In theory, apprenticeships are aimed at helping small and medium-sized businesses to fill crucial skills gaps and to nurture the talent of tomorrow. Once an apprentice starts, they will work towards attaining a National/Scottish Vocational Qualification and gain some much-needed experience in the property industry, helping them gain a foot in the door.

Despite seeming like a big win – regular pay and up-to-date skills are just some of the positives that can appear by doing an apprenticeship – small businesses advertising such positions also have the most to lose. It’s a double-edged sword that presents itself as a big challenge. It can also be tough for apprentices themselves who start work with a firm merely interested in another pair of hands than nurturing and developing talent.

Is it worth applying for an apprenticeship?

As an applicant, it can be difficult to manoeuvre yourself into a position where you can snag an apprenticeship. Recent figures from The Guardian suggest 12 applications are submitted for every position, making it an extremely competitive market from the beginning. In addition, the number of over 25s in apprenticeships trebled to 392,000 in 2012/13, suggesting employers could be looking for, at least, a bit of experience in their apprentices before taking them on. Does that negate the whole aim of apprenticeships in the first place?

Furthermore, property apprenticeships aren’t for everyone. Self-motivated applicants who can organise their own learning and meet deadlines are the ideal type of applicant and you may not fall into this category. In addition, an apprentice’s wage is not comparable to that of a permanent employee, suggesting a full-time position (perhaps an entry-level estate agent) may be a lucrative venture.

Apprentices are often perceived to be on the same level as interns, despite the significant difference in pay grade. Depending on the business apprentices are working for, they may tasked with the more ‘unpleasant’ activities in the office; coffee fetching and data entry may not be the best tasks to progress one’s career.

The business case

From a business perspective, taking on an apprentice may be more hassle than it should be. Teaching an apprentice can slow down productivity; a big issue if a small business is already thin across the board. Firms will also need to find an employee to take on the responsibility of training said apprentice. Furthermore, bigger competitors can recruit your apprentice with a lucrative job offer once they’ve finished their training. As well as facing the additional cost of finding another apprentice to train, firms will also lose an employee it invested heavily in.

Overall, apprenticeships have their place in the world of work but with an increasing number of drawbacks for employers, coupled with the sheer number of applicants on the market, it might be prudent to search for an entry-level job in the property industry instead.