Careers don't just begin with university. In fact, there are multiple ways you can enjoy a great career without having to go. Starting an apprenticeship is just one of the ways to open doors to multiple opportunities in your working life, from your first job right through to becoming a manager and further.

What is an apprenticeship?

Apprenticeships are employer and government creation led work based programmes designed for industry specific role.  They comprise on and off-the-job training leading to nationally recognised qualifications. The length of the programme varies depending on the course level and the experience you already have in your job role. Apprenticeships incorporate qualifications from Level 2 (GCSE equivalent) to Level 7 (Masters equivalent) and can take 1-4 years depending on the level:

  • Intermediate, Level 2
  • Advanced, Level 3
  • Higher, Level 4 and 5
  • Degree, Level 6 and 7

Apprenticeships are open to all ages over 16, whether you are just leaving school, have been working for years or are seeking to start a new career.  There is no restriction on the upper limit. You need to have been a resident in the EU for three years, not be in full time education and should be employed within a suitable job role for a minimum of 30 hours per week.

The minimum wage for apprentices aged 16-18 is currently £3.90 per hour.  The same applies if you’re 19 and over and in the first year of your apprenticeship, after that you are entitled to the National Minimum Wage.  The rate changes every April.  However many employers pay more than this and we encourage businesses to reward good performance through an increase in wages. If you are already employed your wage will not change.

As an apprentice you’ll:

  • work alongside experienced staff
  • gain job-specific skills
  • earn a wage and get holiday pay

You'll get nationally recognised qualifications and full support during your training. You will also be earning a wage while you learn, and will have access to a higher qualification at the end leading to better performance at work, improved personal development and career prospects.  You could work towards a degree, debt free!  Some Apprenticeship Standards have a qualification as part of the programme, whereas some are just about the skills and knowledge required within the End Point Assessment.

Apprenticeships using the new Standards are split in to 3 main areas:

  • On-Programme delivery – where an initial assessment is undertaken followed by on-programme training, including 20% off-the-job training and the achievement of the Functional Skills requirement.
  • Gateway - the point at which you, your employer and your on-programme training provider agree whether you meet the requirements of your Apprenticeship Standard and that you are ready to take your End-Point Assessments.
  • End-Point Assessment - The End-Point Assessment (EPA) is the final stage that you must go through before you can achieve your apprenticeship. The EPA is not a qualification, but an independent assessment of your standard of work and competence in your job role.  Assessments will be graded as fail/pass/merit/distinction. 

Functional Skills

Most apprenticeships require a certain level of English & Maths to be achieved before the End Point Assessment is undertaken.  Apprentices with recognised prior learning may be exempt for one or both subjects.  If they are not, they will have to achieve the required level by sitting the relevant Functional Skills exams and assessments for your apprenticeship.

  • For Maths, one exam incorporating a non-calculator and a calculator assessment. These will be sat as one assessment, albeit in two sections.
  • For English, one exam covering Writing skills, one exam covering Reading skills and 2 observed assessments. All exams and assessments must be taken at the same level.  The level 1 assessments are taking part in a formal and an informal discussion and the level 2 assessments are taking part in a formal discussion and delivering a presentation.

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