What is an apprenticeship and where can it lead?
9th March 2018
Recent changes to apprenticeships mean there are now even more options to combine work and learning. But what are the different types of apprenticeship out there? And what should you look for if you’re considering becoming an apprentice?
What is an apprenticeship?
Apprenticeships are real jobs with training – so you can really boost your job prospects by learning skills and getting work experience at the same time.
Recent changes mean apprenticeships should now:
- Last at least 12 months
- Include at least 20% (roughly one day a week) off-the-job time for study related to your role
What is an apprenticeship wage?
A real job means a real wage and money in your pocket. Starting salaries vary depending on your age, the company you’re working for and the level of your apprenticeship. The minimum apprenticeship wage is quite low, but many schemes pay more. With all apprenticeships there are no course fees and you get paid holidays too.
How you can learn on-the-job
Most of your time on an apprenticeship is spent learning by doing, with support from your work colleagues – people with the very job you’re training to do. You also study towards recognised qualifications. This is often for a day a week at a local college (sometimes called day release). Your study time helps you develop skills and background knowledge relevant to your job.
There are four main levels of apprenticeship so you can choose to learn at a level that suits you. Around half of all apprenticeships are at intermediate level, equal to GCSEs (level 2). You can also take advanced apprenticeships and higher apprenticeships. There is now even the option of degree apprenticeships (levels 6 and 7) which are the equivalent of a university degree.
What apprenticeships can I do?
With hundreds of roles in subjects from animal care to IT, apprenticeships can open the door to a wide range of jobs and industries.
Apprenticeships are also now available in subjects such as business consulting and tax, offering an alternative to university if you want to follow a management or professional services career.
What to think about if you’re considering an apprenticeship
The nuts and bolts of your apprenticeship
There are different types of apprenticeship so find out the key details of any scheme that appeals to you:
- How long will it last?
- What will you learn?
- What is an average day like?
- What will you study and what qualifications will you have at the end?
What happens when you finish?
You’re not guaranteed a job with your employer at the end of your apprenticeship, although they may offer you a permanent role. Even if your apprenticeship provider has a track record of employing apprentices, you may not get the opportunity to stay on. Try and consider your future options.
Investigate if your apprenticeship could lead to a job with another company. What opportunities are there for a qualified apprentice in your area of work? In some instances, more apprenticeships are being created than there are jobs, so it’s worth thinking ahead.
Seeing it through
Around one third of people who start an apprenticeship don’t finish their course. There are different reasons why this might be. If you’re interested in a particular apprenticeship, check what percentage of apprentices usually complete the course. If the completion rate (sometimes called the achievement rate) is low, it may be worth looking at something else.
Would another route be better?
Weigh up the benefits and disadvantages of any options you are considering. While it’s straight forward to compare things such as immediate costs or earnings, it’s more difficult to compare future prospects. Different factors affect people’s futures and new schemes such as degree apprenticeships have not been running long enough to collect figures, so as with any choice there is always an element of the unknown. For tips on comparing your options see: Choosing well: how to pick the right path for you and Eight questions to help decide if university is my next step.
Find out more
Search the Find an apprenticeship service to find apprenticeships in England.
Disability Rights Into Apprenticeships – guide for disabled people, parents and advisers about applying for apprenticeships in England.