An apprenticeship, which must last for a minimum of 12 months, combines hands-on work with the opportunity to train and obtain qualifications. It’s also a paid position, so you earn while you learn. At least 20% of your time is set aside for learning, usually at a college, university or training provider.
The rest of your time is spent applying your knowledge and skills in the actual workplace, doing the job you set out to get. At the end of it, you’ll gain official certification, which will be equivalent to traditional qualifications. Apprenticeship levels are set and equivalent to as follows:
- 2 (Intermediate): GCSEs
- 3 (Advanced): A-levels
- 4 (Higher): foundation degree
- 5 (Higher): foundation degree/first year of bachelor’s degree
- 6 (Degree): bachelor’s degree
- 7 (Degree): master’s degree
It’s important to note that there are caveats. Apprenticeships are designed to be flexible, so, for example, an employer may offer a level 6 or 7 apprenticeship, considered to be at the higher level, without giving you the option of getting an actual degree qualification, while others will.
You must check before applying—the qualifications on offer and the level at which you’ll train will be made explicit, so you’ll be able to decide if you’re happy to undertake an apprenticeship at the degree level without the prospect of being awarded one at the end of it.
Many intermediate, advanced and higher apprenticeships will also allow you to obtain qualifications in relevant areas.
There is no maximum age limit for an apprenticeship, but they are for those aged 16 or over, living in England and not in full-time education.
As an apprentice, you’ll earn a wage. The current minimum wage rate for an apprentice is £4.30 per hour. This rate applies if you’re under 19 or aged 19 or over and are in your first year. You must be paid the national minimum wage for your age if you’re an apprentice aged 19 or over and have completed your first year.
On top of this, you’ll be paid for your regular working hours and the training that’s part of your apprenticeship, usually one day per week. You’ll also be entitled to the statutory minimum of 20 days of paid holiday per year, plus bank holidays, of which there are currently eight.
It’s important to note here that these pay rates and holiday entitlements are minimums only. Employers will often set their salaries on offer at higher rates, depending on company policy, to make their apprenticeships competitive. Many will also differ on their payment date, with some having monthly wage structures and others preferring to pay their staff weekly.
Many employers also offer additional benefits, such as gym memberships, private healthcare and travel loans. The current minimum age for a workplace pension is 22; however, check with the employer when you apply, as they may offer a pension to all of their employees.