The modern-day apprenticeship is a far cry from Saturday boys running local errands.

For starters, 49% are women. Today’s apprentice is solving problems, working with cutting-edge technology and learning from expert mentors. Think blue-chip companies like IBM, BAE, Apple or BMW.

Yet, apprenticeships still carry a negative perception. They’re not typically seen as savvy or even as a choice, but rather, the last option available.

But many young people don’t hold that view. With over 800,000 apprentices in the UK in 2017/18, an apprenticeship is an increasingly viable alternative to university. And businesses are realising the benefits, too. A recent survey of 1,000 employers in the UK found that 49% of respondents said they prefer candidates with relevant experience gained via an apprenticeship, rather than a degree.

So if you're thinking of creating (or revamping) your own apprenticeship scheme, the time is now. We’ve compiled a stellar roundup of four forward-looking programmes to help you hit the right note.

1. Go just as far at EY

"Do what you’re good at. Learn new skills. Get your professional qualifications before your uni-graduating peers – and go just as far."

The EY Business Apprenticeship Programme is aimed firmly at young professionals disillusioned with the university promise. And with a compelling pledge of its own, this programme has an Ofsted accreditation and a starting salary of up to £21,500.

“At EY we see some impressive students join us on our apprenticeship scheme, who are enthusiastic, energetic and hungry to learn. We want to harness that talent by creating even more opportunities for young people to enter the profession,” says Maggie Stilwell, EY’s Managing Partner for Talent at EY UK & Ireland.

What makes it awesome?

2. Be part of the action at Warner Bros.

"The deal, simply put, is that you work for us full time earning a full salary, and in turn we will pay for you to gain a professional qualification, giving you time off to attend college/training with your peers."

With what is quite possibly the most epic apprenticeship website ever, the Warner Brothers' Apprenticeship Scheme is open to all individuals educated to A-Level (or equivalent) who are not in full-time education. Apprentices have the chance to work across many diverse (not to mention glam) areas of the business including production, lighting and studio operations.

“It is crucially important to us to invest in the next generation, so that we not only have a diverse pool of exceptional talent to work with but that we also play our part in maintaining the UK’s position as a global creative industries leader,” says Josh Berger, Managing Director for the UK, Ireland and Spain.

What makes it awesome?

  • Opportunity to kickstart a career working for a leading brand at the forefront of the entertainment industry
  • Named in Rate My Apprenticeship’s Top 100 Employers 2018/19
  • Starting salary £16,500

3. Priceless opportunities at Christie's

"Our apprentices receive lots of hands-on training from experienced professionals and are given real responsibility."

Speaking of glam apprenticeships, Christie's London Apprenticeship Programme views their apprentices for what they really are: priceless assets to the business.

The programme is only open to those who have not pursued higher education but have A-Levels (or equivalent). Apprentices work in a range of areas including HR, marketing, events and art handing, with real responsibilities at every step.

“I didn’t really know what to expect when I joined Christie's apprenticeships programme, but so far I’ve enjoyed every minute of it. I’ve discovered a whole new world, been exposed to many pieces of interesting artwork, and had the opportunity to be involved in some exhilarating auctions,” says Katie Sawyer, a client service apprentice.

What makes it awesome?

  • Opportunity to work for the world’s leading auction house
  • Unique on-the-job experience with formal training for and national qualifications
  • A great starting salary

4. BT's better-than-uni apprenticeship scheme

"They are the lifeblood of the organisation as they help shape the future workforce of the company."

With one of the oldest and best-known schemes out there, BT's Apprenticeship Programme has been in place for over half a century.

The scheme currently delivers 11 different apprenticeships across the entire business. The telecom giant also runs a dedicated work ready programme open to anyone aged 16 to 24, not currently in education, employment or training. The programme provides a three-week course, combining hands-on work experience with coaching and training.

“We value Apprentices because young people bring new skills and innovation to the business. They are the lifeblood of the organisation as they help shape the future workforce of the company” says Damian Brown, Head of Accredited Learning at BT.

What makes it awesome?

  • In 2010, BT received more apprentice applications than Oxford University did for its degree courses (4,000 applications for just 221 places!)
  • More than 3,500 people have participated in the Work Ready Programme and more than half have gone on to either gain employment or return to education

Apprenticeship programmes come in many different shapes and sizes. And the truth is, they're not as difficult to set up as you might think. You may not have a 50-year track record or a silver-screen-worthy apprenticeship website. That's OK.

All you really need is a genuine commitment to supporting your apprentices. Because after all, today's apprentice is tomorrow’s CEO, and a good apprenticeship scheme isn’t just about training a potential employee, it’s an investment in the future of your business.