Apprenticeships are not only for school leavers. An adult apprenticeship can open up new career opportunities for adults who are looking to enter the workplace, change careers or gain a promotion.
In this article, we'll cover why to consider an adult apprenticeship, requirements, what they might involve, and tips for finding good opportunities.
An adult apprenticeship may be a consideration if you did not undertake higher education or an apprenticeship in your teens or early twenties, and now wish to study for a qualification.
An apprenticeship may also be suitable if you wish to retrain and start on a different career path.
An adult apprenticeship offers the opportunity to learn new skills, develop existing ones and obtain a professional qualification, while receiving remuneration for your efforts.
The apprenticeship will be a balance of practical work and written study, which will be highly relevant for your chosen profession.
Many sectors offer adult internships in the UK. Below is a list to demonstrate the range of opportunities on offer across all apprenticeship levels.
Agriculture, Environmental and Animal Care – Animal care and welfare assistant; arborist; crop technician; equine groom; forest operative; land-based service engineer; landscape/horticulture supervisor; pest control technician; veterinary nurse.
Business and Administration – Associate project manager; business administrator; dental practice manager; HR consultant; learning and development consultant; public service operational delivery officer; recruitment consultant; regulatory compliance officer; library, information and archive services assistant.
Care Services – Adult care worker; children, young people & families practitioner/manager; social worker.
Catering and Hospitality – Baker; butcher; chef de partie; commis chef; hospitality team member/supervisor/manager; maritime caterer; (senior) production chef.
Construction – Advanced carpentry and joinery; bricklayer; chartered surveyor (degree); civil engineer (degree); electrician; gas engineering; painter and decorator; plasterer; plumbing and domestic heating technician; scaffolder; structural steelwork fabricator; wall and floor tiler.
Creative and Design – Assistant technical director (visual effects); bespoke tailor and cutter; broadcast production assistant; creative venue technician; junior 2D artist (visual effects); junior content producer; junior journalist; live event technician; publishing assistant; watchmaker.
Digital – Cybersecurity technical professional; data analyst; data scientist (degree); digital and technology solutions professional; infrastructure technician; network engineer; unified communications technician; software developer; software tester.
Education and Childcare – Academic professional; teacher; teaching assistant.
Engineering and Manufacturing – Aerospace engineer (degree); bicycle mechanic; boatbuilder; brewer; bus and coach engineering technician; electrical power networks engineer; fashion and textiles pattern cutter; heavy vehicle service and maintenance technician; packaging professional; papermaker; product design and development engineer; rail & rail systems engineer; road transport engineering manager; sewing machinist; textile manufacturing operative; welding.
Hair and Beauty – Barber; beauty and makeup consultant; beauty therapist; hair professional; nail services technician.
Health and Science – Ambulance support worker; clinical trials specialist; dental nurse or technician; healthcare support worker; laboratory scientist; midwife; nursing associate; occupational therapist; optical assistant; outdoor activity instructor; paramedic; personal trainer; physiotherapist; podiatrist.
Legal, Finance and Accounting – Accountancy/taxation professional; actuary; assistant accountant; chartered legal executive; compliance/risk officer; financial adviser; insurance practitioner; internal audit practitioner; investment operations specialist; mortgage adviser; paralegal; payroll administrator; professional economist; relationship manager (banking); workplace pensions (administrator or consultant); solicitor.
Protective Services – business fire safety advisor; custody & detention officer; HM Forces serviceperson (public services); intelligence analyst; operational firefighter; police community support officer; police constable (degree); safety, health and environment technician.
Sales, Marketing and Procurement – Advertising and media executive; commercial procurement and supply; customer service practitioner; digital marketer; event assistant; IT technical salesperson; junior estate agent; marketing manager or executive; retail manager; sales executive; sales and telesales; travel consultant.
Transport and Logistics – Aviation operations manager; cabin crew member; large goods vehicle (LGV) driver; marina and boatyard operative; marine pilot; maritime operations officer; passenger transport driver - bus, coach, train and tram; rail infrastructure operator; transport planning technician; waste resource operative; workboat crew member.
You can find an A-Z of Apprenticeships on the gov.uk 'Guide to Apprenticeships' webpage.
All apprenticeship programmes will contain on- and off-the-job training. Whilst in the role, you will learn through tackling new situations and challenges alongside experienced staff.
An apprentice will work at least 30 hours a week, including any training undertaken. The time given for study directly related to your role will be the equivalent of one day per week.
Your training provider (whether this is a college, university or an independent provider) will assess your progress towards the qualification, often through periodic exams or coursework pieces.
Upon starting the apprenticeship, you will receive an induction programme and a detailed training plan. There will be the opportunity to put your learning from this training into practice.
Displaying your new skills may well comprise a series of practical exams necessary to achieve your qualification. You will also be supported with regular progress reviews and mentoring throughout the apprenticeship.
An adult apprenticeship should not be considered an easier option than taking a university course.
Even though some apprenticeships will enable you to qualify in a short time frame of around a year, higher-level apprenticeships can take up to five years. The duration may also vary depending on sector, as well as level.
Apprenticeships are funded by both the government and your employer. They are also aided through the apprenticeship levy, a kind of tax on employers with a large number of employees.
Despite this central funding, completing an apprenticeship will likely require a portion of self-funding.
This is because the remuneration received whilst undertaking an adult apprenticeship will likely be lower than your previous working wage. Extra funds may, therefore, be needed to cover existing established living costs.
In some instances, as an adult learner, you may be required to contribute towards the cost of your training. This can be aided through an Advanced Learner Loan. Eligibility for this loan does not depend on income and credit checks are not required.
Whether you qualify will depend upon your course, college or training provider, your age, and your nationality or residency status. If you are unsure, ask your prospective training provider if your course is eligible.
Money may also be available through the Advanced Learner Loan Bursary Fund, to cover expenses such as childcare, course-related travel, or materials and equipment. Some formal apprenticeships will render you ineligible for the Adult Learner Loan Bursary Fund, so be sure to check with your training provider and/or employer.
The wage will differ depending on the sector but, as a minimum, you will be entitled to the National Living Wage. Some apprenticeships will pay above this wage, particularly in areas with high living costs, such as London.
To attract the best candidates, apprenticeship providers need to offer competitive pay and incentives for learners to choose their courses. Some will provide a bonus or raise for each year completed.
If you already hold a degree qualification, you can apply for an apprenticeship but you will likely not qualify for government funding.
Although taking on an apprenticeship offers a clearer path to securing a job, bear in mind there is no guarantee that apprentices will be kept on with the company upon completion of their apprenticeship.
Your employer has, however, invested time and money into your training and professional development and they will likely wish to keep you on and reap the benefits.
The odds of retention will depend upon performance, integration and capacity and will differ from scheme to scheme, so be sure to research this component of any programme that interests you.
Apprentices that are retained will enjoy marked salary increases upon completion of their programme.
Even if the circumstances of your apprenticeship provider change and they can no longer absorb the entire apprentice cohort into the company, you will have developed a set of highly practical skills that will serve you well when seeking a new employer.
Apprenticeships can be extremely challenging, since they require balancing the commitment of undertaking study while working.
This is made increasingly demanding by the external responsibilities that adult learners must square with any new undertaking; responsibilities that were not a consideration in their teens.
The study quotient of an apprenticeship will likely require out-of-hours home study, with evenings dedicated to completing the written element of the course.
The number of hours per week dedicated to education on the apprenticeship will vary, but approximately a fifth of your time is likely to be spent on learning at a college, university or training provider.
Not all adult apprenticeships require qualifications, but most Intermediate (Level 2) Apprenticeships (equivalent to five GSCEs) ask for a minimum of two A to C GCSE grades.
If these are not held in English or Maths, applicants will be asked to complete literacy and numeracy tests. Studying for these English and Maths qualifications will then form part of the apprenticeship programme.
For an Advanced (Level 3) Apprenticeship (equivalent to two A-Levels), grades A to C in Maths, English and Science at GCSE are a prerequisite. There may be flexibility with these requirements if an Intermediate Apprenticeship has already been completed.
To complete a Higher (Level 4 to 7) Apprenticeship, the requirements are five GCSE grades and additional Level 3 qualifications such as A-Levels, BTEC or NVQ. This qualification will be equivalent to a foundation degree or higher.
For the Degree-Level Apprenticeships (Level 6 & 7), requirements will likely be the same as those for university entry.
Requirements and relevance of past qualifications to the apprenticeship programme will depend on the individual employer.
Adult apprenticeships span all levels, so you will be able to find a qualification that suits you.
It also provides advice on application writing and preparing for your apprenticeship interview.
Some employers will also advertise apprenticeship vacancies on their websites, so it's worth checking individual sites, particularly if you have an employer in mind.
Modern apprenticeships offer opportunities across multiple industries, at levels to suit those with different educational backgrounds.
If you are an adult wanting to upskill, discover a new industry or study for a new qualification – while gaining vital on-the-job training – an adult apprenticeship could be for you.