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Apprenticeships

Apprenticeships Explained

First of all, a little bit of history. Apprenticeships date back to the Middle Ages and the medieval craft guilds of that time. Picture groups of tradesmen or craftsmen banding together to ensure high standards of quality (they also came together for other reasons, but those aren鈥檛 important here). They were carpenters, painters and cloth makers, who took on apprentices to 鈥榩ass on鈥 their skills and experience.

Since then, the world – and education, training and employment – have changed, and so too have apprenticeships. Today, they provide an alternative path to education while ensuring that professions and industries have the skilled workers they need.

In this century, apprenticeships have been embraced as a viable alternative to university, and the modern apprenticeship is accessible, flexible and a boon for both young people and employers.

The Basics

An apprenticeship, which must last for a minimum of 12 months, combines hands-on work with the opportunity to train and obtain qualifications. It鈥檚 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 that you set out to get. At the end of it, you鈥檒l gain official certification, which will be equivalent to traditional qualifications. Apprenticeship levels are set and equivalent to as follows:

  • 2 (Intermediate): GCSEs at grades A* to C
  • 3 (Advanced): A-levels at grades A to E
  • 4 (Higher): foundation degree
  • 5 (Higher): foundation degree/first year of bachelor鈥檚 degree
  • 6 (Degree): bachelor鈥檚 degree
  • 7 (Degree): master鈥檚 degree

It鈥檚 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.

It鈥檚 essential that you check before applying – the qualifications on offer and the level at which you鈥檒l train will be made explicit, so you鈥檒l be able to decide if you鈥檙e 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 give you the opportunity to obtain qualifications such as diplomas 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.

Added Benefits

As an apprentice, you鈥檒l earn a wage. The current minimum wage rate for an apprentice is 拢4.81 per hour. This rate applies if you鈥檙e under 19, or if you鈥檙e aged 19 or over and are in your first year. You must be paid the national minimum wage for your age if you鈥檙e an apprentice aged 19 or over and have completed your first year. The national minimum wage is currently set at 拢7.49 for 18-20-year-olds, 拢10.18 for 21-22-year-olds and 拢10.42 for those aged 23 and over.

On top of this, you鈥檒l be paid for your normal working hours and the training that鈥檚 part of your apprenticeship, usually one day per week. You鈥檒l 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鈥檚 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, in order to make their apprenticeships competitive. Many will also differ on their date of payment, 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.

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