This post recognises that we are not all professionally trained careers advisers. The Working Adviser membership is also made up of a large amount of teachers and academic support staff who have bravely taken on the mantle of careers support within their respective schools.
Apprenticeships have a long and historical tradition in the UK, but it was about 10 years ago that they were rebranded in their current format with participation increasing dramatically over the last 3 years in particular (the 2012/13 academic year saw over half a million apprentices starts in England alone). Despite all this, we hear so often that schools aren’t presenting Apprenticeships as a valid option to their students. So much has the recent focus been on university progression rates that Apprenticeships have been overlooked or viewed as the ‘poor cousin’. But you would be hard pressed to find a careers adviser who doesn’t think they provide the absolute best option for the right people.
We can only assume that some of the problem at least is lack of information. So let’s blast through a quick Q&A session to cover the basics of what Apprenticeships are and what they offer.
What are Apprenticeships?
Simply put, they are a way of combining practical job training with study (“earn while you learn”). Far from being restricted to traditional manual trades, Apprenticeships now cover over 1500 different job roles – from advertising to youth work and everything in between. Each and every Apprenticeship framework is developed in conjunction with employers and their relevant Sector Skills Council to ensure they are producing useful skills for industry.
How are they structured?
There are 3 types of Apprenticeship available, each at a different academic level; Intermediate (level 2), Advanced (level 3) or Higher (level 4) Depending on the framework of the Apprenticeship they can last anything between 1 and 4 years.
The key and consistent features of each Apprenticeship are that they contain the following:
- A nationally recognised vocational qualification
- A technical certificate, relevant to your Apprenticeship (ie BTEC or City & Guilds)
- Other professional qualifications as specified for the job
Intermediate and Advance Apprenticeships also include Functional Skills learning (literacy, numeracy and ICT).
Typically, an Apprenticeship will involve 4 days per week in the workplace, where you will get to work alongside experienced employees, and 1 day per week ‘day release’ at a local college, where you will work towards your qualifications.
Are they paid?
Yes. Apprentices aged 16-18, and those who are 19 and in the first year of their Apprenticeship will get paid AT LEAST the ‘Apprenticeship National Minimum Wage’ of £2.73 per hour (as of October 2014). For those who have reached 19 years AND have completed the first year of their Apprenticeship the full National Minimum Wage for their age will apply. However, research has shown that many Apprentices are paid significantly more than this, with some earning over £400 per week.
Don’t forget – some of these initial figures may seem low but this is still a period of training. It also compares very favourable to Higher Education students who are typically now paying £9,000 per year in course fees alone.
Are there any age restrictions?
No. Contrary to popular belief, Apprenticeships are not for young people only. In fact, in the year 2012/13 a massive 45% of Apprenticeships when to the over 25s, proving they are also a great option for career changers and even graduates.
What happens when the apprenticeship ends?
At the end of the official Apprenticeship period, the employer may be able to offer a permanent position. Whilst this can be a likely outcome, there is no guarantee. Similarly, the apprentice may feel they want to move elsewhere. Options are plentiful – staying on with the employer, a new job, more vocational qualifications, even university. But, whichever path they chose, the Apprentice will have valuable work experience and qualifications to their name.
How can I find out more?
The best place to go for more information is the main Apprenticeships website. Not only does this include a long list of Q&As but it provides a useful Apprenticeship search function, that will allow people to search opportunities via industry and geographical location. Alternatively, sites like www.notgoingtouni.co.uk can also be useful in flagging up great Apprenticeship opportunities.