Apprenticeships explained

Apprenticeships are designed to help you to gain hands-on experience within an industry and learn new practical skills while earning a qualification and receiving a living wage. They take one to five years to complete and are open to anyone over the age of 16, who is not enrolled in full-time education.

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
  • is often offered as an equivalent to GCSE’s, A-Levels or a foundation degree
  • combines practical ‘on the job’ training with academic study towards a work based, qualification.

There are three types of apprenticeships:

  • Foundation Apprenticeship
  • Apprenticeship
  • Higher Apprenticeship

They all require different levels of qualifications. Be sure to check before applying.

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’ve 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.

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

Wages for Apprentices

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 £3.50 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.

Future earnings

Research shows your earnings increase in line with your current level of academic qualifications.

  • Higher apprentices could earn £150,000 more on average over their lifetime compared to those with level 3 vocational qualifications.
  • On average, achieving a level 2 or level 3 apprenticeship boosts earnings by 11% and 16% respectively. Although there is variation by subject, most subjects deliver a return of around 10%.
  • Nearly 9 out of 10 (89%) apprentices were satisfied with their apprenticeship overall, and 97% of apprentices said their ability to do the job had improved.

(Source: GOV.uk, 2017)

Apprentice benefits

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

These include:

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

Where to find out more

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