What are Apprenticeships?

Apprenticeships are designed by sector skills councils, the government and employers to ensure that they reflect the current sector needs. An apprenticeship offers the apprentice with the opportunity to gain new skills and experience in the sector. Apprenticeships are often completed concurrently with a college or university course. Many apprenticeships will require the apprentice to complete examinations and receive a vocational qualification at the end of said work; these are typically done by studying in technical skills, carrying out practical assessments and by independent learning and working.

 

How do I become an apprentice?

There are a number of ways to become an apprentice and they all depend on your current circumstances. If you are already employed by a business, then ask your employer to get in touch with a company that specialises in apprentices in the sector that you’re currently working in. If you are not already employed then you can go to a recruiter who will put you in touch with employers that are targeting apprentices, many recruiters specialise in working with apprentices and these are the ideal people to go to. Another good thing to do is to find a place of work and see if they are looking for apprentices. This however, is a risky strategy as most employers will prefer to employ someone who already has the relevant experience and don’t require the company to pay for their qualification(s).

How long do apprenticeships last?

Apprenticeships all vary depending on the sector you’re working in, previous experience and the qualification that you’re working towards. Apprenticeships can be undertaken at any point in the year and end when all of the necessary qualifications have been achieved. All apprenticeships must have a minimum of thirty working hours-a-week, in terms of overall length, most apprenticeships typically last around twelve months.

Can I get paid for an apprenticeship?

Apprentices are entitled to pay just as any employee is, however, apprentices are usually paid the national minimum wage, which is £3.30-an-hour. However, employers reserve the right to pay apprentices higher than minimum-wage if they so decide. The reason for being paid at minimum wage is because not only are apprentices not qualified to do the job they are applying for, but also because apprentices are essentially working part-time and will therefore not receive the same payment as full-time members of staff. Another thing to consider is the fact that the employer is paying for an apprentice’s training as well. However, apprentices working abnormal hours or ‘overtime’ are paid an additional £1.33 per-hour for hours worked in overtime.

What is an apprenticeship Framework?

An apprenticeship framework is made up of four key areas, which make up the overall qualification and they are:

  • Technical Certificate: The apprentice is able to demonstrate an understanding of the technical knowledge of the industry and understanding of the theoretical areas and of the industry and its market – This is usually classroom based learning.
  • Competence Based Certificate: The apprentice is able to demonstrate competence and independence in performing a skill, a trade or an occupation, this traditionally more work based learning rather than classroom or examination.
  • Functional or Key Skills (English & Mathematics): The apprentice may have to sit a number of short, separate assessments if they have not already met the minimum grade for an existing qualification that the apprentice has taken, these are traditionally key skills like English or Mathematics and are usually the GCSE level of work, although A-Level has been known to be sat as well.
  • Employment Rights and Responsibilities:  This is slightly linked to the Competence Based Certificate. The apprentice is able to demonstrate that they both know and understand significant areas such as an employer’s responsibilities under employment law and employee rights, any health and safety codes and equality and diversity procedures, HR processes and any relevant documentation for their organisation.

These are areas that not only allow employers to know that the apprentice is indeed learning on the job, but also shows that the apprentice is learning about the company too. An Apprenticeship Framework is very important and failing in one of these areas is significant reason for an employer to terminate an apprenticeship.

Are there levels of apprenticeship?

There are generally four levels of apprenticeship, however these are generally shortened to three. The levels correspond to the difficulty and the different skills required. Typically, these are categorised as:

  • Level 2 – Intermediate Apprenticeship: Typically made up by those studying: GCSEs (Grades A*–C), BTEC (First) Diplomas and/or Certificates, OCR (Oxford, Cambridge & RSA) Nationals, Key Skills Level: 2, NVQs (National Vocational Qualifications) at Level: 2.
  • Level 3 – Advanced Apprenticeship: Typically made up by those studying: A Levels, Advanced Extension Awards, GCSE in any applied subjects, International Baccalaureate (e.g.  IB Diploma Programme), Key Skills Level: 3, NVQs at Level: 3, BTEC Diplomas and/or certificates, BTEC Nationals, OCR Nationals
  • Level 4/5 – Higher Apprenticeship: Typically made up by those studying: NVQs at Level: 4, any BTEC Professional Diplomas, any Foundation Degrees, Honours Degrees.

However you should be aware that the level of the course does not necessarily correspond to a higher pay grade. You may still receive the same amount of pay that you did to begin with.

What are the benefits of becoming an apprentice?

Being an apprentice has a number of benefits for an apprentice and a number of them are even better than working without an apprenticeship first as well. Apprentices can earn while they learn, and what’s more is that the learning aspect of the apprenticeship is suited to the apprentice, it is done at your own pace and in easy, bitesize chunks and also don’t inhibit you as a person or encroach on your personal life; you will also have the opportunity to experience your potential job in a hands-on manner.

What types of apprenticeships are available?

There are a wide range of industries or sectors that cover apprenticeships. Various different sectors and a number of different companies as well. However, some are more intermediate than others and these can change depending on both the sector and the company. Some of the sectors that offer apprenticeships are sectors such as:

  • Creative & Media
  • Business, Administrative & Accounting
  • Construction, Agriculture & Environmental
  • Engineering, Telecommunications & IT
  • Healthcare, Social Care, Animal Care & Education
  • Retails, Sales, Tourism, Hospitality, Transport & Logistics
  • Sports & Leisure

However, not all employers will offer this and will sometimes prefer to hire someone with relevant experience rather than go and hire someone who requires training.

Am I eligible for an apprenticeship?

To be eligible for an apprenticeship, you have to be a UK or an EEA citizen or you have to have resided within this region for at least three consecutive years, you must also be over the age of 16. You cannot hold a level of qualification higher than Level: 3. Level: 3 qualifications are allowed but any higher means that you will not be eligible for an apprenticeship, you can also not be in any other form of full-time education at the same time as your apprenticeship and you will also have to (As stated above) work a minimum of thirty hours-a-week.

How will I be assessed on an apprenticeship?

All apprenticeships are designed to allow the majority, the practical and the important elements of learning and assessment to occur in the workplace with the added option of direct delivery either through e-learning or e-assessment. If it is not possible to do these electronically, then learning will be completed in a classroom based environment that will allow people to study the theoretical side of things and to apply the practical skills that they have learned to their coursework. Depending on the type of job being done, or the various variables being undertaken, this can be either one day a week or a simple block release.

What is a block release?

A block release is where your employer will give employees time off of work in order to pursue academic endeavours. So if you’re doing an apprenticeship, you will become very much accustomed to the idea of going off on block release. These aren’t excuses to just go home or anything recreational either, these are carefully constructed to ensure that you receive the full benefit of experience from teachers and from practitioners.

Does an apprenticeship allow me to move forward with my career?

An apprenticeship will certainly allow you to move forward with your chosen career; it will allow you to have not just knowledge of the industry but also experience as well and there are many people who won’t hire people without experience. This will set you apart from other candidates if you ever apply elsewhere. Studies have shown that roughly 33% of employers have seen their apprentices reach management positions within their company and nearly 50% of employers have said that it has taken nearly five years or less for an apprentice to reach such a position within the company.