In short, an apprenticeship is a real paid job where you work part of the time, and learn off-the-job for the rest. In this role, you will be training for a specific job position, so at the end of your apprenticeship, you will receive both an official qualification and, hopefully, a job. Around two-thirds of apprentices are kept on by the same company once they have finished their apprenticeship but it is not guaranteed.

During this time your employer will pay you at least the National Minimum Wage for apprentices, which is £4.81 per hour, although many apprenticeships will offer more. This is to both the apprentice’s and the employer’s advantage as offering more than the bare minimum should help them to attract the best candidates for their vacancy. 

Requirements for an Apprenticeship

In order to take up an apprenticeship, you must meet the entrance requirements in terms of previous academic success. For many apprenticeships, the threshold is fairly low so most people will be able to access them but for some types of apprenticeships, multiple A-Levels are required. 

There is no age limit to applying to become an apprentice, and there are an increasing number of adult apprenticeships being created every year.

The only restriction to becoming an apprentice is if you are under 16 years old, if you are in full-time education, or if you already have the skills you are set to learn in the apprenticeship.

With the potentially devastating impact of coronavirus hitting young people with lower-level qualifications the hardest, whose employment rate could drop to as low as 40% in the next five years, finding further qualifications is your best chance for reaching your future potential. With apprenticeships, you can achieve all your career goals, get further education and be earning a wage the whole time.

The Role of an Apprentice

In the apprenticeship, you will mostly be carrying out a real working role with assistance from the employer to help give you on-the-job training. The rest of the time you will spend training outside of work, often with a training provider, or at a college or university. Your off-the-job training must take up at least 20% of your work hours. You will be paid for all of your hours, whether you are taking part in on-the-job or off-the-job training. 

This means that, although you are still training for the position, you will be treated just like every other employee at the company, including receiving a contract of employment and holiday leave.

Apprenticeships have become so successful and enjoyed by apprentices in recent years, that now 91% of apprentices carry on in the job role upon completion of the course, though only up to two-thirds remain with the same company. That is still quite a high number and companies are really focusing on their employee retention at the moment as many are struggling to attract staff. 

There is a skills gap in the UK that has been the result of a combination of Brexit and the Covid-19 pandemic, which has caused a lot of people to rethink their priorities when it comes to their working lives. Many employees have left their previous jobs as they were being forced by their employers to return to the office rather than being allowed to continue with remote work, despite the employees feeling like it had been a success. This leaves an opportunity for apprentices to take a big step up and fill the gaps in the workplace, perhaps achieving career advancement more quickly than would have previously been possible.  

Advantages of an Apprenticeship

Depending on the type of apprenticeship, it will take at least a year to complete, and if it is one of the highest-level qualification apprenticeships, it could take up to six years to complete.

An apprenticeship is created to give you the best possible chance at succeeding in the career of your choice and reaching your future potential. This means you will be in constant contact with your employer and training provider to make sure you are learning the right skills, at the right pace for you. 

Another of the advantages of an apprenticeship over a traditional University degree route is that you will have more relevant experience than recent university graduates who haven’t actually been working in the field that they have been studying. Full-time education isn’t for everyone and it can be better to be earning money while you learn than to spend many thousands of pounds on tuition fees at a time when a lot of people are struggling to cope with the cost of living. 

Leaving an Apprenticeship

If at any point in the apprenticeship you decide that it is no longer right for you, you can leave the apprenticeship at no cost to yourself. Although you will have signed an Apprenticeship Agreement and an Apprentice Commitment Statement, you are not bound to complete the apprenticeship and can leave it, just like any other job. 

Leaving an apprenticeship should not be done lightly but there are legitimate reasons for leaving, such as it wasn’t what you had been led to expect that it would be, or you didn’t get on with your colleagues and bosses. You may have felt that the culture was wrong for you, or not accepting enough of your diversity, and these are all good reasons for leaving an apprenticeship early.

You should note, however, that it may not always be possible to take your academic progress toward your qualification with you, and you may have to start from scratch if you start another apprenticeship in the future. 

Starting an Apprenticeship in the UK

Getting an apprenticeship could be the best path for you. Find out about the different types of apprenticeships or take a look at some reasons to start an apprenticeship.For alternative technical education options, take a look at our advice on T-Levels and Traineeships. For information on other pathways, such as going to university, you can also find help in your area.