What Are Modern Apprenticeships?

Anonymous - Posted: 13th of April 2011

When it comes time to leave school, people often assume their options for the future are either further education or going straight into work. Both options come with their own pros and cons and each will prove ideal for some school leavers, but if you’re tempted by both then you might be interested in a combination of the two: an apprenticeship.  

Modern apprenticeships are all about mixing on-the-job training with classroom learning to create well-rounded, highly-skilled employees who have qualifications relevant to their trade as well as real life experience in the industry. According to the Department for Education, over 100,000 employers offer them, and there are more than 280 different types of apprenticeships available in more than 1,500 job roles. The number of people starting an apprenticeship has increased hugely in the last decade, and in 2012/3 495.100 people started an apprenticeship.

Apprenticeships have been around for a long time, having existed in some form as early on as the 13th Century. Famous apprentices include Manchester United manager Alex Ferguson and celebrity chef Jamie Oliver. Apprenticeships are open to anyone aged 16 and above, with the only condition being that you must not be in full-time education. Those over the age of 25 can apply but they may find that their funding needs to come from their employer, rather than the government. Individual apprenticeship courses will each have their own entry requirements depending on the subject and level, but generally speaking they are for everyone.   

Apprenticeships: The Basics
 

So how does an apprenticeship actually work? Well, as an apprentice, in whatever field you choose you’ll be splitting your time between working for a real employer in a real life business and studying for a work-based qualification in a local college or training organisation. Some apprentices go to college on a day release basis, while others go off to train in blocks of two or three days. During your study time you’ll meet apprentices from the same or similar industries to your own and you’ll be able to share your experience and insight with them as they share theirs with you.  

The actual amount of time you’ll spend in the workplace will depend on your employer, what their company does and the business demands of that company. As an apprentice you’ll be expected to work at least 16 hours a week, but most apprentices work a lot more than this and your job could see you working more than 30 hours a week. For example, as a cabin crew apprentice with an airline, your working hours would depend on the flight paths you’re assigned to and could be quite unsociable.
 

Why Do An Apprenticeship?
 

Earning a wage is important, and apprentices must be paid at least £2.65 an hour (rising to £2.68 in October 2013) by their employer. Employers are funded by the government to take on apprentices and you could earn a lot more than the minimum wage depending on what job you have and at what level. As a paid employee you’ll be eligible for other benefits such as holiday entitlement and sickness pay too. Department for Education figures suggest that those with a Level 2 Apprenticeship earn around £73,000 more over their lifetime, on average, than those with a Level 2 qualification or below; and those with an Advanced Apprenticeship earn around £105,000 more.  

Apprenticeships are a great way to learn a trade because you’ll be immersing yourself in your chosen industry in a real workplace, dealing with the day-to-day jobs that need doing. You’ll benefit from the experience of your colleagues, who could have years of industry experience and knowledge to impart to you. They’re also great because you get to put into practice the theoretical and academic things you learn on your college days. In this way, they’re suitable for either those who learn best from practical, hands-on work, or those who learn better when someone explains the job and how it is done. Whichever category you fall into, you’ll have the support of your employer who will help you with any difficulties you might have as well as answering your questions and tracking your progress.  

Is It Just For Plumbers?
 

NO! Apprenticeships are not solely about “getting a trade” - they range from plumbing to childcare, art & design to agriculture, and everything in between - so if you’re thinking about starting an apprenticeship there’s bound to be something to interest you. You can see what sorts of courses are available on the jobs section of this site, if you register for the site we can even show you the opportunities that are just right for you.

The work you do on one apprenticeship can be massively different from that of another apprentice. The work often involves supporting fully qualified staff, such as mucking out stables on an equine apprenticeship or providing chair-side support on a dental apprenticeship. 
By the time you finish your apprenticeship you’ll be in a great position to find employment, with between 12 months and four years’ worth of on-the-job experience, as well as the most relevant work-based qualifications for your sector. Employers will see that you are a hard-working and dedicated person who isn’t afraid to start from the bottom and strive to work themselves up the ladder.  

What job you do then is up to you, but apprentices can go on to become everything from self-employed plumbers to child-minders. There is a range of apprenticeships in everything from engineering to Search Engine Optimisation. It all depends on how far you want to take your apprenticeship and how hard you work. Salaries for successful apprentices are as varied as the job roles they typically go on to, but the key thing to understand is that by earning a qualification with your apprenticeship you will earn a lot more than you would if you simply took an entry level position.  


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