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Apprenticeships

Understanding apprenticeships

In essence, an apprenticeship is a job. You’ll spend 80% of the working week at your place of employment, and 20% at your place of study.

You’ll earn a salary, and your course fees will be covered by your employer and the government. You just need to be willing to manage your time between work and study.

There are many different apprenticeships you can apply for depending on your existing qualifications across a broad range of different industries.

There is a wide range of apprenticeships for over 1,500 job roles — giving you the opportunity to enter careers in anything from engineering and boat building, to veterinary nursing and accountancy. Here you will find everything you need to know about exploring your options, and how to search and apply for an apprenticeship in England.

To take up an apprenticeship in England you must be over 16 years old, and show you have the ability to complete the programme.

Apprenticeships are ideal if you have a clear idea of the career you’d like to pursue, and you’re willing to commit to work and study. Unlike in school, at college or on a traditional degree course, the majority of your learning will be through on-the-job training in your place of work.

To be considered for an apprenticeship programme in England​, you need to be:

  • aged 16 or over
  • living in England
  • not in full-time education

Apprenticeships would suit someone who:

  • has a clear idea of the type of career they wish to pursue
  • is willing to commit to work and study, but would prefer a more practical and work-related approach to learning
  • is ready to start work with an employer, and be based in the workplace most of the time
  • is well organised and able to cope with the competing demands of work and academic study at the same time
  • is ready to be assessed through a mix of assignments and written work, including essays, reports, practical exercises, end tests, and exams

Advantages and disadvantages

Pros

Cons

Apprenticeships offer a direct alternative to full-time higher education for those who would prefer to start employment.

It can be difficult to balance academic study with work commitments — you need to be well organised!

You can earn a wage while completing a higher education qualification, and you won't have to pay tuition or course fees.

Although you will study a higher education qualification, your experience of student life will be limited compared to those attending full-time courses at university or college.

You will gain real knowledge, skills, and experience required for specific careers, and possibly professional accreditation.

You need to have a clear idea of the type of career you wish to pursue, as this is a vocational qualification.

Your investment in high level training and study can provide a long term career path and increase your earning potential.

There is the possibility you may have to pay back your course fees if you decide to leave your apprenticeship early.

Your work experience, transferable skills, and high level qualifications may leave you well placed to obtain employment in a number of related careers.

The initial apprenticeship wage you start on may be quite low compared to other employment, and you'll need to cover your day-to-day living costs, rent, travel costs, equipment, and materials. Tax and National Insurance contributions will come out of your salary.

No matter what kind of career you want to follow, you need to do your research and find out if you can reach your career goals through an apprenticeship, or if you need/would prefer to study full-time at university or college.

Apprenticeships aren’t the ‘easy’ option. Holding down a full-time job and studying takes commitment and hard work, and it won’t be right for everyone. You’ll need to prove yourself in the workplace, while getting to grips with studying for a higher level qualification. You’ll be expected to achieve academically and at work, managing your time and adjusting to longer hours, with fewer holidays than at school, college, or university. You might have to travel or relocate to find the right opportunity for you.

Into Apprenticeships — Guide for disabled people

Disability Rights UK has produced this guide, answering common questions, such as how to find an apprenticeship, whether the training will be accessible, and what support is available in the workplace. There are several inspiring stories written by disabled apprentices about their own experiences and the challenges they faced. It also contains a useful resources section listing further websites, publications, and organisations which can help.

Entry Requirements

If you start with an intermediate or advanced apprenticeship, you can progress your career and work your way up through the higher level apprenticeships to achieve a master’s degree in some career areas.

Each apprenticeship vacancy will specify the entry requirements, and qualities the employer is looking for. For higher and degree apprenticeships, employers are generally asking for A levels and other Level 3 qualifications. You also need to check the job description for any essential and desirable skills they’re looking for, and specific qualifications required.

Level

Entry requirements

Intermediate (Level 2) – generally considered to be equivalent to five GCSE passes.

Applicants need to be over 16 years old, and show they have the ability to complete the programme.

Advanced (Level 3) – generally considered to be equivalent to two A level passes.

Some industries want apprentices who have three or more GCSEs, but other employers don't specify any formal qualifications. Some may ask for previous experience in the industry.

Check apprenticeship vacancies to see if there are any specific subjects and/or grades you need to have.

Higher (Level 4 and above)
Level 4
– equivalent to an HNC, a foundation degree, or the first year of an undergraduate degree.

Levels 5 and above – equivalent to a full degree.

Entry requirements can include at least five GCSEs grades A – C (9 – 4 on the new grading system), and Level 3 qualifications, including A levels, NVQ/SVQ Level 3, or a BTEC National. Some will expect or require applicants to have subjects related to the particular apprenticeship.

Check apprenticeship vacancies to see if there are any specific subjects and/or grades you need to have.

Degree (Levels 5 to 7) – these are new and enable apprentices to achieve a full bachelor's or master's degree as part of their apprenticeship.
Levels 5 and 6 – equivalent to a full degree.

Level 7 – equivalent to a master's degree.

Entry requirements can include at least five GCSEs grades A – C (9 – 4 on the new grading system), and Level 3 qualifications, including A levels, NVQ/SVQ Level 3, or a BTEC National. Some employers have specific entry requirements. For example, recent IT degree apprenticeship adverts have required an A level (or equivalent) grade range of ABB to CCC. Many employers will expect or require applicants to have qualifications in subjects related to the particular apprenticeship.

Check apprenticeship vacancies to see if there are any specific subjects and/or grades you need to have.

What do you get paid?

Find out about apprentice wages, associated fees and who covers them, as well as apprentice discounts and more.

  • As an apprentice, you're entering employment. Legally, an employer must pay an apprentice the National Minimum Wage. For apprentices, this is currently £4.15 per hour. This is lower than the normal National Minimum Wage, but it recognises that some people will be going into their first job with no experience at all.
  • If you’re aged 16 – 24, your employer and the government will meet the tuition fees of your apprenticeship (including degree apprenticeships). As an employee, you will be paid a salary by your employer. This means graduate apprentices can be debt-free.
  • You will need to cover your day-to-day living costs, rent, travel costs, equipment, and materials.
  • Apprentices are not eligible for student loans.

Salary

Those aged 16 — 19 in the first year of their apprenticeship receive at least the minimum apprenticeship wage of £4.15 per hour. Some employers pay significantly more than this rate, and there are examples of both higher and degree apprenticeship adverts offering salaries of between £16,000 and £24,000 per year.

Many employers advertise roles with a ‘competitive salary’. This could mean the salary and benefits will be in line with similar roles for other organisations, or that it depends on your current skills and experience. It’s important that you confirm the salary with the employer.

Other financial benefits: Alongside the salary, some employers offer other benefits including a pension, access to a car, leisure facilities, or a relocation allowance if you have to move.

Discounts for apprentices

Visit the UCAS student discounts page to get the latest deals, from fashion brands and eating fresh, to big discounts on tech and travel.

You may also be eligible for discounts on public transport, with many schemes running on a local basis, like the Apprentice Oyster photo card in London – giving apprentices 30% off certain journeys.

Degree Apprenticeship

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