Apprenticeships allow you to combine work and study by mixing on-the-job training with classroom learning. You’ll be employed to do a real job while studying for a formal qualification. By the end of your apprenticeship, you’ll hopefully have gained the skills and knowledge needed to either succeed in your chosen career or progress onto the next apprenticeship level. You will also be allowed a minimum of 20% off the job to develop your knowledge & skills.
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.
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.
There are different levels of apprenticeship:
Intermediate – equivalent to five good GCSE passes.
Advanced – equivalent to two A-level passes.
Higher – equivalent to the first stages of higher education, such as a foundation degree.
Types of apprenticeships
Most job sectors offer apprenticeship opportunities in the UK, with a wide range of specific roles on offer within each. These include:
- Accountancy – AAT
- Business Administration
- Cleaning & Support
- Customer Service
- Facilities Services
- IT User Skills
- Learning & Development
- Performing Manufacturing Operations
- Sales & Telesales
- Team Leading
- Trade Business Services
- Warehouse & Storage
You’ll be able to enter your chosen sector at an apprenticeship level that reflects your previous qualifications and the demands of the role.
Length of apprenticeships
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 two years. Their length follows a basic framework:
intermediate apprenticeships typically last between one year and 18 months
advanced apprenticeships are usually studied over 18-24 months
Pay rates and working hours
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 £3.70 (from April 2018). 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 £5.90 per hour (for those aged 18-20) or £7.38 (21-24).
This pay rate is stated as a guideline – some 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. Use the GOV.UK Holiday Calculator to work out your exact entitlement.
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. 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.
There is no upper age limit on being an apprentice. As long as you’re over 16 and have the right credentials, you’ll be eligible to apply for your chosen apprenticeship.
- formal employment programmes and as such you’ll sign a contract with your employer
- long-term and take between one to four years to complete
- more suited to those with a clear idea of what sector they’d like to work in and what career path they’d like to follow
- commonly undertaken by school leavers
- designed to provide specific work-based training. Apprentices learn by actually doing the job
- a way for apprentices to gain formal qualifications such as NVQs, foundation degrees and technical certificates
- paid, as at the very least you’ll receive the National Minimum Wage
- a direct route to employment, with the majority of apprentices guaranteed a job on completion of their programme.