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Lesson activities: get your class thinking about apprenticeships

Handy lesson starters which introduce Key Stage 4 and Key Stage 5 students to learn more about apprenticeships.

Some sixth form students might not be as keen as others to go to university but are still looking for a qualification. These activities will introduce them to higher or degree apprenticeships as a viable work-based alternative.

Degree and higher apprenticeships are still relatively new, offering qualifications up to degree-level but without the tuition fees. Apprentices earn while they learn and are employed by a company. Point students towards our free downloadable higher and degree apprenticeships guide if they're keen to find out more.

We've also got some handy tips on how to advise your students through the apprenticeship application process, which is timed and structured differently to the Ucas application process. 

Activity ideas

To help your students learn about how higher or degree apprenticeships work and what they are, try one or more of these activities:

1. Apprenticeship pros and cons

Working in pairs or small groups, give your students two or more real-life apprenticeship schemes to find out more about.

We've sourced a variety of different schemes currently available to examine in more detail via the links below:
Ask each group to consider the following:
  • Which qualifications are on offer?
  • What are the financial benefits?
  • Are these opportunities available locally?
  • What are these employers looking for?
​Each group should then list their pros and cons and report back to the class for further discussion.

2. Role models

Highlight role models who’ve made a success of work-based routes. Lists of some of the most successful or well-known ex-apprentices tend to be published during National Apprenticeship Week each March.

In the meantime, here are some names to start with.
  • Anthony Bamford, Chairman of JCB
  • Ross Brawn, Formula 1 Managing Director of Motorsports
  • Clare Smyth, Chef with three Michelin stars
  • Stewart Wingate, Chief Executive London Gatwick Airport
Role models can also be found closer to home: ex-students, apprentices employed at school, college or other local organisations.

3. Real-life stories

Even better, try to bring in employers or your alumni students to explain specific schemes and their experiences.

For help linking up with employers, speak to your careers adviser or a career leader at school or college. If that person is you, try a charity such as Amazing Apprenticeships, set up to help provide hands-on assistance to schools, including arranging speakers and visits.

4. Myth busters

Reveal some myths - and truths - surrounding apprenticeships with these prompts: 

'Don’t graduates earn more?'
The very best apprenticeships (at level 5 or higher) result in greater lifetime earnings than degrees from non-Russell Group universities. See Levels of Success from the Sutton Trust.

'Apprenticeship or degree?'  
What are the key questions when choosing between an apprenticeship and a more traditional university education? And how can you achieve both, through a degree apprenticeship? Read this from Prospects.

'Which employers take on apprentices?'
Think apprenticeships are just for low-skilled roles in a handful of job sectors? From multi-nationals to SMEs in a wide range of industries, the list continues to grow. The Top 100 Apprenticeship Employers from the National Apprenticeship Service shows the breadth of opportunities.

5. Discussion points

Stimulate discussion and debate in class with these questions:

  • How important is ‘the university experience’ when deciding on post-18 options?
  • Which carries more status, and why: a degree from the Russell Group or a degree apprenticeship from a leading firm?
  • Should you choose a work-based scheme if you're not sure of your future career plans?
  • Which route will provide the quickest route to the top?


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