In recent years the image and perception of apprenticeships has undoubtedly changed for the better. Traditionally seen as a job for a school leaver in an industrial environment, a great deal of work has been done to position apprenticeships as an attractive and credible alternative to college or university and with more and more firms creating fantastic apprenticeship schemes aimed at young people leaving school many are taking this option.

But, for those considering their future in 2019, the choice no longer has to be either a university degree or an apprenticeship, now you can do both. And many recent graduates are already seeing the benefits an apprenticeship can offer them after a degree.

At this time of year, lots of young people that have already undertaken a degree or college course or completed part of it and have decided not to continue are considering their options. If you are in this position but have been put off doing an apprenticeship because you thought you weren’t eligible – think again.

This ability to do an apprenticeship either before or after university may be news to you as graduates on apprenticeship schemes are a relatively new trend. Previous eligibility rules had always prohibited those with anything higher than a foundation degree (Level 4) from being able to sign up and be funded by the Government. In addition, as most apprenticeships available were at relatively low levels many graduates felt they were overqualified to embark on one.

In May 2017, however, with the introduction of the apprenticeship levy, the Government relaxed the rules on previous learning and in addition has spent a lot of time and money to create a number of apprenticeships at Level 6 and 7, equivalent to Degree and Masters levels. Early last year it even gave its approval for MBA-level apprenticeship funding, which has opened up a whole new market for those leaving university who can now do an apprenticeship at a level higher than their degree.

As an added bonus, Graduates are also eligible for funding, which means that many employers, with training budgets boosted by the apprenticeship levy, are looking at how they can attract a whole new intake of graduates via an apprenticeship route.

But if you want to enter a sector different from your degree or college course, you may like to know that Graduates aren’t only progressing onto higher level apprenticeships, but rather, with new apprenticeship Standards being focused on specific job roles, many graduates with a non-relevant degree are being funded on lower level apprenticeships that can equip them with the necessary knowledge or skills to perform in that role that their degree simply didn’t teach them. In this way many see the benefits in an apprenticeship to get their practical skills up to scratch.

This includes both recent graduates and those finishing later this year and for those considering this route, there are still some important eligibility criteria for graduates and their employers to note; mainly, graduates cannot already have a degree in a similar qualification to their chosen apprenticeship. So, for example, a graphic design graduate can’t apply for a graphic design apprenticeship but could apply for say, a digital marketing apprenticeship. The rule is that there has to be ‘significant new learning in the apprenticeship qualification’. In other words, the training needs to provide the employee with substantial new skills and the content should be different from any previous training.

Many businesses believe the apprenticeship route now provides additional structure to an existing graduate programme with an emphasis on skill and behaviour development and better support and pastoral care, through regular coaching provided by a combination of in house personnel and the chosen training provider.

These days, you can do apprenticeships in almost all of the subjects you can study at college or university. If you are interested in law or medicine, you’ll need to study at college, then university, but if you’re interested in any range of subjects including hospitality, IT, or the automotive sector, you can actually reach the top of your field with or without a degree and a relevant apprenticeship.