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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. You can view the rate of pay for apprentices here 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.