Not everyone wants to go to university after leaving school. Apprenticeships are recognized schemes that introduce you to a particular trade, and provide you with a wage and training to help prepare you for a career.
Apprenticeships exist in industries from construction and engineering, to retail and the media.
Apprentices train and work alongside experienced staff while studying for nationally recognized qualifications. They take between one and four years to complete.
There are over 100,000 employers offering Apprenticeships in more than 160,000 locations, and more than 200 different types of Apprenticeships available. The types of company offering an apprenticeship varies from BMW and Orange, to smaller local companies.
It is also possible to do an Apprenticeship, and to go to University later in life.
For general information about what an apprenticeship involves, the National Careers Service website is a good place to start.
If you live in Northern Ireland Apprenticeships NI is the place to start.
For apprenticeships in Wales, look at the Careers Wales website.
Who can do an apprenticeship?
Anyone over the age of 16 who is not in full time education can start an apprenticeship. It does not matter if you have been in employment beforehand.
What type of apprenticeships are available?
There are over 1,500 apprenticeship job roles in a variety of industries.
- Agriculture, Horticulture and Animal Care – including Environmental Conservation, Floristry, and Veterinary Nursing, amongst others - Arts, Media and Publishing – inclusing design, theatre work, and photography - Business, Administration and Law – including accountancy, marketing and mortgages - Construction, Planning and the Built Environment – including plumbing, set construction, and surveying - Education and Training – including teaching assistants, welfare support, and bilingual support - Engineering and Manufacturing Technologies – including working with food, vehicles and nuclear power stations - Health, Public Services and Care – including blood donation, libraries and youth work - Information and Communication Technology – including website administration, databases and sales - Leisure, Travel and Tourism – including cabin crew, sports coaching, aviation operations - Retail and Commercial Enterprise – including hairdressing, estate agents and chefs
What are the entry requirements?
The requirements vary depending on the industry sector and apprenticeship. You need to be able to work independently, and as part of a team. Apprenticeships are highly competitive, so you need to be able to show that you are enthusiastic and committed to the scheme. To be eligible for Advanced Apprenticeships you will normally need 5 A*-C at GCSE, or have already done an Intermediate Apprenticeship.
What sort of training is involved?
Most training is given on the job. To ensure that the training given fits with the needs of industry employers, training is given in a structured programme. Support is offered to ensure that you are on track and making the progress you need to. Additional training is given at a local college, and attendance varies from one day a fortnight, to a couple of days a week. This is likely to include skill development in Communications, Problem Solving, and IT.
How much will I get paid?
The current apprenticeship minimum is £2.68 an hour, although many receive more than this. Some employers may help out with costs related to education, such as text books). You are also entitled to NUS discounts, and receive the same benefits as other employees, such as holiday.
Where can I find an Apprenticeship?
There are up to 20,000 apprenticeship vacancies across the UK listed on the official Apprenticeships website.
In addition, City & Guilds offer a wide range of apprenticeship schemes.
Other possible vacancies are listed at Notgoingtouni.
Many large organisations like the NHS also have apprenticeships schemes in areas ranging from electrical maintenance to pharmacy and nursing. There are apprenticeships with the Building and Construction industry - and within the Royal Air Force that cover everything from Catering to Engineering. There are even apprenticeships available at the Royal Shakespeare Company and MI5!
Alternatively, many small companies are happy to be approached individually about apprenticeships - email or phone and ask about what opportunities might be available for when you leave school.
What are the levels of apprenticeship?
1 - Intermediate Level Apprenticeships
- Apprentices work towards work-based learning qualifications such as a Level 2 Competence Qualification, Functional Skills and, in most cases, a relevant knowledge-based qualification.
2 - Advanced Level Apprenticeships
- Apprentices work towards work-based learning such as a Level 3 Competence Qualification, Functional Skills and, in most cases, a relevant knowledge based qualification.
3 - Higher Apprenticeships
- Apprentices work towards work-based learning qualifications such as a Level 4 Competence Qualification, Functional Skills and, in some cases, a knowledge-based qualification such as a Foundation Degree. Higher Apprenticeships now go even Higher (up to level 7), equivalent to a degree or even a masters.
All Apprenticeships must include the following elements:
- A competencies qualification which must be achieved by the apprentice to qualify for an Apprenticeship certificate, and which is the qualification required to demonstrate competence in performing the skill, trade or occupation to which the framework relates
- A technical knowledge qualification which is the qualification required to demonstrate achievement of the technical skills, knowledge and understanding of theoretical concepts and knowledge and understanding of the industry and its market relevant to the skill, trade or occupation to which the framework relates. Sometimes an Apprenticeship framework may have an integrated qualification which combines competence and technical knowledge elements in which each element is separately assessed.
- Either Key Skills (e.g. working in teams, problem-solving, communication and using new technology) or Functional Skills (e.g. Maths and English) qualifications or a GCSE with enhanced content (e.g. Maths and English).
Not everyone who leaves school is destined for university. It is perfectly possible to be successful without a degree, and to embark on a career without debt. Maybe you want to take some time out before pursuing further education, or are ready to leap straight into the world of work. It might seem like everyone you know is going to university, but its important to make sure you follow the path that is right for you, and will benefit you in the long run.
Not going to university now doesn’t mean you never can. 60% of undergraduates in the UK are over 21. Getting some experience and being completely sure what you want to do before going to college or university can put you at a huge advantage later on.
In terms of looking for a job, there are a number of routes open to you. Apprenticeships can provide you with training in a specific skill and career route. Alternatively, you can throw yourself straight into the world of work. Have a look at our CV and Applications advice, to give yourself the best chances.
If you just want to take some time out, or are considering some travelling, have a look at the Gap years information.
- For more videos involving real apprentices, you can visit Lifetrack.com's youtube page.
- For more information on Apprenticeships, see the government's website for Apprenticeships.
- A Guide to Further Education
- A Guide to FE Qualifications
- Where to Study Further Education
- Choosing Your Subjects
- Exams and Qualifications