The future of physics apprenticeships: trends and opportunities

  • Helena Kudiabor
  • Sep 19 2023

Apprenticeships — a combination of paid work experience and fully funded education— are becoming increasingly popular. This is especially true among those who are interested in physics, who are looking for ways to gain practical experience without crippling university debt. But, are apprenticeships here to stay? How will they evolve over the next few years?


Why are physics apprenticeships so valuable?

If you’re a young person looking to start your career journey, apprentices are a great alternative to university. They’re far less expensive (no student loan debt) and you’ll gain paid hands-on experience. These attributes of apprenticeships make further education a lot more accessible, especially for those from low-income backgrounds who can’t afford university. They’re also an asset for people who want to go back to school but can’t afford to pay for university or lose out on a steady income. Apprenticeships are also incredibly valuable for neurodivergent individuals, as well as anyone else who struggles to concentrate in long lectures and prefers a hands-on approach to learning. 

Physics apprenticeships are an asset not just for apprentices, but for employers too. Research conducted by the Institute of Physics found that physics-related skills are essential for almost two million jobs, showing just how important physics education is for society. However, almost 9,000 physics-related jobs remain hard to fill, with 2/3rd of physics-related businesses having had to pause innovation due to a lack of skilled workers. Thus, physics apprenticeships allow employers to fill skilled worker shortages, at limited cost to them thanks to the apprenticeship levy.

How can more people be encouraged to do apprenticeships?

Despite how valuable apprenticeships are, apprenticeship applications are not as popular as expected. Research from the Institute of Physics found a few reasons why:

Focus on university education instead of encouraging students to explore alternate routes (over 50% of physics related jobs in the UK and Ireland don’t need a degree)

Stereotypes about who can do physics (women and people of colour are underrepresented in physics) and misconceptions about apprenticeships being lower status

Financial barriers: training providers being located far away, limited affordable housing.

Interventions introduced by the government to help tackle these issues include: investing £3.2 million into the Apprenticeship Support and Knowledge programme to help schools raise awareness of apprenticeships, increasing the apprenticeship care leavers’ bursary and providing monthly funding so training providers can support apprentices with disabilities. 

How will apprenticeships change over time?

As more people realise the benefits of apprenticeships, there will definitely be more apprenticeships on offer. In February, Jaguar Land Rover introduced 150 degree apprenticeships (a 70% increase from the year before), with the starting salary of £24,500 well above the national mandate. We can also expect more apprenticeships on offer in growing fields like technology (artificial intelligence, cybersecurity) and sustainability (sustainable technology, environmental conservation). 

It’s also likely that there will be more remote and hybrid apprenticeships and specific initiatives from employers to attract apprentices from underrepresented groups