A website maintained for the Sheffield City Region by the HEPP

Helping apprentices progress into Higher Education

Apprenticeship Information for Young People

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 Apprenticeships) and Advanced Apprenticeships.

There are over 200 Apprenticeships and Advanced Apprenticeships to choose from, although not all skill areas are offered in all regions.

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.

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

Do I need qualifications?
If you want to become an Apprentice you will need to show that you 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. You will also be assessed for general ability in your chosen area of study by your training provider.

If you are not yet ready to go on to an Apprenticeship programme, you can now gain those qualifications by going into a Traineeship.

Will I 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, the 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 I pay anything to become an apprentice?
You should not normally have to pay towards your training, although there have been reports of employers who have charged.

While you are on an Apprenticeship, your employer pays you a salary and supports you while you are training. The National Apprenticeship Service will pay the costs of the training depending on your age. Up to your 19th birthday all the costs will be met.

If you start your Apprenticeship when you are 19 up to 50% of the cost will be met, but if you 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.

“I am now South Yorkshire operations manager with Yorkshire Water, based at their Lundwood treatment works and am now intending to study for the MBA.”

Faye Banks

What will I 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:

  • A Competence Qualification, such as an NVQ or equivalent, such as a QCF Certificate or Diploma (Level 2 for Apprenticeship and Level 3 for Advanced Apprenticeship)
  • Key Skills or Functional Skills (from 2011)
  • Technical Certificate
    This is a recognised qualification that provides the underpinning knowledge needed to do a job. It is normally taught within a college setting but can be delivered by the training provider. There are a number of organisations that offer Technical Certificates, such as BTEC, City & Guilds and others. Some Apprenticeships do not require a Technical Certificate because the underpinning knowledge is incorporated into the NVQ (or equivalent).
    The relevant Sector Skills Council will specify the Technical Certificate for their Apprenticeships, as well as the appropriate Functional Skills and Competence Qualification. You can find out more about the content of Apprenticeship Frameworks by going here, where you can also find out about which Sector Skills Council covers the skill area in which you are interested.

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

  • ERR Employee Rights and Responsibilities. This covers subjects such as apprenticeship agreements, contracts of employment, diversity and equality, and holiday and salary entitlements. Plus information relating to health and safety, data protection and discrimination.
  • PLTS Personal Learning and Thinking Skills. This is a new requirement for inclusion in an Apprenticeship framework and covers 6 areas of independent enquiry, creative thinking, reflective learning, team working, self management and effective participation. All frameworks must clearly specify how the achievement of the 6 elements is to be evidenced by the apprentice. Each framework developer will set out their individual requirements for how PLTS is required to be evidenced. Examples of this may be through completion of a specific qualification or through completion of a workbook.

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.

Advantages & disadvantages

There are many advantages in training as an Apprentice. Here are just a few:

  • You get paid. The level of pay depends on your employer and the skill area in which you are training. But, compared to staying on at school or college, where you may have to work in the evenings or at the weekends to earn some money, you're going to be better off.
  • You will learn by a combination of attending college, your training provider and your employer. You are out of the school classroom and much of the learning will be by doing things rather than having to remember facts. So if you don't enjoy school then this may be a better option for you.
  • You gain recognised qualifications - NVQs, Key Skills and a Technical Certificate.
  • You will be trained to do a job. So, unlike those who stay on at school and take A Levels, you will have a qualification that shows that you have the skills necessary to do that job. Employers know that they will not have to spend a lot of time training you - you will have the ability to 'hit the ground running' and, all being well, a good reference from your employer to support you.
  • If you want to gain a higher qualification such as a HNC, HND, Foundation Degree or Honours Degree and you have a supportive employer, you can continue to study on a part-time basis while continuing to receive a wage. Your employer may even pay for the higher level course if they feel that it would benefit the company. If not, you can access the same higher education loans as full-time students.

There may be some disadvantages - it depends on the skill area and your preferred method of learning:

  • If you want to go to university it may take longer to get there with some Apprenticeships, depending on the subject area.
  • If you want to continue to study at a higher level on a part-time basis this will also take longer - but remember, you need to balance this against the future debt of full-time study, when you will probably have to live away from home and not be earning.
  • You may be more suited to classroom study and full time education.
  • Not all occupations offer Apprenticeships, so you may have no option but to take the academic route.
  • The range of courses you can study at a higher level may be more limited. Universities still understand A levels better than Apprenticeships, but this is changing and, as long as you choose a course that is a natural progression from your training, this should not stop you.

So, make your choice - an Apprenticeship is just another way of pursuing your career, it’s not second best. In fact, many employers prefer apprentice-trained people to those who have just left school, college or university. Click here for further information on Apprenticeships.

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.