What are Apprenticeships?
Alistair Stafford

What are Apprenticeships?

Apprenticeship FAQs

First published date December 10 2013 Amended date October 05 2015

Got your heart set on a specific career? Fancy combining gaining qualifications with plenty of industry practice? If you prefer hands-on experience to written exams and like the idea of earning while you’re learning, then an apprenticeship could be for you.

An apprenticeship allows students to get paid to work towards qualifications in a particular profession while gaining practical skills for a career in that industry. Sound like something you’d be interested in? Our apprenticeship FAQs will give you more information about how to get started...


Who can apply for an apprenticeship?

As long as you’re over 16, no longer in full time education and legally allowed to work in the UK, then an apprenticeship is suitable for you. There are no maximum age restrictions either, so if it’s never too late to enrol on a programme.


How does an apprenticeship work?

An apprentice programme combines academic study with hands on, practical training in a particular career. The vast majority of time is spent learning job-specific skills while working in that industry alongside experienced staff. At the same time, you’ll spend one or two days a week learning in a nearby college or institution, where you’ll work towards gaining relevant qualifications in that field, such as BTECs or City & Guilds.


What types of apprenticeships are available?

At present, there are three variations of apprenticeship available for you to take; an intermediate/ young apprenticeship, an advanced apprenticeship or a higher apprenticeship. All of these will give you an industry recognised qualification, as well as usually additional technical certificates in a specific industry, although each of the apprentice programmes has a different level of difficulty.


What subjects can I study?

There are a wide variety of subjects that can be studied for an apprentice programme. From agriculture to business to tourism, there’ll be industry relevant programmes to study in a topic to suit you. There are literally thousands of colleges nationwide that host apprentice programmes, with employers nearby to give you the practical experience.


What is an apprenticeship worth?

Academically, an intermediate apprenticeship is a level two qualification, so the same as getting 5 A*-C grades at GCSE. The advanced apprenticeship is a level three programme, which makes it the equivalent of passing two A Levels, while the higher apprenticeship is a broad term given to a qualification worth level four or better (the same as taking at least a foundation degree). All programmes will have built in professional qualifications too, so career wise an apprenticeship can significantly enhance your job prospects.


Do I have the right qualifications for an apprenticeship?

This depends on what level of apprenticeship you’re planning to sign up to. If you didn’t get at least a Grade C in both English and Maths, you are likely to have to sit an entry test before you can start. To get on an advanced programme (to gain a level three NVQ), you will have already finished studying at level two, whether that have been GCSEs or a diploma in a particular subject. It’s the same for those progressing to the higher apprenticeships, as you’ll have to have completed some kind of level three qualification first. Don’t worry though if you think you’re over qualified, as university graduates are still able to enrol on an a apprentice scheme – the only difference being you won’t be entitled to any government funding, so your employer will have to fund all of your training.


How long does an apprenticeship take to complete?

Depending on what level of study you’ve enrolled on, an apprenticeship can taking anything between one and four years. With some programmes, the academic element of an apprenticeship can be completed quicker by spending more days a week studying at college, although this isn’t always possible. Generally speaking, the higher the level of apprenticeship you’re taking, the longer it will take to complete.


Will I get paid?

All apprentices aged between 16 and 18 will earn at least the minimum wage of £2.68 an hour through government funding, although some employers do add extra money to that to improve your earnings. If you’re over 19 when you start, you’ll also earn the apprentice wage for the first year, although after that you’ll be earning at least the national minimum wage for 18 to 20 year olds (£5.03 if you were unsure).


What happens next?

After finishing their course and gaining their qualifications, many apprentices get kept on a permanent basis by the company who they’ve been learning with. Even if this doesn’t happen, the practical experience you will have gained, as well as the industry recognised NVQ qualifications, will give you the perfect chance to pursue a career in an industry you love.


Still undecided if taking an apprenticeship is for you? If reading our apprenticeship FAQs hasn’t answered all of your questions, then our apprentice section of the website is crammed full of usual information. 

Alistair Stafford

With a BA in Journalism, Alistair has a passion for writing, especially if it's got anything to do with football or other sports. In his spare time, he's big on exercise and he once completed the London Marathon.