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What is an Apprenticeship?

Apprenticeships allow you to combine work and study by mixing on-the-job training with 20% of the time spent on off the job training. You'll be employed to do a real job while studying for a formal qualification, usually for one day a week either at a college or a training centre or in the workplace. By the end of your apprenticeship, you'll hopefully have gained the skills and knowledge needed to either succeed in your chosen career and ideally progress onto the next apprenticeship level.

What qualifications will I gain?
What you'll learn depends on the role that you're training for. However, apprentices in every role follow an approved study programme, which means you'll gain a nationally recognised qualification at the end of your apprenticeship.

These qualifications can include:

  • Functional skills - GCSE level qualifications in English, maths and IT.
  • National Vocational Qualifications (NVQs) - from level 2 (comparable to five GCSEs) up to level 7 (similar to a postgraduate degree).
  • Technical certificates - such as BTEC, City and Guild Progression Award etc.
  • Academic qualifications - including a Higher National Certificate (HNC), Higher National Diploma (HND) foundation degree or the equivalent of a full Bachelors degree.

You'll also be constantly developing your transferable skills, otherwise known as soft skills, which are highly valued by employers. These include communication, teamwork and problem solving, as well as knowledge of IT and the application of numbers.

What are the different levels of apprenticeships?
There are four different levels of apprenticeship:

  • Intermediate - Level 2 - equivalent to GCSE education level.
  • Advanced - Level 3 - equivalent to A-level education level.
  • Higher - Level 4,5,6 and 7 - equivalent to the first stages of higher education, such as a foundation degree.
  • Degree - Level 6 & 7 - comparable to a Bachelors or Masters degree.

What is the length of an apprenticeship?
The length of your apprenticeship will depend on a number of factors, such as the level of the apprenticeship, your chosen sector, employer requirements and your individual ability.

That being said, apprenticeships will usually last between one and six years. Their length follows a basic framework:

  • Intermediate apprenticeships typically last between one year and 18 months
  • Advanced apprenticeships are usually studied over two years
  • Higher and degree apprenticeships take three-to-six years to complete.

It's worth checking directly with your chosen employer before applying to check how long your course will last, as some won't follow this structure

What are the entry requirements for apprenticeships?
As each type of apprenticeship offers a different-level qualification their entry requirements will vary. Generally speaking, they are as follows:

  • To apply for an intermediate apprenticeship, you'll just need to be over 16 years old and no longer in full-time education.
  • For an advanced apprenticeship, you're likely to be asked for at least three A*-C or 9-4 grade GCSEs or equivalent - such as an intermediate apprenticeship qualification or a level 2 BTEC.
  • As higher apprenticeships are the equivalent of a foundation degree, HNC or first year of a Bachelors, you'll usually need at least five A*-C or 9-4 grade GCSEs, as well as some Level 3 qualifications in relevant subjects, to apply. Your Level 3 qualifications could be A /S levels, a BTEC National or a level 3 NVQ.
  • Degree apprenticeships will have the highest entry requirements and the recruitment process is competitive. These will include three A-levels in a specified grade range or a higher apprenticeship qualification, on top of at least five A*-C or 9-4 GCSE grades.

You can apply for apprenticeships at any time of the year - it all depends on when an employer has a vacancy. You'll be able to check the specific entry requirements of your chosen apprenticeship once the position opens.

However, please note that many of the larger companies start the recruitment process for Summer School and College leavers before Christmas of the previous year.

What is the pay and working hours for apprenticeships?
If you're either aged under 19 and an apprentice, or 19 or over and still in your first year as an apprentice, you'll be entitled to the apprenticeship wage of £6.40 (from April 2024). Apprentices aged 19 or over and who've completed their first year will be able to claim the National Minimum Wage, which currently stands at £8.60 per hour (for those aged 18-20) or £11.44 (21-22).

However, this pay rate is stated as a guideline - some, in fact most, employers will pay you a higher wage. You'll also be entitled to sick pay, any additional benefits your employer offers to its other employees, such as healthcare plans and childcare vouchers, and at least 20 days of paid holiday per year.

Your working hours will vary depending on your employer, but you won't be able to work more than 40 hours per week or any fewer than 30. Typically, you'll work between 35 and 37.5 hours per week, with 20% of time set aside for off the job training. The sector you're entering will determine the nature of your daily working hours - while most apprentices can expect to work a 9am-5.30pm day with an hour's break for lunch, those in hospitality or healthcare roles, for instance, should expect to work different shifts.