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Apprenticeship options

A guide to apprenticeship options for school leavers

With apprenticeships offered everywhere from Jaguar Land Rover and Mercedes Benz, to the BBC and MI5, in fields as wide-ranging as cyber security and aeronautical engineering, digital marketing and journalism, you can be sure there’s one to suit your child's career ambitions and ensure they bag their dream job.

Usually lasting between one and five years, apprenticeships are fully paid, full-time jobs, during employees also study and work towards relevant, nationally recognised qualifications. People on these schemes are able to learn while they earn a full-time wage, pick up valuable workplace skills and are often offered full-time jobs at the end of the scheme.

Apprenticeships come in different levels, all offering different qualifications and skills, to people at various stages along their education and career paths: Intermediate Apprenticeships, Advanced Apprenticeships, Higher Apprenticeships and Degree Apprenticeships.

As well as a range of levels, apprenticeships offer training for a range of careers, they aren’t just for those interested in construction, hairdressing or engineering – there are apprenticeship opportunities in every industry from agriculture, law and accountancy to education, retail, art and even journalism. Apprentices will spend at least 20% of their time training towards qualifications that are relevant to their job; this is part of their working week/month, not additional time in the evenings or at the weekends, and usually takes place at a separate college, training provider, or even at a university.

In practice, this might mean apprentices spend two days a week at a local college, for example, and three days in the office or workplace. Alternatively, they might only go to college once a fortnight (or maybe even less). Some employers use a ‘block training’ approach, concentrating the required off-the-job training into weekly or fortnightly slots across the year.

Apprenticeships are also paid. The National Apprentice Minimum Wage applies to all people on apprenticeships aged 16-18 or 19+ and in their first year (£3.70 an hour as of 1 April 2018), but any apprentices aged 19 or over who have completed their first year must be paid the standard National Minimum Wage for their age group.

The average weekly wage for an apprentice is actually £200, dependant on the sector, region and apprenticeship level. For example, some higher apprenticeships can pay as much as £300-£500 per week. Higher Apprenticeships and Degree Apprenticeships often pay higher than the National Minimum Wage and National Apprenticeship Minimum Wage; a £16,000 starting salary, for example, with regular pay reviews just like a standard employee would receive. Some Higher Apprenticeship employers pay as high as £23,000 per year.

Post-16 apprenticeship options

There are some great apprenticeship options for young people leaving school at 16, offering something for everyone: of all academic attainment and all interests.

Intermediate Apprenticeships
are the first level of apprenticeships, a Level 2 qualification – equivalent to five good GCSE passes. They are designed to equip apprentices with the skills to thrive in the world of employment.

As a guide, Intermediate Apprenticeships generally last around 12-18 months; apprentices spend most of the time working for an employer and learning on the job, but they will also spend some time (at least 20% of their work time) at a training institution or local college. They will study towards nationally recognised vocational qualifications that are relevant to their job, such as an NVQ Level 2.

An Intermediate Apprenticeship will improve basic skills too – if apprentices don’t have GCSEs in English and maths, they will usually receive help to reach the standard required in order to take and pass a basic numeracy and literacy test.

Intermediate Apprenticeships are offered in all sorts of areas and industries with all types of companies, and are available in everything from construction and engineering, to tourism, publishing and IT. Your child could do an Intermediate Apprenticeship in a huge range of jobs, including everything from civil engineering, travel services, environmental conservation and community arts or live events, to marketing, financial services, fashion and textiles, IT software, or web and telecoms.

There are even Intermediate Apprenticeship routes into legal and teaching careers: these industries are no longer accessible only via A-levels and university.

Intermediate Apprenticeships are perfect for people who want to move on to the next level – an Advanced Apprenticeship. They are a prerequisite for those schemes, but are also useful for young people who want to stay in education and training without doing A-levels, as everyone born on or after 1 September 1997 must now remain in some form of education or training until their 18th birthday.

Usually applicants are required to have two or more GCSEs (at A*-C or 4-9 in the new English and maths grades) or equivalent, including English and maths. Alternatively, applicants might have to sit a numeracy and literacy test.

After completing an Intermediate Apprenticeship, your child might go on to do an Advanced Apprenticeship in a related role, or secure a standard job in the same industry.

Advanced Apprenticeships
are a step above Intermediate Apprenticeships, and are designed for more challenging roles and developing advanced skills at a Level 3 qualification – equivalent to two A-level passes.

As a guide, Advanced Apprenticeships generally last around 24 months, with – as with all apprenticeships – employees spending most of the time working for an employer and learning on the job, but also spending some time at a training institution or local college, gaining qualifications at Level 3.

These will include a Level 3 competence qualification, a Functional Skills qualification and a relevant knowledge-based qualification. In practice, this might mean apprentices spend two days a week at college and three days in the office or workplace. Alternatively, they might only go to college once a fortnight (or maybe even less). Some employers use a ‘block training’ approach, concentrating the required off-the-job training into weekly or fortnightly slots across the year.

Advanced Apprenticeships are offered in all sorts of areas and industries with all types of companies, in everything from animal care and education, to media, retail and law. Your child could do an Advanced Apprenticeship in a huge range of jobs, including everything from fashion retail, civil engineering, environmental conservation and journalism, to sound engineering, recruitment, pharmacy services, or IT, software, web and telecoms.

They are perfect for people who want to move on to the next level – a Higher Apprenticeship. They are a prerequisite for those schemes, but are also useful for young people who want to stay in education and training without doing A-levels, as everyone born on or after 1 September 1997 must now remain in some form of education or training until their 18th birthday.

Usually applicants are required to have five GCSEs (grades A*-C or 4-9 in the new English and maths grades)) or equivalent, or have completed an Intermediate Apprenticeship.

After completing an Advanced Apprenticeship, your child might go on to do an Higher Apprenticeship in a related role, or secure a standard job in the same industry.

Post-18 apprenticeship options

There are some great apprenticeship options for young people leaving school at 18 with A-levels, offering something for everyone: be they interested in gaining more academic qualifications, or professional qualifications, and for all interests.

Higher Apprenticeships
are at qualification Levels 4 and 5 – equivalent to a higher education certificate, higher education diploma or a foundation degree. All levels can include vocational qualifications and academic qualifications. They are a great option for school and college leavers who are looking for an alternative to university.

As a guide, Higher Apprenticeships take at least 12 months, but many programmes last up to 18 months or two years, and some last as long as five years.

On these programmes, apprentices spend most of the time working for an employer and learning on the job, but they will also spend some time at a training institution or college. They will study towards vocational or academic qualifications that are relevant to their job, such as the ATT (Association of Tax Technicians) or the CTA (Chartered Tax Adviser) qualifications – if completing a Higher Apprenticeship with a tax and accountancy firm, for example.

In practice, this might mean apprentices spend two days a week at college and three days in the office or workplace. Alternatively, they might only go to college once a fortnight (or maybe even less). Some employers use a ‘block training’ approach, concentrating the required off-the-job training into weekly or fortnightly slots across the year.

Higher Apprenticeships are available in a wide range of industries and roles, from tax and accountancy to construction management, mechanical engineering, web development and even space engineering. They are especially suited to those who have done well in their GCSEs and A-levels, or who have completed an Advanced Apprenticeship, but want to progress without taking the university route.

Apprentices might work towards a Level 4-6 competence qualification, Functional Skills or a knowledge-based qualification such as a foundation degree, or HND. Qualifications at Levels 4 and 5 are equivalent to a higher education certificate, higher education diploma or a foundation degree.

Usually applicants are required to have a minimum of two A-levels or equivalent, or an Advanced Apprenticeship.

Often, at the end of a Higher Apprenticeship, apprentices will be at the same level as employees who took the university route and then a graduate scheme; and it is likely they will be offered a job with their apprentice employer. If they choose to move on they will have professional qualifications tailored to the industry they have trained in, making them extremely employable.

The Apprentice National Minimum Wage (£3.70 an hour) applies to all 16-18-year-old apprentices and those over 19 in the first year of their apprenticeship; after the first year, those aged 19 or over are paid the full National Minimum Wage for their age group. However, many employers choose to pay more than that and those on Higher Apprenticeships could earn salaries as high as £23,000.

Degree Apprenticeships
are the latest model of apprenticeship to be developed, seeing apprentices achieving a full bachelor’s or master’s degree – at Levels 6 and 7 – as a core component of the programmes.

While Degree Apprenticeships must last a minimum of one year, the programmes will generally last longer than this – typically up to four years, though there is no fixed maximum duration.

Degree apprentices are not eligible for student loans but their tuition fees are often paid in full, or at least in part, by the apprentice employer. They are also paid a salary as fulltime employees, like all other apprentices. Their time is split between university study and the workplace and will be employed throughout – gaining a full bachelor’s or master’s degree while earning a wage and getting real on-the-job experience in their chosen profession.

Degree Apprenticeships also offer the rare opportunity to gain experience and form working relationships with high profile, well-respected companies – potentially even more advantageous than the academic qualifications on offer. Applicants have the same standards to meet as university applicants, if not higher. Depending on the apprenticeship, a certain number of UCAS points, often in specific A-levels, will be required, or certain standards must have been achieved on other apprenticeships in a relevant job.

Those completing Degree Apprenticeships are especially employable as each programme has been designed with the industry’s needs in mind. Groups of businesses, universities and colleges develop bespoke degree courses that allow students to build up skills and experience relevant to that particular industry, making them very employable in the future. Apprentices will often be offered a job with their employer at the end of the programme, but if they decide to move on they will have a very attractive set of skills and qualifications with which to progress in their chosen industry.

The Apprentice National Minimum Wage applies to all 16-18-year-old apprentices and those aged 19 and over in the first year of their apprenticeship, which will apply to most young people starting a Degree Apprenticeship. After the first year of the apprenticeship, people who are aged 19 and over must be paid the full National Minimum Wage for their age group. However, many employers will pay more than this: a £16,000 starting salary, for example, with regular pay reviews like a standard employee.

Your child could do a Degree Apprenticeship in many job roles: chartered surveying, electronic systems engineering, aerospace engineering/ software development, defence systems engineering, laboratory science, public relations or even become a solicitor and get a law degree.

Contributed by AllAboutSchoolLeavers an organisation that provides advice and information on all options for school leavers, including the different levels of apprenticeships. The information on their website aims to support young people, parents, and employers looking to recruit school leavers. Allaboutschoolleavers also connects young people with some of the most exciting work and training programmes in the UK.

Reviewed: April 2018

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