An apprenticeship is a work placement that provides paid practical on-the-job training, sometimes in combination with classroom-based study, to give people a first step into a career. Traditional apprenticeships involve learning a craft with a skilled practitioner, while modern apprenticeships typically permit school leavers to develop academic qualifications while being trained in a profession.
Apprenticeships usually take between one and four years to complete (depending on their level) and are available for a huge range of job roles and sectors.
What do apprentices do?
Apprentices do a proper job. They work in a business alongside experienced staff and complete real work; this could be anything from hairdressing to engineering, working in an office or even joining the Merchant Navy.
Working in an actual profession gives apprentices the opportunities to learn job-specific skills, as well as transferable competencies like time management or teamwork. Apprentices usually attend formal training, often at a college, university or training organisation, to gain a related qualification. Normally this would be for one day a week but sometimes this training is consolidated into a number of days over a shorter period.
An apprenticeship is a great opportunity to gain valuable work experience while you are still learning.
Who can be an apprentice?
In the UK, apprenticeships are available to anyone who is over 16 and not in full-time education. There are three levels of apprenticeship, with different levels of educational equivalence:
Intermediate – equivalent to 5 GCSE passes
Advanced – equivalent to 2 A-level passes
Higher – which can lead to NVQ level 4 and above, or a foundation degree
What are the benefits of doing an apprenticeship?
The main benefit of doing an apprenticeship is the opportunity to learn the skills needed for a career, but there also many other benefits:
For people who prefer to learn by doing, apprenticeships are a great way of acquiring professional qualifications in a way that works for them.
Apprenticeships lead to recognised qualifications – and qualifications lead to further opportunities. In fact, according to the National Careers Service, people with an advanced-level apprenticeship earn over £100,000 more during the course of the career than those who don’t.
Apprenticeships also provide the opportunity to learn actionable skills – apprentices don’t learn how to do things theoretically, they practice actually doing them.
Apprentices earn real money while they are learning – they even get paid holidays. Since most apprentices don’t have to pay to do an apprenticeship, they don’t rack up debt paying for their qualifications (although in the UK, apprentices over 24 years old may need to contribute to their training costs).
Completing an apprenticeship shows future employers that the apprentice can be trusted to show up and do the work. They know what is involved in going to work every day and have shown that commitment.
Knowing the right people can be a huge boost for a career – and apprenticeships provide the opportunity to start building a network straight away.
How to get the most out of an apprenticeship
The more you put into your apprenticeship, the more you will get out of it. Employers know that an apprentice is there to learn, which gives you the chance to ask lots of questions, try new things, meet new people and see things that interest you. Speaking up and asking for those opportunities is really important.
Where can I look for a suitable apprenticeship?
In the UK, thousands of apprenticeships are advertised on the National Apprentice Portal. In the US, the equivalent is this web page from the US Department of Labor. Both can be searched via keyword (e.g. job role, occupation or level of apprenticeship) or location.
Also don't forget to check out the jobs board on this site! We often have apprenticeship opportunities that you can apply for.
What happens at the end of your apprenticeship?
Once the apprenticeship ends, there is no obligation on either the employer or the apprentice to continue the working relationship. This means that the employer doesn’t have to offer the apprentice a permanent job, and if one is offered, the apprentice doesn’t have to accept it.
Of course, many apprentices do join their employer on a more permanent basis. Other apprentices choose to continue their studies, or seek alternative employment opportunities. In both instances apprentices follow the usual application processes.