How apprenticeships work
Published: 09 Mar 2018
Whether you’ve finished studying or you’re looking for a new path in life, your next step is a big one. But don’t worry. Apprenticeships help you gain experience, train on the job and build a strong foundation for your career. You just need to work out which is best for you.
What is an apprenticeship?
An apprenticeship is a training scheme where you work and study at the same time. You earn a wage while learning the practical and theoretical skills you’ll need for your career. You start at an entry-level position, and grow with guidance from others.
Most of what you do is practical, and you work for at least 30 hours a week. You also have classroom sessions, complete coursework and take tests. It’s all finished when you complete the theoretical and practical parts of your training.
Most apprenticeships last at least 12 months and offer all the training and experience you need to enter the working world. In many companies, apprentices stay and get jobs they love.
What are the different apprenticeship levels?
Apprenticeships come in all shapes, sizes and subjects. There are engineering apprenticeships, IT apprenticeships, electrical engineering apprenticeships and, of course, business apprenticeships. But the list goes on.
Finding your fit is essential. Once you know what industry interests you, decide on your level. Choosing well, and according to your abilities, means you’ll get the most from your experience.
You can choose:
- Intermediate (level 2)
The most popular choice. It counts the same as five GCSEs and usually leads to a National Vocational Qualification (NVQ).
- Advanced (level 3)
This counts the same as two A-level passes. You’ll need five GCSEs or a level 2 (intermediate) apprenticeship to start an advanced apprenticeship.
- Higher (levels 4, 5, 6 and 7)
This counts the same as a foundation degree or above.
You’ll need two A-levels or a level 3 (advanced) apprenticeship to start a higher apprenticeship.
- Degree (levels 6 and 7)
This counts the same as a bachelor’s or master’s degree.
You’ll need at least two A-levels or a level 3 (advanced) apprenticeship to start a degree apprenticeship.
You can work your way up the apprenticeship ladder, or step off at any level to look for your dream job.
To see more detailed breakdowns of these levels, take a look at ucas.com/apprenticeships-in-the-uk.
What salary can you expect with an apprenticeship
The good news is apprentices get paid to learn. You won’t get rich, but you can definitely say goodbye to study fees.
The current rates are:
- If you’re under 19, or in your first year of an apprenticeship, you’re entitled to the apprenticeship national minimum wage of £3.40 an hour.
- If you’re older than 19, and have more than a year’s experience as an apprentice, you’ll get the national minimum wage for your age, which is between £5.60 and £7.50 an hour.
Some apprentice roles also offer overtime, bonuses or tips from customers.
What about my future salary?
Level 2 qualified apprentices can earn around the same as secondary school leavers. Level 3 apprentices earn slightly more than A-level graduates. And level 5 apprentices, or above, can expect lifetime earnings higher than non-Russell Group graduates.
How much you earn will depend on the level of apprenticeship qualification you reach, as well as the industry you choose.
So, how do you become an apprentice?
First, think about your own skills, strengths and the industries and careers you find interesting. Research online, ask people already in that field and read industry publications.
If it feels the right choice for you, apply for an apprenticeship through www.gov.uk/apply-apprenticeship. Or find local schemes by speaking with colleges and companies in your area.
You’ll be interviewed before starting your apprenticeship, so make sure you take a look at our common interview questions.
What happens after the apprenticeship?
Once you’re qualified, you can either look for work in the area you’ve chosen, or move another rung up the apprenticeship ladder.
If you choose employment, you’ll have the experience and skills you need to compete in the jobs market, and you’ll have grown as a person. So go and thrive in your new career.