Apprenticeships are such a good opportunity to get qualified whilst also gaining valuable work experience and earning a wage.
But with so many different types of apprenticeships available it can all be pretty confusing. Hopefully, the bits in this article will help you get your head around apprenticeships, so you can make a good choice about choosing an apprenticeship that’s right for you.
How do apprenticeships work?
An apprenticeship combines a full time job with education and training. There are loads of different qualifications you can do, they also include learning functional skills such as English and maths. They must last for at least 12 months, but some apprenticeships can be for longer.
The minimum wage for apprentices under 19 years old is £3.30 an hour, and you'll generally spend one day a week training and the rest at work.
Apprenticeships are broken down into three main categories:
Intermediate: equivalent to five passes at GCSE
Advanced: equivalent to two passes at A-level
Higher: NVQ level 4, or a foundation degree
You can find out more about this on the government's 'Become an apprentice' page.
When you're searching for an apprenticeship position make sure that they’re listed on the government's 'Find an apprenticeship' site. Positions advertised elsewhere may not have been approved by the National Apprenticeship Service, so be careful!
Before you jump in, make sure you read on so that you understand what apprenticeships can offer you, and what you need to know to find an apprenticeship right for you.
Understanding learning outcomes
Education and training is the key part of an apprenticeship so t’s important you get your head around the qualifications and what they mean for you, otherwise you won’t be getting the most out of completing the course.
Intermediate and advanced apprenticeships should provide a qualification in whatever field you're interested in, as well as functional skills in English, maths and ICT.
You can use this table from gov.uk to compare qualifications. Have this to hand when you’re searching for apprenticeships so you always have it to refer back to. That way you'll know you're applying for apprenticeships which are at the right level for you.
What qualifications will I need? What will I get?
Typically, intermediate apprenticeship positions shouldn’t require previous work experience or qualifications, as they’re about providing on the job training and learning while you work.
Some apprenticeships will require you to already have achieved certain grades or skills, especially those set at an advanced or higher level. For example, a level 3 apprenticeship (equivalent to A-level) might require you to have five GCSE A*-C grades.
You need to make sure that you’re happy with the qualifications being offered to you, and remember that the apprenticeship might not necessarily be a step up in terms of educational level.
If it’s a specialist area such as a legal administrator, electrician or IT then working at the same level might be perfect as these subjects aren’t generally offered at school. Yet, if the apprenticeship is based around general skills (such as admin or customer service) then you should think carefully whether you’ll really be gaining anything from having another qualification equivalent.
Always refer to the qualifications table above to work out exactly what you’re applying for and what you’ll be gaining from the experience. The job posting should list what training and qualifications will be provided – if it doesn’t, contact the company and ask for specific details.
Is this apprenticeship right for me?
You need to work out what your long term goals are, and ask yourself if the apprenticeship is going to get you closer to them. You’ll be committing yourself to at least a year of work and study, so do your research. Maybe ask yourself:
Will this challenge me? Speak to others who have done something similar so you can get some idea if it’s for you. You don’t want to spend a year feeling unhappy and bored in an apprenticeship that wasn’t right for you.
Will this be useful for me? Will you be gaining skills which will be useful in the long term. Will they apply to other jobs? What other things could you do with the experience?
Is this a company I’d like to work for? Research the company running the apprenticeship. Do they sound like somewhere you’d like to work? What support do they offer apprentices? Is there an opportunity to stay on with them after the apprenticeship has finished?
Are you thinking about applying for an apprenticeship? Share your thoughts in the comments below.