Starting Work as an Apprentice
If you're in the 16-18 years age bracket and don't plan to continue education, you can either enter the workforce in a low paid, unskilled job or you can start working with an apprenticeship. Whatever your age is, you can also consider apprenticeships if you want to change work area but recognise you need to do some retraining too.
An apprenticeship is a way of gaining vocational training while working. Your earnings may be limited for a while, but after a fixed amount of time you can have both a qualification and access to far more attractive, better paid jobs. It's not so much low paid work, as payment while learning and working at the same time. You'll be getting the best of both worlds.
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The apprenticeships in England are run by the National Apprenticeship Service, which was set up by the government in 2008. The service is designed to see you through an apprenticeship from the moment you apply to the moment you qualify.
With over 200 types of Modern Apprenticeship now available in England, you can choose which sector you'd like to launch your career in. Employers range from small local companies to well-known, national companies such as British Gas, BMW and Orange. Currently, over 85,000 employers are offering apprenticeships in more than 130,000 locations.
In Scotland, the Apprenticeship and Training Job Board for Scotland oversees apprenticeships at a general level, but doesn't offer the same centralised online service. Likewise in Wales and Northern Ireland, apprenticeships come under the general careers service. Website details for these sites are provided at the end of this article.
How Does It Work?
Apprentices are employees who work alongside experience staff for several days a week, with (usually) one day per week studying. This is called 'day release' and you'd be working towards nationally recognised qualifications that actually carry some weight. You can apply providing you are living in England, are 16 years old or over, and you're not already in full-time education.
The Apprenticeships usually take from 1 to 4 years, depending on the qualification level. How well you take to it and perform will also make a difference. Whilst on the scheme, you will get a minimum salary of £2.50 per hour, although many apprentices earn more.
There are many types of apprenticeship and many of them have different entry requirements. When you think about which ones you wish to apply for, you need to be realistic about how well-suited you are, as there's a lot of competition for some of them.
Why is it Worth Doing?
There are significant benefits to doing an apprenticeship, particularly if you're in that 16-18 year age group and your alternative is unemployment. When comparing an apprenticeship to a low paid job or studying at college, consider the following:
- You'll be earning a salary from the very first day, working for a real employer in a genuine role. Your earnings may be limited for a while, but it's best to think of it not as low paid work, but as being paid to learn in the workplace and classroom. The average weekly wage is £170, while some earn as much as £210 per week.
- You'll earn more as you progress through the apprenticeships and your skills develop. Some employers will give you extra money for books or equipment needed for studying.
- Holidays will be paid and you'll be receiving the benefits due to an employee, not a student. You'll also receive other benefits that are due to employees, such as pension contributions, as well as subsidised canteen and leisure facilities (if those facilities are available at your place of employment).
- You'll be receiving training. There's little point in studying a subject but not being able to put it into practice in the workplace. Your knowledge will be growing as fast as your hands-on experience.
- You'll be gaining qualifications. Modern Apprenticeships lead you to NVQs or SNVQs - National Vocational Qualifications and the Scottish equivalent - and other recognised qualifications in the work area you choose. Other employers value these qualifications and will know immediately that you have gained a certain level of knowledge and skills.
- You'll be learning job-specific skills. Unlike purely classroom-based learning, you'll have the benefit of valuable work experience by the end and will be able to get better jobs - possibly with the employer who has apprenticed you. Employers prefer real experience, so this will make you a strong candidate. Research shows that apprentices earn more over their entire career than other employees with the same level of education - the difference can be over £100,000.
- You'll be supported during your training. Both the employer and the organisation providing your training have an interest in seeing you succeed. This means they can help you tackle the difficult times and encourage you further when all is going well.
- You can work through different levels of apprenticeship: the Intermediate, Advanced and Higher Apprenticeships. Many colleges and institutes of Higher Education recognise these qualifications and will help you access other qualifications, if this is what you're interested in doing.
Areas of Work
Here's the list of areas that Modern Apprenticeships are available in.
Agriculture, Horticulture and Animal Care. Agriculture, Animal Care, Environmental Conservation, Equine, Farrier, Fencing, Floristry, Game and Wildlife Management, Horticulture, Land-based Engineering, Trees and Timber, Veterinary Nursing.
Arts, Media and Publishing. Creative, Creative and Digital Media, Design, Games Testing, Information and Library Services, Photo Imaging for Staff Photographers.
Business, Administration and Law. Accounting, Advising on Financial Products, Business and Administration, Contact Centres, Customer Service, Marketing and Communications, Payroll, Providing Financial Services, Sales and Telesales, Team Leading and Management.
Construction, Planning and the Built Environment. Construction, Electrical and Electronic Servicing, Electro-technical, Heating, Ventilating, Air Conditioning and Refrigeration, Plumbing, Set crafts, Surveying.
Education and Training. Learning and Development, Support Teaching and Learning in Schools.
Engineering and Manufacturing Technologies. Building Products Occupations, Building Services Engineering Technicians, Ceramics Manufacturing, Coating Operations, Driving Goods Vehicles, Engineering, Engineering Construction, Engineering Technology, Extractive and Mineral Processing Operations, Food Manufacture, Furniture, Furnishings and Interiors Manufacturing Industry, Gas Industry, Glass Industry Occupations, Industrial Applications, Laboratory Technicians, Marine Industry, Metal Processing, Nuclear Decommissioning, Paper and Board Manufacturing, Passenger Carrying Vehicle Driving: Bus and Coach, Polymer Processing Operations, Power Industry, Print and Printed Packaging, Process Technology, Rail Transport Engineering, Rail Services, Retail Motor Industry: Roadside Assistance and Recovery, Retail Motor Industry: Vehicle Body and Paint Operations, Retail Motor Industry: Vehicle Fitting, Retail Motor Industry: Vehicle Maintenance and Repair, Retail Motor Industry: Vehicle Parts Operation, Sea Fishing, Signmaking, Specialised Process Operations (Nuclear), Sustainable Resource Management, Traffic Office, Transport Engineering and Maintenance, Water Industry.
Health, Public Services and Care. Children's Care, Learning and Development, Community Development, Dental Nursing, Emergency Fire Service Operations, Health and Social Care, Housing, Pharmacy Technicians and Assistants, Providing Security Services, Security Systems, Youth Work.
Information and Communication Technology. IT and Telecoms Professionals, IT Users, ICT Professionals.
Leisure, Travel and Tourism. Active Leisure and Learning, Aviation Operations on the Ground, Cabin Crew, Sporting Excellence, Travel Services.
Retail and Commercial Enterprise. Barbering, Beauty Therapy, Carry and Deliver Goods, Cleaning and Support Services, Facilities Management, Fashion and Textiles, Hairdressing, Hospitality and Catering, Logistics Operations Management, Mail Services, Nail Services, Property Services, Purchasing and Supply Management, Retail, Retail Motor Industry: Vehicle Sales, Spa Therapy, Warehousing and Storage.
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Levels of Apprenticeships
There are three levels of apprenticeship available. All lead to a relevant work-based qualification such as an NVQ/SNVQ at either Level 2, 3 or 4. They may also lead to Key Skills or Functional Skills qualifications. (Examples of Key Skills are problem solving, communication, new technologies or working in teams. Examples of Functional Skills are Maths and English.) There may be other specific qualifications relating to the occupation and industry.
Intermediate Level Apprenticeships will provide you with the skills you need for your chosen career, while providing you with a work-based learning qualification (providing you meet the required standards). These qualifications might be an NVQ/SNVQ Level 2, Key Skills or a more knowledge-based qualification such as a BTEC.
Once you complete an Intermediate Level Apprenticeship, you can apply for an Advanced Level Apprenticeship. These are also open to people who haven't done an Intermediate, but who have five GCSEs at grade C or above. The Advanced Level leads to an NVQ/SNVQ Level 3, Key Skills or knowledge-based qualification such as a BTEC.
If you complete an Advanced Level Apprenticeship, you are eligible to apply for a Higher Apprenticeship. These lead to an NVQ/SNVQ Level 4 or, possibly, a Foundation degree at a higher education institute.
- The National Apprenticeship Service provides details on apprenticeships within England.
- Not Going To Uni provides details of vacancies and courses in the UK and overseas.
- Apprenticeships in Scotland is the centralised Scottish site for apprenticeship, which is run by apprentices for apprentices.
- My World of Work is another website with details of Scottish apprenticeships.
- Careers Wales provides details of Welsh apprenticeships.
- Northern Irish apprenticeships covers apprenticeships in Northern Ireland.
How Do You Apply?
Apprenticeships are listed on a central site and that site has information and answers to all the questions you might want to ask. It includes listings of all the vacancies available.
First, you register on the site, entering your personal and contact details. You need to create a username and select a password. Once your registration has been confirmed, you will be linked through to your personal Home page. This is where you will access the site from now onwards.
You can now enter your areas of interest to search Apprenticeship vacancies. This means entering
- The occupation or job you're looking for.
- The employer, if you want to apply to a big name company.
- A keyword.
- A particular college or other learning provider.
- The geographical locations you're interested in.
You can save the results and browse them in your own time. Each listing will provide information about the employer, the job, the training on offer, the pay and, of course, the qualifications you'll be working towards. You can do a new search at any time and add the results to your home page.
Once you find an Apprenticeship you're interested in, you can apply online. The Service assures site users that the application process is secure, so you don't need to worry about your applications being accessed by people who shouldn't be seeing them. You can apply for as many vacancies as you like and save your forms, so you can refer back to them at any time.