A website maintained for the Sheffield City Region by the HEPP

Helping apprentices progress into Higher Education

Information for Parents/Carers

What’s an Apprenticeship?

Apprenticeships are nationally designed training programmes for 16-24 year-olds who have left full-time education or are already in employment.

They offer young people the opportunity to learn on the job with an employer, building up knowledge and skills, gaining qualifications and earning money at the same time.

There are two levels of Apprenticeship: Apprenticeships (also called Intermediate Apprenticeship) and Advanced Apprenticeships. There are over 200 Apprenticeships and Advanced Apprenticeships to choose from, although not all skill areas are offered in all regions. Examples of some of the skills that can be learned can be found by clicking here.

Apprenticeships last at least 15 months, while Advanced Apprenticeships last at least 2 years. Some Apprenticeships, for example in engineering or construction, take much longer to complete because of the depth of knowledge to be demonstrated.

The national website has a dedicated section for parents so that you can learn more about Apprenticeships. You can find it here.

What qualifications are needed?

Young people who want to become an Apprentice will need to show that they have the ability to complete the programme. Normal entry to the Advanced Apprenticeship level is via 5 GCSEs with grades A* to C with, ideally, English and Maths being two of those subjects.

Entry to the Apprenticeship level can be gained with lower grades. They will also be assessed for general ability in their chosen area of study by their training provider.

If they are not yet ready, young people can now start on a Traineeship, which will give them the academic qualifications that they need to go on to an Apprenticeship programme.

“So even though I decided not to do A levels and go on to university, I’m still studying for a degree and am getting paid while I do it!”

Graham Dixon

What will they get paid?

The vast majority of apprentices are normally in full-time employment and so tend to receive the ‘rate for the job’. In 2005 a minimum wage of £80 per week was introduced and this has been increased in line with minimum wage rates since then.

The current rate (from October 2014) is £2.73 for apprentices aged 16-18 and for those aged 19 and over in their first year. Over the age of 18, where an apprentice has completed the first year of training, that national minimum wage applies, which is age-related. The pay also covers the time that the apprentice spends in off-the-job training at a local college or at the training provider.

A typical range is £120 - £200 per week, although it does vary, depending on the age of the apprentice, the size of employer and skill area in which they are training.

Originally, the Learning and Skills Council (LSC) funded the cost of training and assessment delivered by the training provider. This has now changed and funding is now available from the Skills Funding Agency via the National Apprenticeship Service (NAS), a new agency with overall responsibility for promoting and supporting Apprenticeships.

The money is paid directly to the organisation that provides and supports the Apprenticeship; in most cases this will be a learning provider. Large employers with a direct contract with the National Apprenticeship Service may receive the funding themselves.

Do they have to pay anything to become an apprentice?
They should not normally have to pay towards their training, although there have been reports of employers who have charged. While they are on an Apprenticeship, their employer pays them a salary and supports them while they are training.

The National Apprenticeship Service will pay the costs of the training depending on the age of the apprentice. Up to their 19th birthday all the costs will be met. If they start their Apprenticeship when they are 19 up to 50% of the cost will be met, but if they are 25 or over, then the employer is expected to contribute all of the cost of training, unless the jobs are in a skill or area where the Government sees a need for additional numbers, in which case a contribution to the cost of training can be made.

What will they study?

An Apprenticeship is not classed as a qualification in its own right but is a set of separate qualifications, called a ‘framework’. Most Apprenticeship frameworks follow a standard format comprising three components. If you want to know more, click on the links below:

In addition to the three core components, there are two other components that are included within them. They are:

NB As a consequence of various changes in vocational qualifications and in educational standards, Key Skills have now been replaced by Functional Skills. NVQs are being incorporated into the QCF and some Sector Skills Councils are replacing them by Diplomas. However, whether the qualification is an NVQ or Diploma, they will still be based on National Occupational Standards. (NB Click ‘Cancel’ at the log-in pop-up)

The training provider will provide the knowledge and develop the skills, and the employer will provide the practical experience to put those skills to the test, providing the evidence for completion of the Competence Qualification component. Training can be classroom based, in a workshop or in the workplace, depending on the subject and on the training provider.

“I would recommend this way of gaining a degree to anybody - I’ve got no student debt and have a great job.”

Asaf Mahmood

How to get an Apprenticeship?

It may not be easy to get into an Apprenticeship. They need to have a number of things:

  • The right qualifications
  • The right age - ideally 16-18. This is because there is less funding available from for those who are older.
  • An employer.
  • A training provider.
  • An aptitude for the particular profession - this may be tested by the training provider.

The first thing to do if they want to find an Apprenticeship is for them to register on the Apprenticeship website (NAVMS) where they will find a database of vacancies.  One advantage of registering on the site is that, from time to time, they will be sent a list of local vacancies to their email address.

Many training providers have lists of vacancies for apprentices but popular Apprenticeships in, for example plumbing, may be harder to gain. You can find contact details for training providers in your area by clicking on the map under Regional Information. You will then need to scroll down to find the links for the on-line prospectus for your local area. Your local careers office may also have a list of vacancies. Many employers advertise for new apprentices in local or national newspapers.

If none of these routes enable you to find a vacancy, you may have to resort to phoning up or writing to potential employers.

The ‘26 Tips’ part of this website will provide you with more ideas on how to find an Apprenticeship. Click here for help on finding and applying for jobs and here for help on writing CVs.

What can they do next?

Apprentices already know the advantages of training as an apprentice but they may not have considered what they could do next.

They may wish to make further progress in their profession and may need to consider further qualifications. More and more apprentices are now going on to obtain higher-level qualifications to support them in their careers.

They have a number of options, depending on the level of education that they want to attain and way that they want to study:

  • Vocational training, leading to NVQ levels 4 or 5. These are common in the accountancy or insurance skill areas. The higher-level NVQs allow them to gain professional qualifications leading to membership of the relevant Association or Institute.
  • There is now a wide range of Higher Apprenticeships available which include the higher level NVQs or other qualifications. A list of them can be found here.
  • BTEC Higher National Certificate (HNC). This is the typical route for engineers and those involved in construction. An HNC is equivalent to the first year of a degree course.
  • BTEC Higher National Diploma (HND) - a qualification that is common in a number of skill areas, including management. Your HND will allow you to join a degree course to gain a full degree, with one or two years' further study, depending on the subject.
  • Foundation Degree – this is a new class of degree, developed especially for those following work-based learning routes. They can be studied on a full-time or day-release basis and are similar level to HNDs. They can be topped-up to an Honours Degree by further study.
  • Honours Degrees - these are only usually available as full-time qualifications, lasting from 3 to 6 years, depending on the subject. Some are available as ‘sandwich’ courses, where a year is spent on work experience following the first 2 years of study, and a final year is spent back in the university. Many now offer the final year as a part-time option for those accessing the course from an HND or Foundation Degree.
  • There are two other degree-level qualifications available - Certificate in Higher Education and Diploma in Higher Education. These are typically taken by those in nursing, care and other health-related areas.

Why study for a higher qualification?

There are many reasons why they might wish to continue their studies to gain higher-level qualifications. Here are a few:

  • Graduates tend to earn more money over their lifetime. As an example, it has been calculated that those in engineering can earn at least £200,000 more, over their lifetime than an engineer without a degree.
  • Graduates are also less likely to be unemployed later in life than those without degrees. This is partly because their higher-level skills allow them to do a range of jobs.
  • Graduates tend to work at higher levels in a company so degrees certainly help in career progression.
  • To enable career progression there may be a requirement for a higher-level qualification, for example to gain chartered status in subjects such as engineering or accountancy, or to do certain jobs where the higher-level qualification is a requirement.