Apprenticeships are an increasingly popular form of vocational training for individuals of all ages in the UK. They offer a variety of benefits, such as the opportunity to gain practical skills, earn while you learn, and receive a recognised qualification when complete. But, it begs the question, “Do I need work experience to do an apprenticeship?”.
We hear this question quite often here at Employing an Apprentice so we thought it would be a great opportunity to set things straight. As many apprenticeships are undertaken by school leavers as an alternative to college or university, we recognise that applying for an apprenticeship may be a completely new experience for some. So, we’re here to help.
This blog will explore the different types of apprenticeships, discuss common entry requirements, and answer the age-old question about work experience so you can begin applying for your chosen apprenticeships right away.
Types of Apprenticeships
We’ll begin by clarifying the apprenticeship system in the UK. There are 4 different types of apprenticeships available covering over 500 distinct varieties. Each apprenticeship has been given a specific level, which corresponds to the standard of knowledge, skills, and behaviours you develop during the apprenticeship. These levels are:
The UK education system goes from Level 1 to Level 8, with Level 1 being low GCSE grades and Level 8 being a PhD, which is the highest level that a University can bestow. The different types of apprenticeships cater to individuals with different educational backgrounds and levels of experience. Therefore, some apprenticeships may require work experience, while others will not.
Let’s look at that in more detail.
There are some general requirements that applicants must meet in order to be able to do an apprenticeship. These include:
- being over 16 years old with the right to work in the UK
- a certain number of GCSEs, such as English and Maths
- not being in full-time education
There are a number of sectors where work experience may be preferred, such as engineering or IT. These industries rely on a strong set of technical skills which can only be acquired through higher education or work experience. Similarly, higher-level apprenticeships may ask you to have completed the previous level apprenticeship before applying. For example, an employer may decide you cannot begin the Level 4 apprenticeship in Animal Training until you have completed the Level 2 Animal Care Assistant apprenticeship.
Nevertheless, while work experience may be advantageous in certain sectors, it’s not always a mandatory requirement.
Dispelling the Myth: “No Experience, No Apprenticeship”
It’s a common misconception that apprenticeships are only available to those who have prior work experience. On the contrary, apprenticeships are most commonly designed for entry-level positions, providing both on-the-job and off-the-job training throughout. Furthermore, you’ll have a mentor who can guide you and offer advice when you need it. This is extremely important for those who may not have had any work experience in the past. It means that you can begin a job through an apprenticeship and learn the skills and knowledge you need to do it as you go.
Having work experience is a great way to show an employer some of the skills you already possess. Apprenticeships can also be competitive, so the more you can stand out, the better. Suppose you have work experience in a similar industry to the apprenticeship you are applying for. In that case, you can show the employer that you already understand some of the processes or tasks you will be doing. If your experience isn’t related, it’s still a great way to demonstrate your ‘soft skills’, such as teamwork, communication, timekeeping, and leadership.
Alternative Pathways to Apprenticeships
That being said, work experience is not the only way to demonstrate your skills to an employer. You may feel like you don’t have any work experience, but this may not be the case. Have you ever taken part in a team sport? Or perhaps you did some volunteering while at school? Any extra-curricular activities you did in the past will have helped you develop some of the critical skills you will need during your apprenticeship. These skills should be highlighted on your application to demonstrate your potential and eagerness to learn. For this reason, not having any work experience should never be a reason not to start an apprenticeship.
In summary, while work experience may be necessary for some apprenticeships, it’s certainly not a strict requirement for all. Therefore, don’t be put off from applying if you feel like you lack the necessary work experience. We recommend doing your research thoroughly, exploring the different apprenticeship opportunities that are available, and the alternative pathways you can follow to gain entry into these programmes.
For further information on apprenticeships, check out our wealth of resources, including:
Explore our blogs section for more relevant posts on various topics related to apprenticeships. When you’re ready to begin searching for an apprenticeship, head over to our apprenticeship jobs board for all the latest opportunities in your area.
Finally, feel free to get in touch with our team if you have any questions. And don’t forget to sign up for our newsletter below for the latest news and opportunities from Employing an Apprentice.