree 

"The myth that apprenticeships are low-level and second-best to a degree is probably the biggest myth that there is," says Catherine Walsh of Buzzacott.  

"Our AAT trainees are able to be qualified with a professional qualification ahead of their peers that go to university. By the end of their 60-month training contract, they will hold not only the AAT qualification but also, the ACA qualification and the Level 7 apprenticeship, which is the equivalent of achieving a master's degree."  

Lizzie Morris of KPMG states: "attitudes towards apprenticeships have evolved. They are now recognised as an equal alternative to university. So, at KPMG, you'll immediately enter the world of work and gain valuable on-the-job experience while earning money as you study. You'll have no tuition fees and a real sense of community from day one." 

The verdict at RSM is equally emphatic: "You can start pretty much any occupation nowadays on an apprenticeship with no difference to your career prospects than somebody that's been to university," says Helen Bloodworth.  

7. Apprenticeships don't result in a full-time job 

Apprentices are renowned for adding value while they are still learning, while learning can be tailored to the business's exact needs. Who wouldn't want to prolong these benefits permanently after the course is complete?  

"We have many individuals at Azets who joined us as apprentices. Now these people are partners, regional CEOs, really senior individuals across the business," says Katherine Gibbins of Azets 

"Apprentices have many good career opportunities available to them once they are qualified. For example, at Buzzacott, they will go on to become managers, senior managers, directors and quite often they will go on all the way to become a partner," says Catherine Walsh.  

Take the first step 

So, as you can see, apprenticeships offer a fantastic way to develop both new and existing talent within your workforce. 

There are close to 600 different Apprenticeship Standards available for a multitude of different job roles.  


This content was written for FSB by AAT

If you would like more information on accountancy apprenticeships through AAT, you can visit our website, book an online meeting with a member of the AAT team or call 020 3735 2434. 

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