‘Earn while you learn’ has always been a popular option for young people when leaving school, and now with University fees quickly becoming more expensive, turning to apprenticeships is the best option for a lot of people. Apprenticeships are also ideal for those who spend the later years of school frustrated with schoolwork, as they’d rather be out working in the ‘real world’ in employment, learning skills and knowledge to help climb the career ladder.
Starting an apprenticeship is not only an option for school leavers but also for those already in employment who are looking for a new challenge and a different career path. Here, we take a look at the ins and outs of apprenticeships, so that you can have all the information you need before making a decision on whether this is the right path for you.
What’s it like to work as an apprentice?
As an apprentice you could be working in a variety of sectors, from business to horticulture, hair and beauty to electrical engineering. The are approximately 270 types of apprenticeships available in the UK and several industries.
Working as an apprentice means you have a real job, earning a real wage and you’ll be working at least 30 hours per week. You will work alongside experienced skilled colleagues who are there to support you and teach you the skills you need to progress in your chosen career. Your training will be given by a training organisation, within your workplace, on the job, or off-site at college, or via e-learning. This mix of theory and practical is for a lot of people the only way they can really enjoy learning and make a success of their career.
How long is an apprenticeship?
Apprenticeships can vary in length, but most do not have a set timescale. However, apprenticeships must be at least 12 months long.
The Benefits of doing an Apprenticeship
There are many benefits to doing an apprenticeship. Of course, the decision is a personal one, but some of the main benefits, and the reasons many people opt for an apprenticeship are listed below.
Earning a wage can be extremely important for many. An apprenticeship means you will earn The National Minimum Wage, which is £3.40 per hour for those aged 16 to 18, and for those aged 19 and over who are in their first year in an apprenticeship scheme.
Apprentices aged 18 to 20 are entitled to the NMW for their age, which is £5.55 per hour, and ages 21-24 are entitled to £6.95 per hour, whilst 25s and over earn £7.20 per hour.
Usually, as you become more skilled throughout your apprenticeship, many employers will increase you wage accordingly. Generally, apprentices take home an average of £170 per week.
There are also long term financial benefits to an apprenticeship. On average, apprentices earn potentially £77,000 more over their lifetime then other employees, and this figure could rise if you go on to completing an Advanced Level apprenticeship, making you more employable compared to those who have stayed in education as you have got the added benefit and desired skill of work experience.
Just like other employees, you will be entitled to annual leave. Apprentices get at least 20 days paid holiday each year, plus bank holidays.
Many people turn to apprenticeships as a way of avoiding mountains of debt as a result of a university degree. Employers pay your salary and support you in your training at the same time. For apprentices aged 16 to 18, the government covers all the fees involved, and if you’re 19 and over your employer may be expected to contribute towards any training costs.
The financial help and funding you’re eligible to get shall depend on your own circumstances, the type of apprenticeship, and of course your employer. Employers within the scheme shall work with you to try and support you and your individual needs.
For those aged 24 and over, and completing an advanced level or higher apprenticeship, you may be required to contribute towards your apprenticeship. This can be funded initially through an Advanced Learner Loan which you will be required to repay, or if you need help with travel, childcare and course related materials or trips than you can apply for an Advanced Learner Loan Bursary. For more information you can visit http://www.gov.uk/advanced-learning-loans/overview.
Most apprenticeships give you the opportunity to achieve nationally recognised qualifications. Your qualifications will be valid for any employer, enabling you to progress on to working for other companies and work your way up the career ladder taking your hard-earned skills with you.
Apprenticeships give you:
- A competencies qualification.
This qualification shows that you are fully competent in performing your job. You have the skills required to carry out your role to a good standard.
- A technical knowledge qualification
Showing you have the necessary knowledge and technical skills relevant to the industry you are working in.
- Key Skills.
For example, team-working, problem-solving, communication and using new technology)
- Functional Skills.
A good standard of literacy and numeracy.
Completing an apprenticeship means you have worked to at least one of the following levels:
- Intermediate-level apprenticeship (Level 2).
- Advanced-level apprenticeship (Level 3).
- Higher Apprenticeship (Levels 4 to 7).
- Degree Apprenticeship (Levels 6 and 7).
Now you have more of an idea of what an apprenticeship involves, and what it can offer you, you should be closer to making the decision of whether it is the right path for you to take.