Should employers hire graduates or apprentices?

For employers, who makes the best members of staff: graduates or apprentices?

Should employers hire graduates or apprentices?


The working world has been through a lot in the last decade.

We've seen universities soar in popularity as graduates become the go-to recruits. But the tuition fee hike brought in by the last coalition government changed everything. Fewer students are forking out £9,000 a year in fees, and more are turning to vocational training or degree apprenticeships to jumpstart their career. But as an employer, who makes the best members of staff: graduates or apprentices?

The government seems to think apprenticeships are the answer. In the past year they've introduced a series of reforms to increase the number of apprenticeships and have promised to deliver 3 million new starts by 2020. Apprenticeships are the ideal solution to the UK's skills crisis – but what about you as an employer? We look at the pros and cons of hiring graduates and apprentices so you can decide for yourself.


If you're a levy-paying employer, recruiting an apprentice is a no-brainer. You can use your funds to pay for their training, and mould them into the perfect employee – without having to pay high graduate salaries.

Graduates have already completed their academic training, but they expect higher wages and don't have any experience of the workplace. This means they may still need some vocational training before they can do the job.

Employer-led curriculum

In the past, some companies struggled to find an apprenticeship scheme that fitted their company needs – but this isn't the case anymore! The new apprenticeship standards are designed by employers for specific job roles, so you can tailor them around your business needs.

Academic knowledge

Graduates bring a high level of academic knowledge into your business, but recruits who join your team straight from university may have little to no experience of the world of work.

Apprentices learn specific technical skills on the job, but they don't bring the same high level of specialism to the role.

Higher and degree apprenticeships bridge this gap between hands-on experience and academic learning. Degree apprentices spend 4 days a week training on the job, and the other day studying at university. This means employers get the best of both worlds – workplace skills and the academic skills to back it up!

At OneFile, we think apprenticeships – and especially higher apprenticeships – are the way forward for modern businesses.

We don't want to be biased though, so we've made a comparison chart showing the pros and cons of each. Who's the winner?

You decide!

This article includes research and opinion sourced by OneFile at the time of publication. Things may have changed since then,
so this research is to be used at the reader's discretion. OneFile is not liable for any action taken based on this research.