What is an apprenticeship?
An apprenticeship is a job that combines on- and off-the-job training, leading to industry-recognised qualifications.
The structure of apprenticeships
As an apprentice you will spend 30 hours a week at work, but around 20% of your time will be spent in off-the-job training. This is likely to be away from your place of work and could be learning online or in a training centre or university. The off-the-job training element could be one day a week or for a block at a time.
Everyone can do an apprenticeship as there are entry routes aimed at people with few qualifications and no experience, right through to an apprenticeship which is equivalent to a Masters Degree. There are 7 levels of apprenticeship and the level you start at will depend on your existing qualifications and experience. It is possible to work your way up in an occupation. For example you may start on a level 2 as a health care assistant and work your way up to a level 7 degree apprenticeship in nursing.
What apprenticeship roles are available?
There are over 1500 job roles that you can do an apprenticeship in from hairdressing to pharmacy technician and police officer to teaching assistant. It can take between eighteen months and six years to complete an apprenticeship. The latest evaluation of apprenticeships in 2021 reports that a large majority of apprenticeship roles are concentrated in Business (28%), Health (24%), and Engineering (19%) sectors.
To find out if there is an apprenticeship available in the area you want to work in and how long it takes check the complete list of apprenticeships on the Institute of Apprenticeship Standards.
Who offers apprenticeship?
Employers offering apprenticeships range from large national organisations, such as Sainsburys, IBM and Rolls Royce, and government organisations such as the civil service and NHS, through to small local employers such as schools, care homes, and local businesses.
To find out more about recruitment programmes for national companies such as Google go to Amazing Apprenticeships. To see what vacancies are available in the sector you want to work in where you live, go to Find an Apprenticeship.
Assessment, qualifications and certificates
Apprenticeship standards are employer-led, meaning that employers can specify exactly what's required from an apprentice in each specific role. The apprenticeship standards outline the skills, knowledge and behaviours (KSBs) required to carry out a certain job role. All apprenticeships are assessed at the end of the apprenticeship through an end-point assessment [EPA]– a bit like taking a driving test – and are graded - pass, merit or distinction. The EPA could involve
a practical observation assessment
written and/or multiple-choice tests
For some apprenticeships, passing the EPA and completing the apprenticeship will also lead to professional recognition by an authorised body.
Pay for apprentices
Apprentices must be paid for their normal working hours and for the hours of training that forms part of the apprenticeship.
The minimum pay for any apprentice over 19 in their first year is £4.81 per hour. When you move into your second year you get the National Minimum/Living Wage rate that applies to your age. The rates from April 2022 are:
- £4.81 aged 19 or over in your first year
- £6.83 for those aged 18-20 after completing first year
- £9.18 for those aged 21-22 after completing first year
- £9.50 for those aged 23+ after completing first year
Many employers pay much more than this. Actual earnings vary depending on the sector, region and apprenticeship level. The Apprenticeship Pay survey in 2018/9 found the average pay for a level 2/3 apprenticeship was £7.64 per hour and for a level 4 apprentice the average was £12.57 As you progress and become more skilled, your pay normally increases.
You may also receive benefits and be entitled to additional money, e.g. for essential clothing or equipment, or if you are under 25 and a care leaver you may be entitled to a bursary.
You should be employed for at least 30 hours per week (including off-the-job training). In some circumstances, e.g. if you have caring responsibilities or a disability, you may be able to work fewer hours. The hours you will be expected to work depend on your employer and how their organisation operates, but the maximum number of hours per week should be no more than 48.
You should be paid for
- your normal working hours
- training that’s part of your apprenticeship (at least 20% of your normal working hours)
- study towards English and maths qualifications, and time during your working hours to do this.
- 20 days holiday a year as well as bank holidays.