With this year's National Apprenticeship Week well underway, work-based learning is getting a lot of attention in the press and across social media. You only need to follow the hashtag #NAW2014 to see the excitement from companies in all industries as they promote their own apprenticeship programmes and success stories.
Apprenticeship programmes have come a long way in the last few years and now rival university as a viable route for school and college leavers looking to kick-start their career in almost any industry. There have been 1.5 million apprenticeships created for young people since 2010, but do you know what it is that makes an apprenticeship such an appealing option for the future? Everyone likes a list - so here are the best reasons to be an apprentice.

1. Earn whilst you learn

One of the most striking differences between going to university and choosing an apprenticeship is the state of your bank balance! Unlike many internships, apprenticeships aren't voluntary. As an apprentice, you'll be earning an average of £700 a month during the 12 month programme - which is super important for making sure that you can support yourself throughout the year whilst you work on completing your training.

2. Kick-start your career

Not only is an apprenticeship the easiest way for you to begin your career, it's also a sure-fire way to make sure that your career is a good one. For anyone going to university, there's no guarantee that they'll find a job at the end of it - and that lack of experience makes it harder for them to prove themselves to employers. Apprentices start gaining experience from day one, are often kept on by employers afterwards, and earn an average of £117,000 more than a non-apprentice over their working life.

3. Gain qualifications and experience

Rather than spending each morning in a stuffy lecture room, as an apprentice you'll be learning through doing - practical hands-on experience that helps to develop your skill set and is so valuable to employers. However, qualifications are still useful when climbing the career ladder, so on many apprenticeship pathways you'll be working towards NVQ diplomas and other more technical certifications.

4. Acquire skills that will help you in the future

The jump from education to the working world is a big one, and it comes as a surprise to many young people. The transferable skills you'll gain during your apprenticeship year will prepare you for the rest of your working life, and the support from your apprenticeship provider will make the transition as painless as possible. Many of the lessons you'll learn whilst with your first employer will help to set you apart from the competition when applying for other jobs in the future.

5. Pick a job of your choice

Whatever career you're interested in, there's likely to be an apprenticeship pathway that would help you to get straight into your dream job. With over 100,000 employers across 170+ industries, the world is your oyster. Tom Coakes is the content-writer for Just IT, an IT training and recruitment company based in the City of London.