What are apprenticeships?

Apprenticeships are open to people aged 16 and over and combine real work experience and studying with the end goal of achieving a work-based qualification.  This can start at the equivalent of a GCSE, right the way up to degree level.

There are three types of apprenticeships - intermediate, advanced and higher.  The key differences are listed below:

Intermediate apprenticeship

  • Equivalent to five good GCSE passes (typically A-C would be referred to as 'good')
  • Apprentices work towards qualifications such as an NVQ Level 2, Key Skills and generally a BTEC
  • Once completed, the skills gained allow entry to an advance apprenticeship

Advanced apprenticeship

  • Equivalent of two A-level passes
  • Apprentices work towards qualifcations such as an NVQ Level 3, Key Skills and a BTEC
  • Generally applicants would already have five GCSEs (C or better) or have finished an intermediate apprenticeship

Higher apprenticeship

  • Apprentices work towards qualifications such as NVQ Level 4 and often Foundation degrees
  • Apprentices can also progress from a higher apprenticeship to higher education and university

Depending on the apprenticeship being undertaken, apprentices can also gain qualifications such as: International Baccalaureate, BTEC Professional Diplomas, Certificates and Awards, OCR Nationals and many more.

In January 2015 there were just short of 500,000 people taking part in an apprenticeship scheme, a rise of 14% on the previous year.  Both male and female apprentices were roughly equally represented (53% women, 47% men) and 73% were involved in three service sectors - Business Administration and Law; Public Services and Care; and Retial and Commercial Enterprise.

But apprenticeship opportunities are available across a broad range of career paths and industries including: agriculture, horticulture and animal care; arts, media and publishing; construction, planning and the built environment; engineering and manufacturing technologies and information and communication technology.  Check out the government page on apprenticeships for a full list.

Employers must pay the minimum wage.  For apprentices aged 16-18, and those aged 19 or over in their year as an apprentice, the minimum wage is currently £3.30 an hour (until October 2016).  All other apprentices are entitled to the minimum wage for their age group.  For their part, apprentices must combine their employment with study at a college or training organisation.

Depending on what qualification the apprentice is setting out to achieve, an apprenticeship can last from one to four years.