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Exploring Apprenticeships: Unleash New Career Opportunities

By IntFormalities
Published on September 29, 2023
Estimated reading time: 8 minutes

There are many ways to kickstart your career, and one of these is through apprenticeship schemes. Apprenticeships provide job training and study to enable people to climb the career ladder. Whether you are seeking new employment opportunities or you are an employer wishing to hire staff to work as an apprentice, carry on reading to discover more. 

How do apprenticeships work in the UK?
The apprentice will earn a salary through the program as they become fully trained in the chosen field of work

What Is an Apprenticeship?

An apprenticeship scheme offers a job training program and a study component to enable the apprentice to gain qualifications. The apprentice will earn a salary through the program as they become fully trained in the chosen field of work. Apprenticeship schemes:

  • Are open to people over 16 who are not in full-time education.
  • Are accessible in more than 170 industries such as finance, aerospace, and fashion.
  • Have a completion time of 1 to 5 years based on skills, age, and industry sector.
  • Can combine job training with studies that lead to qualifications.

Some people assume apprenticeships are for school leavers. Many schemes are available for over 25-year-olds; it is never too late to change careers. 

Are Apprenticeships Comparable To Educational Levels?

Apprenticeships are comparable to educational levels attained in England. The table below provides the equivalent levels:

Apprenticeship NameLevelComparable Educational Level
IntermediateTwoGCSE
AdvancedThreeA Level
Higher Four, Five, Six, and SevenFoundation degree
DegreeSix and SevenDegree at Bachelor’s or Master’s level 

What Will Apprentices Learn through the Program?

Apprentices follow an endorsed study program designed specifically for the job they seek to become skilled at. The employer decides on training structures, but the general arrangement is as follows:

  • A comprehensive training program
  • Practical job training
  • Progress reviews
  • Academic college study
  • Training facility assessment and testing
  • Support and mentorship

At the end of the apprenticeship, the person will have gained the skills and qualifications of use to employers in their specified field. The employer they were training with could even offer the apprentice a job. 

Choosing the Right Apprenticeship Program

With hundreds of apprenticeship programs available, one of the trickiest parts is finding a suitable one. With differing types, numerous levels, and companies all vying for the upcoming talent, there is a great deal to cover. 

A great place to start is to pick an industry to become involved in. You could do this by thinking about your passion, interests, and areas where you excel. Online tests could give a better idea of a career in which you wish to immerse yourself.

Next, choose the apprenticeship level, which will be based on your experience. Those beginning their careers could start at the Intermediate level, while those with some educational qualifications may want to choose advanced or higher levels. 

The final step is finding the right employer. Considerations will include things such as the size of the company (large companies take on many apprentices with established training programs), environment (large companies have a faster pace), and pay (some companies pay the minimum set out by law while others pay more).

How To Apply For An Apprenticeship Program

To apply for an apprenticeship program, you must create an account with the UK government’s “Find An Apprenticeship” website here.  Once a suitable apprenticeship is found, you must:

  1. Create a CV and cover letter (it is best to create a CV and cover letter tailored for the application)
  2. Apply through the website
  3. Wait for a response from the employer

If the employer wishes to proceed with the application, they’ll invite the person for an interview, where the company will decide whether to hire or otherwise. In some instances, the employer will not reply. That indicates the company is not interested in pursuing the application further. 

The “Find An Apprenticeship” website has closing dates for each apprenticeship program. If a response has not been received by that date, it is safe to assume the application will not be taken further. It is the norm for people to apply for many apprenticeships before obtaining a spot. Therefore, it is best to apply for many positions.

Are There Any Costs Associated?

It is entirely free to apply for an apprenticeship program. The application process is not too different from applying for a regular job, except most apprenticeship adverts are listed on the “Find An Apprenticeship” website. 

How Many Hours Do Apprentices Work?

Apprentices work between 30 to 40 hours a week, which includes time spent with theoretical studies at college. Part-time apprenticeships are also possible with agreement from the employer. For example, if you have caring responsibilities. Part-time apprenticeships must last at least 16 hours a week.

Apprenticeships Wages

The benefit of an apprenticeship is that a person will earn while training and studying. The salary will depend on factors such as:

  • Apprenticeship type
  • Experience, age, and qualifications held by the apprentice
  • Employment sector (for example, Engineering and Manufacturing, Health and Science, Construction, etc)

Minimum Wage Requirements

A minimum wage cap is in place for people participating in an apprenticeship scheme. These are the expected minimum wage rates:

  • A minimum of £5.28 per hour for 16 to 18-year-olds or those aged 19 and over and in their first year of the apprenticeship (for the year 2023-2024)
  • The minimum wage that corresponds to those aged 19 and over who have completed this first year of apprenticeship

Some employers may choose to pay more than the minimum wage. Apprentices may have to pay National Insurance and tax contributions on their earnings.

Workplace Benefits for Apprentices

Apprentices working 34 hours or more a week receive the same benefits as others in the workplace. It will include sick pay, more than 19 days of annual paid holiday entitlement, maternity/paternity Leave, and Paternity/Maternity Pay.

You may be entitled to benefits such as Universal Credit and the various associated elements such as housing costs.

How to employ an Apprentice
Over a staggering 68000 businesses employ apprentices in the UK with at least half a million working as apprentices

Employing Apprentices in 4 Simple Steps

As an employer, you are responsible for ensuring the apprentice works with staff who are experienced, learns skills specific for the job, and receives time off during working hours to study or to attend educational establishments.

There are several steps involved in hiring apprentices for your business. They are as follows.

1. Register the Business as an Apprenticeship Employer and Recruit Apprentices 

The UK government runs a service called “Recruit An Apprentice” for posting and managing adverts for apprentices. You can find more information about “Recruit An Apprentice” here. You will first have to create an “Apprenticeships Service Account” through this link to:

  • Add company details
  • Make agreements with the Department for Education (DfE)
  • Allow other people within the company to use the service
  • Allow training providers to carry out certain duties (such as place adverts)

By registering as an apprentice employer, potential apprentices will be able to find the business and for the company to obtain government funding for apprenticeship training. 

2. Find Suitable Training for Your Apprentice(s)

Click this UK government link to find training courses and training providers. The website provides a searchable portal where training schemes can be found based on qualification levels, apprenticeship categories, and the various training providers.

3. Obtain Funding for Apprenticeship Training

Depending on the size and revenue, the company can obtain government funding to pay for the cost of the apprenticeship training. Companies that do not pay an apprenticeship levy are entitled to 95% of the cost of the apprenticeship training. The Apprenticeship Levy is 0.5% of a company’s yearly wage bill. Businesses have to pay this charge if their early wage bill exceeds £3 million, or if they have any connection to any charities or companies on Employment Allowance grounds and, as a combined unit, have a wage bill of over £3 million. 

For more details on Apprenticeship Levy, check out the UK government website here.

Businesses that do not pay Apprenticeship Levy will only need to pay 5% towards the cost of training. The government and the business will pay their share directly to the training provider. If the apprenticeship scheme started in 2019, the company would have to pay 10%, with the government meeting the remaining 90% cost. For more details on the ins and outs of government grants and funding, check out this website.

4. Make Agreements with Apprentices 

After finding suitable apprentice(s), the employer must provide details of:

  • The name of the apprenticeship scheme
  • The skills, occupation, or trade that the apprentice is being trained towards
  • The starting and ending dates of the apprenticeship
  • The amount and extent of training on offer

You can find out more details here

Making a Difference

Apprenticeships are a great way to get on the career ladder or for those wishing to change careers. It provides training, skills, and qualifications in over 170 industries. For employers, apprenticeships are an opportunity to train people for specific job roles to bring new people into the industry. For companies with smaller wage bills, the government provides funding for training, making it a cost-effective venture. 

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