Many people who are interested in apprenticeships wrongly assume they are only for young students who want an alternative to further education in school. This is an outdated and incorrect image of apprenticeships. In truth, they offer a vast range of opportunities to people of all ages, helping to advance their careers by undertaking new, practical vocational training.

The range of apprenticeships available is enormous and allows people to choose an apprenticeship in an area that appeals to them, rather than just picking a subject in order to get a qualification, as many did in school

The four levels of apprenticeship available are Intermediate, Advanced, Higher and Degree. For detailed breakdowns on these, visit our guide on the different types of apprenticeship.

The easiest way to understand these types is to view them in conjunction with their qualification level. For example, Intermediate is a Level 2 qualification and is considered roughly equivalent to 5 GCSE’s passes; anybody of any age over 16 can do this level of apprenticeship. Advanced is a Level 3 qualification, approximately equal to 2 A-Level passes. Higher apprenticeships cover Levels 4 to 7 qualifications and Degree Levels 5-7; level 4 being the equivalent to a foundation degree and level 7 the equivalent to a master’s degree.

The vital thing to note is that anybody can begin one of these apprenticeship levels at any time. They are not reserved for the traditional age of the qualification, e.g. aged 18 for a degree. Also, to begin an apprenticeship you do not necessarily have to have completed the previous level or have the last qualification equivalent. This is because entry is decided by the specific employer and training provider.

At times employers may specify for example, that you need 3 GCSE passes to do a Level 3 Apprenticeship, however, it is not uncommon for there to be no formal entry requirements or for life experience to be taken into account when deciding whether someone can take part.

Adult Apprenticeships and Those With Existing Qualifications

Many adults who are looking to refresh their skills while remaining in employment are choosing adult apprenticeships. It’s common for employees to take on an apprenticeship with their current employer to train for a new position, or to update their skills for their current role. As stated above, there are no age restrictions to each apprenticeship; instead, it’s about finding the right level for you and your skills. 

This is sometimes at the behest of their employers who would like them to be the person to fill a specific skills gap at the company. It is often an acknowledgement that the person going on to take the apprenticeship should be in a higher position than they currently are at the company but they lack one particular piece of the knowledge jigsaw that they require. Adult apprenticeships can aid career progression within companies and allow employees to plug knowledge gaps and begin to get the recognition that their efforts deserve. 

Many employers are trying very hard to retain their employees at the moment as there have been a lot of people quitting their jobs. This may mean it is an excellent time for ambitious employees to ask about career progression, or if they are not yet a permanent employee, the prospect of permanent employment once their apprenticeship comes to an end.

There is a lot of confusing and at times conflicting information online about doing an apprenticeship when you already have specific qualifications. Here at Employing an Apprentice, we have done the hard work for you to make this information as straightforward as possible. Here is what you need to know:

If you are changing careers or want to train in a new area, you can do an apprenticeship at the same qualification level, or a lower level, of a qualification you already have. For example, if you already have a level 4 qualification in Accounting, that won’t affect your enrollment in an Advanced apprenticeship (Level 3) in media or an Intermediate apprenticeship (Level 2) in journalism.

What you can’t do is an apprenticeship at the same level, or lower level, to a qualification you already have if the content is too similar. For example, if you have a Level 3 qualification in Maths, you can’t then do an Intermediate apprenticeship in Finance or Accounting. This makes a lot of sense as there is no point in rehashing things that you already know. It is a waste of everyone’s time including your own, and that of the training provider and the employer. 

The decision on whether the content is ‘too similar’ or not, depends on how much ‘new learning’ you will be doing. An apprenticeship aims to develop your abilities and teach you new skills. This means that there is patently no point in undertaking an apprenticeship if you already have a qualification that provided similar content. It might seem like a comfortable thing to do but it is unusual in the extreme to be able to get away with it. 

At times, it can feel unclear as subjects may seem similar, but actually have significant differences in content. For example, you can do an apprenticeship in marketing at the same level as your graphic design degree because there is considered to be enough scope for new learning. It may be a different story, however, if you were to propose taking an apprenticeship as a Creative Digital Design Professional.  

When you apply for an apprenticeship, the training provider will decide whether or not there are enough opportunities for new learning based on your previous qualifications. The training provider will do something called a ‘skills scan’ to assess what skills you already have; this helps them work out a trajectory for your apprenticeship and set appropriate goals. If they believe there is too much overlap with a previous qualification, your application may not be accepted, even though you have all of the other qualifications.

For more information, take a look at the reasons to start an apprenticeship.