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UK Apprenticeships

What Is An Apprenticeship?
Going to university to read for a degree is not for everybody. While you are at school studying for your GCSEs it can be a stressful time. Aside from the fact that you need to revise and do course work, there is a big wide world out there and pretty soon, you’re going to be in it, as a grown up. Some of your friends will be going on to do A-Levels or other full time study, maybe in the hope of becoming a student at university, but what happens if you have decided that is not the route for you?

If you are a more hands on person and want to get out there into the world of work, developing practical skills, you could consider school leaver jobs in the form of an Apprenticeship (Scotland has chosen to retain the label ‘Modern Apprenticeship.’ Apprenticeships and Modern Apprenticeships are the same thing). If you already have a passion or an interest in life that you would like to develop as a full time career, an Apprenticeship can be the perfect way to get yourself on the ladder straight from leaving school.

And Apprenticeships are not just for school leavers who are straight out of the classroom. If you are one of the many young people who jumped straight into school leaver jobs and you are no longer feeling fulfilled in your role, or you feel you want to push things to next level to forge a career out of what you are doing, then an Apprenticeship in your specialism could be the ideal option for you.
What Types Of Apprenticeship Could I Do?
In the United Kingdom, apprenticeships have a long history, dating back hundreds of years. Traditionally, young school leavers who wanted to learn a trade would do an apprenticeship and, depending on the trade, the apprenticeship could last for many years. Many people still think of apprenticeships in this way, where young people train in more skilled industrial trades such as industrial engineering, mechanics or electronics. Most apprentices also tended to be boys.

However, let’s fast forward to the 21st Century where Apprenticeships are now open to all young school leavers in a whole variety of sectors. So, even if you’re not into factories, manufacturing and industry, as a school leaver, there could still be many other Apprenticeship options for you to consider. It’s also worth noting that this list of potential opportunities is growing all the time and this growth looks set to continue. Good news for those of you who are weighing up your options if further college or university study is really not for you.


Let’s look at some of the Apprenticeships that are available for school leavers out there in the workplace. If you have never researched Apprenticeships before, with over 180 frameworks available, you might be surprised at what is out there and chances are, there will be an Apprenticeship out there that will match what you are looking for.
  • Agricultural Apprenticeships - For those who like the great outdoors, have an interest or background in rural life or even gardening, and you are looking for school leaver jobs in this sector, there are roles out there for you where you can gain qualifications.
  • Beauty and Wellbeing - if skin treatments, massage or nutrition are what you are interested in, there are lots of Apprenticeship options out there for school leavers including hairdressing and beauty apprenticeships.
  • Business, Accountancy and Law - lots of different types of Apprenticeships within these three areas including a CIMA Finance Higher Apprenticeship with Morrisons. Explore accounting, banking and business apprenticeships or law options today!
  • Creative Apprenticeships & Music - Ceramics, 3D design, musical performance. There are Apprenticeships out there for those of you that are keen to make a career from your creative skills.
  • Engineering and manufacturing sector - This is a very broad area and there is a whole array of Apprenticeships available for young school leavers who want to get a foothold in this industry. Find out more about construction and engineering apprenticehips.
  • IT - An IT Apprenticeship is perfect for those school leavers who are tech addicts.
  • Media - This is always a popular choice with young people and there are a few Apprenticeships available within this broad sector that will give you skills in the area you are interested in.
  • Pharmaceutical - Apprenticeships include pharmacy dispensing and technicians with training providers such as Middlesex College.
  • Public Services, Care and Education - If you think you might be interested in serving the public in some way, an Apprenticeship in this area will give you the necessary qualifications and work experience to progress your career in helping others in a professional capacity. Explore healthcare apprenticeships here.
  • Retail & Distribution - Again, this is a varied sector and provides lots of opportunities for those wanting school leaver jobs. There is a range of Apprenticeships available from logistics to catering. Read our guides to retail apprenticeships, supply chain apprenticeships, warehouse apprenticeships and hospitality apprenticeships to find out more.
  • Travel, Tourism & Leisure - If you like the idea of travelling the world then starting your career with a toursim apprenticeship is a great option. There are opportunities from activity leaders to cabin crew, travel agents and fitness instructors!
So as you can see, Apprenticeships have come a long way over the last few years and are no longer just limited to school leaver jobs in the industrial and manufacturing sectors.
What Are The Different Levels Of Apprenticeship?
After completing an Intermediate Level Apprenticeship, you will receive a qualification that is the equivalent of five GCSEs at grades A to C. This could be an NVQ at Level 2 and you might also receive a BTEC, depending on the job you are doing. You will also be able to then progress the the next level; the Advanced Level Apprenticeship.

1. Intermediate Level Apprenticeship
After completing an Intermediate Level Apprenticeship, you will receive a qualification that is the equivalent of five GCSEs at grades A to C. This could be an NVQ at Level 2 and you might also receive a BTEC, depending on the job you are doing. You will also be able to then progress the the next level; the Advanced Level Apprenticeship.

2. Advanced Level Apprenticeship
Young people who are doing the Advanced Level Apprenticeship will have at least five GCSEs at grades A to C or you will have completed the Intermediate Level Apprenticeship. After successful completion of an Advanced Level Apprenticeship, you will receive a qualification that is the equivalent of two A Levels. This could be in the form of NVQ Level 3 and also a qualification such as a BTEC.

3. Higher Apprenticeship
For those who want to take their career and qualifications even further, a Higher Apprenticeship allows for just that. At the end of a Higher Apprenticeship you will be awarded with a work-based qualification such as an NVQ Level 4 and, rather than a BTEC, the learning based qualification could be a Foundation Level degree or similar, such as an HNC (Higher National Certificate) or a Diploma.

4. Degree Level Apprenticeship
If you want a bachelors or masters degree without the cost of tuition fees, Degree Levels Apprenticeships combine university study with on-the-job experience and a salary. Degree apprenticeships are level 6 & 7. Course fees are paid by the government and your employer.

The Apprenticeship Framework
Whatever level and type of Apprenticeship you choose to do there will be a core framework of skills and qualifications that you will be developing. (The names and qualifications can vary slightly between England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.)

The NVQ and BTEC demonstrate your understanding of your specialism and its role within the workplace.
Key Skills develop your ability to work with others, to adapt to new technologies that are essential in your role.
ERR is Employee Rights and Responsibilities and this certificate means you are aware of your rights and responsibilities within the workplace.
PLTS - Personal Learning and Thinking Skills. This part of your Apprenticeship develops your ability to think on the spot, uses your initiative in the workplace and evaluating situations which may arise. These are the skills that make you stand out above others for future employers.
How Long Does It Take To Complete An Apprenticeship?
Obviously, it completely depends on how far you want to take your Apprenticeship that determines the length of time of completion. As a general rule of thumb, Apprenticeships can take anything from one to four years so you do need to be committed to complete one. There are many different types of Apprenticeships these days and so the sector you are working in also determines how long it will take to complete. There is also an element of flexibility involved and if you feel things are moving too fast for you or your employer wants to give you more time to develop a new skill, this can make your Apprenticeship take a little bit longer to complete than it otherwise would do.
Does It Cost Me Anything To Do An Apprenticeship?
The beauty of Apprenticeships is, unlike students who need to pay university tuition fees and take out student loans, going through an Apprenticeship is all about earning while you learn. It does vary for employers, depending on which country of the United Kingdom you are doing your Apprenticeship in but generally, your employer is responsible for paying your wages while government funded agencies cover the cost of any outside training and courses you will need to attend.

As we said above, the amount you can earn while you are doing all this depends on the sector you are working in, the level of Apprenticeship you are doing, possible previous experience and also your age.

The National Minimum Wage is lower for young people who are doing Apprenticeships because of the training and tuition you are receiving. If you are under 19 years of age or are in the first year of your Apprenticeship, there is a lower minimum hourly rate you will receive. After that, you will receive at least the National Minimum Wage. You will be pleased to learn however that many employers choose to pay above these rates so you could find yourself earning a good wage while learning at the same time. To find out the minimum amounts you will receive while doing your Apprenticeship, you can keep up to date with current National Minimum Wage Apprentice rate here.
Apprenticeships Also Provide A Win Win Situation
Apprenticeships are a win win scenario for both you as the apprentice learning on the job and for your employer and future employers, too.

What’s in it for your employer or future employers?
  • They get an employee who is committed to their training and their career progression.
  • This in turn has a knock on effect for their business - employing skilled, well trained staff can only be a good thing for the future of their company because growth and productivity is increased.
What’s in it for you?
  • You get to learn new skills or develop existing ones within a national framework.
  • You get to learn in the workplace and combine this with stints in the classroom. This could be a block or one day a week away from your workplace and it might be at a college, a specialised training centre or even a university.
  • Whichever level of Apprenticeship you do, your training will result in a nationally recognised qualification from GCSE level right up to foundation degree.
  • As part of your Apprenticeship, you could get the opportunity to attend extra, more specialised training courses that would otherwise cost you a lot of money to take part in.
  • As well as work based skills and qualifications, an Apprenticeship will also provide you with transferable skills that will set you in good stead for either the job you are in or for getting other jobs in the future.
  • And while all this combined learning and on the job training is taking place, you will be earning a wage. How much you get paid as part of your Apprenticeship depends on your age, the sector you are training in, the level of Apprenticeship you are doing and your employer. It will always be at least minimum wage but many employers choose to pay above this.
  • As you progress through your career you will have more chance of earning higher wages than those people who haven’t been through an Apprenticeship programme.
What’s Next?
So, having read ‘What Is An Apprenticeship?’ do you think an Apprenticeship could be the way forward for you for building a career as a school leaver? There is lots of information out there for you to help you decide on your next move and, rather than just take our word for it, a good place to start might be a browse through case studies and quotes of what apprentices say about their experiences. Still not sure? Find out if an apprenticeship is right for you or compare apprenticeships to school leaver programmes.

And if you’re still happy that an Apprenticeship is for you and you are itching to get started, there are thousands of quality Apprenticeship vacancies advertised online at any one time. Get your application form filled in and you could soon be on the Apprenticeship road to more qualifications and a successful career in your chosen sector. Search live apprenticeships at the bottom of the page or use the links below to find apprenticeships in your local town.
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