Subjects taught in schools, colleges and universities are learning programmes, and so is an apprenticeship. With an apprenticeship, however, you get to learn both in the workplace as well as in the classroom. You will have a paid work placement with an employer and time set aside for other learning, usually at a college, training provider or university.
Becoming ‘Job Ready’
As an apprentice, you will achieve qualifications and you will need to build certain skills and knowledge (standards) by the end of the apprenticeship. The idea is that you become ‘job ready’ but an apprenticeship is already a real job where the apprentice is an employee with a contract of employment, holiday leave and a wage.
Most job sectors offer apprenticeships, but apprenticeships do not always exist for all job roles. With the National Health Service (NHS) for example, it is currently possible to train to become a Nurse via a Degree Apprenticeship but it is not possible to train to become a Doctor as an apprentice.
Intermediate, Advanced, Higher & Degree Levels
Apprenticeships exist at different levels. These are currently intermediate, advanced, higher and degree level. Year 11 students wanting to apply need to seek intermediate and advanced level opportunities. Higher and degree apprenticeships are an alternative to mainstream university for year 13 college and sixth form finishers, but they can also still apply for intermediate and advanced apprenticeships too.
These apprenticeships might last around 12 to 18 months for intermediate programmes and 2 to 4 years for advanced programmes. The breakdown of the learning involves at least 20% of the apprentices time spent in off the job learning, often at a college or with a training provider. Learners on a degree apprenticeship are likely to spend some time at a university.
The school subjects you like can sometimes provide a suggestion or even inspiration for an apprenticeship idea. You can read more about this on the Apprenticeship Guide website HERE.
Sixth Form or College is not for everyone. Apprenticeships offer an alternative to full time classroom based learning, but there will still be some time spent in a classroom.
Apprenticeships provide the fundamental skills needed for a huge range of occupational sectors. Over 1,500 job roles and 170 sectors are now covered. Read More HERE.
The qualifications achieved by apprentices are those sought by employers. Apprenticeship standards have been put in place (and continue to be developed) to satisfy the requirements of employers.
You could gain permanent employment with the employer where the apprenticeship was undertaken, or you could make use of the experience and qualifications gained from an apprenticeship to apply for another related position with a different employer.
A Government research study in 2018 showed that 65% of apprentices remained in employment with their employer after finishing their apprenticeship. Another survey demonstrated 85% of all apprentices stay in employment on completion of their apprenticeship. Read More HERE.
The minimum wage for an apprentice increases as the national minimum wage increases. The current minimum hourly rate of pay for an apprentice is £4.15. On average, apprentices are paid more than the minimum rate.
The UCAS website tells us that, “A third of apprentices received a promotion within a year of finishing and in their lifetime can earn £150,000 more than their peers without an apprenticeship.” Read More HERE.
Apprenticeships must be inclusive of those with a disability or learning need. Some employees have signed up to the Disability Confident scheme and this means that where a person meets the basic criteria needed for an advertised apprenticeship, then, at the very least, they should be offered an interview for the vacant position.
Apprenticeships are not yet available for every job role.
Not all employers will have a vacancy available at the perfect time for you, so it is important to search for them regularly. They won’t all be advertised in the autumn term when your peers will be applying for Sixth Form, College or University.
Getting an apprenticeship is usually a competitive process. An employer will select the ‘best’ person for the position. You may have to apply for several positions before finding success. Speak to the Careers Team for application and interview support.
Some apprenticeships are still better than other apprenticeships, in terms of the training and support offered, how much the apprentice is paid, and future career prospects. Speak to your Careers Adviser if you are unsure.
For those looking at post year 11 learning, advanced level apprenticeships are the equivalent of gaining 2 A level qualifications. Many university courses will want the equivalent of 3 A levels. Some universities have become more flexible and advanced level apprenticeships can provide a route into university. It is always important to check this with the universities before starting an apprenticeship. The A level route can open up a broader range of higher education options, but this is a debatable subject. Read more HERE.
Work is very different from learning in a classroom and some may not be ready for this. Training Providers can help with this transition.
An apprenticeship is not a work taster or work experience programme. It is for someone who has a focused career idea. Work taster and work experience programmes do exist (for year 11 and year 13 finishers). For some year 11 finishers especially, study programmes and traineeships, often delivered by local training providers, are suitable.
How do I know what is a good apprenticeship?
Ask yourself: Does the apprenticeship fit in with my career interest and aspirations? If you are excited to apply, then this is a good sign.
The apprenticeship should list its standards and outline how you will be trained and assessed. Does it? Ask your careers adviser for support if you are unsure.
You will need to consider whether you like the employer and also the learning provider (the college, training provider or other learning venue) which will be involved in delivering the apprenticeship.
You should also ask the employer and learning provider questions at, or even before, interview. For example: Do their staff enjoy working there? Do they allow ample time for your study? Is it one day a time, or in blocks? What happens after your apprenticeship? Is there scope to progress? Will you be expected to work overtime? Do their staff feel supported by their personal goals?
T Levels are a brand new qualification option for Year 11 pupils. They take 2 years to complete and are delivered by Further Education providers, most likely colleges. Only some colleges are running these at the moment. They are still new and will appear gradually via a phased approach from September 2020 onwards.
T Levels are largely classroom-based but include a substantial industry placement (work experience). You will be spending 80% of your time in the classroom and 20% of your time in the workplace. The content of the course meets the needs of industry and therefore prepares students for work in jobs that are definitely needed. T levels provide a possible pathway of 15 technical routes for various occupational sectors.
T Levels will offer a broader course content than apprenticeships. They comprise a mix of practical tasks, projects and exams. One T Level is comparable in size to 3 A levels.
Possible progression options include skilled employment, higher apprenticeships or further study at university level.