What is an apprenticeship, exactly?

An apprenticeship is a combined package of work and study. As an apprentice, you’ll be employed by a company and paid a wage for the work that you do. Apprentices are entitled to the same rights as other employees: a contract of employment and at least 20 days paid holiday per year, plus bank holidays. Apprenticeships are available across the UK, but this guide focuses on England.

As an apprentice, you’ll:

  • work alongside experienced staff
  • gain job-specific skills
  • earn a wage and get holiday pay
  • be given time for study related to your role (the equivalent of one day a week)

What levels are there?

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All apprenticeships include elements of on the job and off the job training, leading to industry recognised standards or qualifications. Some apprenticeships also require an assessment at the end of the programme to assess the apprentice`s ability and competence in their job role.

Entry requirements vary from programme to programme, and depend on the sector and prior skills. If you have achieved A-levels you may still be expected to start at intermediate or advanced level at some sectors.

Name Level Equivalent educational level
Intermediate 2 5 GCSE passes at grade A*– C or 9 – 4
Advanced 3 2 A level passes/Level 3 Diploma/International Baccalaureate
Higher 4, 5, 6 and 7 Foundation degree and above
Degree 6 and 7 Bachelor’s or master’s degree

What can I earn?

The national minimum wage (NMW) for apprentices is £3.70 per hour as from April 2018. The apprentice NMW applies to apprentices aged under 19 or aged 19 or over and in the first year of their apprenticeship.

Apprentices aged 25 and over, and not in the first year of their apprenticeship, will be entitled to the National Minimum Wage.

Year 25 and over 21 to 24 18 to 20 Under 18
April 2018 £7.83 £7.38 £5.90 £4.20

What’s in it for me?

  • Earn a real wage;
  • Be trained in the skills employers want;
  • You will set yourself up for the future
  • Apprentices enjoy marked salary increases when they complete their training, and those completing a higher apprenticeship could see increased earnings of an estimated £150,000 over their lifetime.*

In fact, you could potentially earn upwards of £300 per week plus your employer and the government pay your tuition fees, meaning no university loans for you! In contrast, English students taking a full-time university degree pay a maximum of £9,250 per year in tuition fees. Many employers advertise roles with a ‘competitive salary’. This could mean the salary and benefits will be in line with similar roles for other organisations, or that it depends on your current skills and experience. Benefits could include a pension, access to a car, leisure facilities or a relocation allowance if you have to move.

What are employers looking for?

An apprenticeship is designed by employers, meaning you’ll be developing the right skills and knowledge to be a success in your chosen industry. Employers are looking for personal aptitude and enthusiasm rather than just your academic ability; in fact, some employers don’t ask for specific grades at all.

It helps if you have a particular interest in the area you want to work in and can demonstrate this from previous experience. Anything that can demonstrate your interest and your readiness for work could help you stand out from the crowd.

When to apply?

Unlike university applications, there is no fixed deadline when it comes to applying for apprenticeships. Vacancies appear throughout the year. Don’t wait until the deadline to apply, some companies close their recruitment as soon as they have enough candidates. As a general rule, vacancies with larger companies start appearing in the autumn, but the majority pop up from January or February onwards.

Smaller businesses might start recruiting a month or two before the job starts, so if you hope to start work in August or September, you might start looking from Easter onwards.

Do check start dates closely, to make sure you’ll have finished school or college.

Start your research early – the sooner the better, so you have time to fill any gaps in your CV with the things employers are typically looking for (see page four), including getting some relevant work experience.

Entry requirements

Apprenticeships are available to anyone over the age of 16, living in England.

The National Apprenticeship Service is committed to ensuring that high quality apprenticeships are a prestigious option, accessible to all people from all backgrounds. All vacancies on Find an apprenticeship will clearly state what the entry requirements are for the job role being advertised. There will be different entry requirements depending on the industry, job role and apprenticeship level.

Recent changes to the minimum English and maths requirements now mean that people with a learning difficulty or disability can now access a level 2 intermediate apprenticeship as long as they can achieve an entry level 3 qualification during their apprenticeship.

A Disability Confident Employer will generally offer an interview to any applicant that declares they have a disability and meets the minimum criteria as defined by the employer. For more details, search Disability Confident on GOV.UK.

Where do I look for an apprenticeship?

You can ‘get in and go far’ with an apprenticeship at some of Britain’s biggest and brightest companies. With so many opportunities on offer, there are several ways you can find the apprenticeship that is right for you.

If you have a specific interest in a certain employer, it is also worth going direct to their recruitment site. Contact the National Apprenticeship Help desk for further support on 0800 015 0400 or by email: nationalhelpdesk@findapprenticeship.service.gov.uk

How many hours per week should I be working?

The minimum duration of each apprenticeship is based on the apprentice working 30 hours a week or more, including any off-the-job training you undertake.’ However, this does not apply in every circumstance. For example, people with caring responsibilities or people with a disability may work reduced weekly hours. Where this is the case, the duration of the apprenticeship will be extended to take account of this.

The time spent on off-the-job training should be at least 20% and should be included as part of your hours. Your employer must allow you time to complete your apprenticeship within your working hours. If you need support with English and maths this should also be within working hours.

Who can apply and how?

You can apply for an apprenticeship while you’re still at school. To start one, you’ll need to be:

  • 16 or over by the end of the summer holidays
  • Living in England
  • Not in full-time education

At any one time on Find an apprenticeship, in a variety of careers and industries across England, there are between 12,000 – 20,000 apprenticeships vacancies online. Visit GOV.UK and search ‘apprenticeships’. You can search by keyword (job role, occupation type or apprenticeship level) and by location. In addition, some employers advertise vacancies on their website.

Once the right job comes up, you can simply register on the website and follow the step by step instructions to apply for the role.

What is the role of Applied Business Academy

Your training provider has a key role to play in providing off-the-job training, assessing your progress towards achieving your qualifications and supporting you generally during your apprenticeship. They work very closely with your employer to ensure that you receive.

  • An induction programme on starting
  • A detailed training plan (including on-the-job training)
  • Regular progress reviews
  • Opportunities to put into practice off-the-job learning so that you can achieve your qualifications/requirements of the apprenticeship
  • Mentoring and general support throughout your apprenticeship

This will all be documented in a commitment statement that is part of the Apprenticeship Agreement. This is an individual learning plan that your provider, your employer and you will all sign up to.

You can find out more about learner satisfaction with training organisations and colleges by accessing the learner satisfaction survey results on the FE Choices pages of GOV.UK

What is my employment status as an apprentice?

An apprenticeship is a real job. Under all circumstances, you should be employed from day one. On starting your apprenticeship, you will sign an apprenticeship agreement. In most instances, this will be directly with your employer but in some cases, if you have started an apprenticeship with an Apprenticeship Training Agency (ATA), your ATA then acts as your legal employer and the contract of employment will be with them.

What holidays am I entitled to?

Your holiday entitlement should be clearly written into your contract of employment. As a minimum you should get at least 20 days paid holiday per year plus bank holidays.

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