The main difference between an apprenticeship and a traditional degree program is the theory-practice ratio implemented in each. Typically, degree programs are extremely theory-heavy, and aim to introduce students to centuries' worth of ideas and schools of thought pertaining to a respective area of study. For example, an English Literature major will spend a good portion of their academic career reading and discussing the works of countless authors, from Homer's The Iliad (1194-1184 BC) to more obscure, lesser known works by modern authors like Michael Turner and Charles de Lint.
An apprentice, on the other hand, will find that their time in school will be dedicated more to practicing their skill set. That is not to say that apprenticeship programs do not focus on theory. Of course they do! However, before apprentices can even think of approaching a mechanism, they must first understand the concepts around it. In fact, theory is typically taught throughout the entire apprenticeship program, giving students the opportunity to learn new principles as their skills mature.
A focus on practice means that students will be able to get hands-on experience while they are earning their certification. Unlike degree graduates, who more often than not graduate with little to no experience in their field, apprentices leave school having already clocked in a significant number of hours working. What this means is that apprentices overcome their novice stage while they are still in school, giving them a one-up in their respective industry.
An additional benefit to apprenticeship programs is the level of industry exposure students get. While apprentices are put alongside master tradespeople to learn and perfect the required expertise, they are also forming relationships with industry leaders. For example, let us say a student pursuing an automotive apprenticeship is placed at a local garage in order to complete the work experience necessary to gain his certification. The student will invariably develop relationships with colleagues, ones that will likely last years, and which will expose him to other sectors and people of the industry. In short, the nature of apprenticeships place students in an environment that gives them the opportunity to develop bonds with people, to discover different aspects of the industry, and, ultimately, be completely in the know of all things field-related.
Students who aspire to enter a skilled trade profession, such as mechanics, welding, and plumbing, may prefer to opt for an apprenticeship. There are no hard facts to sustain the belief that degree programs are better than apprenticeship programs, or vice versa. The advantages of one over the other completely depend on your own goals, and what you hope to get out of your time as a student.