You’ve probably heard about apprenticeships, but do you really know what they’re all about? Here we look at some of their key features by posing questions you may be asking yourself.
What does an apprenticeship involve?
- Apprenticeships offer structured training in the workplace combined with off-the-job learning.
- Apprenticeships are designed by sector organisations and key employers, so they will provide you with relevant and up-to-date training for your chosen career.
- You’ll spend about 20% of your time participating in off-the-job learning. You might do one day a week at a college, training centre or university, or take part in ‘blocks’ of training.
- You’ll earn an income. Although there are National Minimum Wage rates for apprentices, many employers pay much more than these, especially for those doing apprenticeships at the higher levels.
- You will be treated like any other employee and are entitled to the same holiday and other working conditions as your colleagues in similar work.
- Depending on your chosen apprenticeship and level, and your previous experience, apprenticeships can last from one to six years.
What apprenticeships are available?
Apprenticeships are available in all sorts of sectors. You train for a particular career – anything from an animal trainer to an accountancy professional, from a beauty therapist to a business administrator, or from a train driver to a teacher. Bear in mind that there are more opportunities in certain apprenticeships than others, and some are very competitive to enter.
What are the different apprenticeship levels?
Apprenticeship levels vary depending on where you are located, but it is possible to gain qualifications across a range of levels. Find out more about apprenticeship levels in England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland and what qualifications they are equivalent to in your location. For apprenticeships outside these countries, please conduct your research to find out more about your options.
Is an apprenticeship suitable for me?
Many school- and college-leavers take apprenticeships, but they are available to anyone over the age of 16 provided they are not in full-time education.
Apprenticeships aren’t an easy option. You will need to show that you are fully committed to completing the apprenticeship and understand what it involves.
There are no set entry requirements, but employers and learning providers must be confident that you will be able to cope with the level of work and study, so you may be asked for certain qualifications and/or experience.
Make sure you check the requirements for any apprenticeships that interest you.
What will I get out of an apprenticeship?
Apart from equipping you with paid work experience, an apprenticeship will:
- develop your competence to do a particular job.
- provide you with free training – there are no tuition fees.
- demonstrate to future employers that you have met industry standards; you will take an end-point assessment (EPA) and many apprenticeships involve gaining recognised qualifications.
- provide you with support to achieve qualifications in English and maths if you have not already reached a certain standard in these important subjects.
Where and when do I look for vacancies?
Various websites advertise apprenticeship vacancies, but a good starting point is to browse apprenticeships based on your interests and location through your Government’s Apprenticeships site; England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. If you have a particular employer or learning provider in mind, they often advertise their apprenticeship opportunities on their website.
Apprenticeship vacancies are advertised at all times of the year, but sometimes they are linked to courses that start in September. If you are still at school or college, you could start applying during your final year for programmes that begin in the summer.
How do I apply for an apprenticeship?
It’s very similar to applying for any job. It may include producing a CV/application form and cover letter, attending online or face-to-face interviews and taking entry tests to see whether you have the right aptitude for the career.
You may be competing with lots of other hopefuls, so it’s worth getting advice, checking your application very carefully and preparing well for the interview.
You can get advice and tips on applying for apprenticeships and download A guide to apprenticeship applications on the Apprenticeships site.
What can I do after I’ve finished?
You may be able to progress to the next apprenticeship level or continue your learning in other ways – perhaps through a part-time or distance-learning course. Most apprentices stay in employment; in fact, an estimated two-thirds remain with the same employer.
What if I’m not ready for an apprenticeship?
If you are aged 16-24, have little, if any, work experience and qualifications at or below level 3, you could consider a traineeship. As well as a work placement, you get advice on your applications, support to develop the skills you need for a job or apprenticeship in the career area that interests you and, if you need it, help with your English, maths and digital skills.
Now that you know more about apprenticeships, be honest with yourself as to whether they might be an option for you. If so, do your research and get as much advice as possible. You can get free help and support on the apprenticeships site relevant to your location; England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. Good luck!
Debbie Steel, Updated May 2023
With a background working with apprentices and teaching in further education, Debbie was employed as an in-house careers author before establishing herself as a freelancer. As well as co-authoring numerous careers books, Debbie has produced resources and web content for a range of high-profile clients. She is an enthusiastic proponent of impartial and reliable careers information.