What are they?
A full-time (minimum 30 hours per week) paid job with training (for industry-recognised qualifications): you’ll be an employee, but you’ll also be doing qualifications alongside your job to help you progress in your career.
You’d normally take industry-specific (trade) qualifications as well as functional skills. You’d spend most your time on the job and then some time training with a training provider or college/university.
Apprenticeships can be done at different levels depending on what qualifications you already have. These are: Intermediate (Level 2, like GCSEs at C+), Advanced (Level 3, like A Levels) or Higher/Degree (Level 4 or above, university level) levels.
They normally take 1 – 5 years depending on the type and level of apprenticeship (the harder the apprenticeship, the longer it takes).
Apprentices have their own minimum wage, which is currently £3.90 per hour, but many employers pay their apprentices more than the minimum wage (especially for higher and degree apprenticeships).
Higher and degree apprenticeships
If you’re leaving 6th form/college and will have Level 3 qualifications (such as A Levels) you can also look at higher or degree apprenticeships.
A higher apprenticeship is a full-time combined package of work and study for industry-recognised or university-awarded qualifications. You may spend time at a university or other training provider, or all your qualifications could be done through the workplace.
A degree apprenticeship involves you studying at a university for the training part of your apprenticeship, usually doing a level 5 (foundation degree) or level 6 (regular degree) qualification.
You may also see sponsored degree programmes where you do your degree at university and work for your sponsor employer in the holidays and after graduation.
Who do apprenticeships suit?
As an apprenticeship is a job, they suit people who are ready to enter the workplace. An apprenticeship is not an easy option and can be very competitive; you have to be reliable, keen, hardworking and ready for change.
The grades you’ll need vary depending on what sort of apprenticeship you’re applying for. The harder the apprenticeship, the higher your grades need to be.
How do I find one?
It’s job hunting so you need to be persistent, employable and lucky! There are lots of methods to finding an apprenticeship and the more of them you try the more likely you are to succeed…
Use these websites to look for apprenticeship opportunities:
You can also use normal job-hunting websites to search for apprenticeship vacancies.
Use your personal network: ask family and friends to keep an eye out for opportunities for you. You can also develop your contacts in the industry by going on work shadowing placements or volunteering.
Work hard to get the best grades you can to increase your competitiveness.
Check out company websites to see who offers what. You can contact likely employers directly with a CV and covering letter (normally via email) if they don’t have details about opportunities online.
Remember that some companies recruit far in advance (particularly for degree apprenticeships), so don’t leave it until the last minute; start looking soon to ensure your best chance of success!
Try to be flexible about what you’re looking for (e.g. can you travel?) to increase your chances of success.
Register with colleges/training providers who offer apprenticeship training (but be aware you won’t have an apprenticeship until you have an employer): look online and in local press for colleges/training providers in your area. For degree apprenticeships, look at universities that partner with employers to offer sponsored degree schemes or degree apprenticeships and contact any other training providers that work with the industry you’re interested in.
Make sure you develop a good CV and prepare well for any interviews. Job hunting is a skill; the better you are at it the more likely you are to succeed!
Finally, think of a back-up plan in case you can’t find an apprenticeship at this time – you can always keep trying next year.