Apprenticeships explained

An apprenticeship is a real job with training, so you can earn a wage while you learn and become fully trained in your chosen occupation by the end of the apprenticeship.

Apprenticeships are open to people of all ages over the age of 16, enabling people to improve their skills and progress in their careers. Individuals must meet any entry requirements of the particular apprenticeship they wish to undertake.

What is an apprenticeship?

Don’t assume you’re too old to do an apprenticeship. Apprenticeships for over 25s are increasingly common and it might be the perfect way for you to change career.

An apprenticeship:

  • is open to anyone over the age of 16, not enrolled in full-time education
  • is available in over 170 industries, including aerospace, finance and fashion
  • takes from one to five years to complete depending on: age, skills and sector
  • combines practical ‘on the job’ training with study and you might work towards a qualification.

Apprenticeships have equivalent educational levels in England:

Name Level Equivalent educational level
Intermediate 2 GCSE
Advanced 3 A Level
Higher 4, 5, 6 and 7 Foundation degree and above
Degree 6 and 7 Bachelor’s or Master’s degree

Find out more about the benefits of apprenticeships on the GOV.UK website.

What would I learn?

Every apprentice follows an approved programme of study, designed for the job they’re training for.

Your employer will decide the structure of your training, however, apprenticeships generally combine:

  • a detailed training plan
  • regular progress reviews
  • practical training on the job
  • theoretical study at a college
  • assessment testing at a training facility
  • mentoring and support throughout your apprenticeship

By the end of the course, you should have gained the qualifications, skills and experience required by potential employers within the field.

How many hours would I work a week?

Apprentices should work for a minimum of 30 hours a week and a maximum of 40.

Time spent off the job at a college or in training is included.

Part-time apprenticeships can be agreed by your employer, at a minimum of 16 hours per week, for example where apprentices have caring responsibilities.

Wages for Apprentices

Redundancy Support Service for Apprentices

If you’re facing redundancy during your apprenticeship, the government has launched a new service which offers free advice and can help you find new opportunities. Find out more on the website.

One of the main benefits of doing an apprenticeship is you can earn a wage while you work and study.

An apprentice’s salary depends on various factors:

  • the type of apprenticeship you apply for
  • your age, experience and existing qualifications
  • the sector you are working in, for example, engineering, retail or finance.

Minimum wage

There is a minimum wage for all young people enrolled on apprenticeships.

How much you receive depends on your age and how long you’ve been doing the apprenticeship.

  • If you’re aged 16-18, or in your first year and aged over 19, you’ll earn at least £4.30 per hour.
  • If you’ve completed your first year and are aged over 19, you’ll earn at least the National Minimum Wage, which varies depending on your age.

Some employers may choose to pay you more than the National Minimum Wage.

As an apprentice, you might have to pay tax and National Insurance on your earnings. You are entitled to a payslip, which will show how much you earn and what deductions have been made.

Find out more about paying tax and National Insurance.
Learn more about the information included on your payslip.

Apprenticeships during the coronavirus outbreak

As an apprentice, you’re entitled to the same support as an employee.

If you were put on unpaid leave on or before 28 February 2020, you can be furloughed on 80 percent of your salary. You cannot work while you’re furloughed, but can continue your training.

If you’ve been asked to take a period of unpaid leave if, for example, it’s not possible for you to work from home or social distancing means your apprenticeship is not possible at the moment, you can take a ‘break in learning’ and resume at a later date.

Apprentice benefits

Apprentices working more than 33 hours a week are entitled to the same benefits as everyone else in the workplace.

These include:

  • sick pay entitlement
  • at least 20 days paid holiday a year
  • Statutory Maternity/Paternity Pay and maternity/paternity leave.

You might also be entitled to claim Universal Credit and elements to cover other costs such as housing, or bringing up children.

Find out more about claiming Universal Credit.

Apprenticeships and workplace pensions

As long as you meet the eligibility criteria, including being at least 22 years old, you will be automatically enrolled in a workplace pension even if you’re an apprentice.

If you’re under 22 years old, you will not be automatically enrolled, but can choose to opt into the scheme.

Where to find out more

Depending on where you live apprenticeships work differently, to find out more information go to:

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