Apprenticeships have been around for years. Literally, hundreds of years. While they can be traced all the way back to the medieval ages, the first national apprenticeship system of training was introduced in 1563! So, without boring you too much with the entire history of apprenticeships, it’s safe to say they’ve been around for a long time. 

However, being an apprentice in the middle ages would be very different from what it's like now. With the introduction of new technologies and industries, you can now become an apprentice in nearly any industry and the list just keeps growing. The biggest appeal that apprenticeships have over other forms of further and higher education is that they offer a ‘learn on the job’ format. This means that you can earn a qualification, whilst working in the role you are studying for. In a time when most employers seem to demand work experience in exchange for work experience, apprenticeships can offer a meaningful start to your career.

Choosing to do an apprenticeship

When it comes to choosing what to do after school, knowledge is power. Making sure that you’re aware of all the options available to you are essential in working out what might suit you best. It can be tough to know where to start when trying to decide whether or not to do an apprenticeship. To get started, there are a few things you must do:

  • Do your research - make sure that you understand how apprenticeships work.
  • What are your career goals? This will not only help you to work out if an apprenticeship is right for you, but also to choose one if you do decide to go for it!
  • Consider the alternatives - make sure you have made yourself aware of all the different options so you can compare them to each other.
  • Explore different apprenticeships - look through the Fledglink jobs board to see what kinds of apprenticeships interest you.

Understanding levels of apprenticeships

Apprenticeships are available at a number of different levels that span from level 2 to level 7. This can be pretty confusing to understand and work out which level you would need to start with. Each level of apprenticeship has different entry requirements so the kind of qualifications you already have depends on what level of apprenticeship you can start at. In some roles, you can also work your way through the levels just as you might with other qualification systems and you can even progress onto other further education courses like university undergraduate and postgraduate degrees.

Level 2: Intermediate apprenticeships (5 GSCEs)

Level 2 apprenticeships are a great alternative for 16-year-olds who might not feel like school is working for them. This type of apprenticeship will give you two qualifications that are usually equivalent to five GSCE passes. Typically, level 2 apprenticeships take 12-18 months to complete.

Typical entry requirements for a level 2 apprenticeship are two or more GSCEs, though some employers won’t ask for any qualifications and instead ask about any previous experience in the industry. If you don’t have any Maths and English qualifications, you may also be asked to complete a basic numeracy and literacy test to check that the apprenticeship is right for you.

Level 3: Advanced apprenticeships (2 A-levels)

Level 3 apprenticeships are ideal if you are looking for an alternative to A-levels/college and want to get into work but still gain some extra qualifications. The entry requirements for this level apprenticeship are slightly higher - typically, employers would ask for at least 5 GCSE passes but if you have relevant experience, they may take you on with less than that. 

If a level 3 apprenticeship sounds like something that might suit you, we have a guide that helps you compare the pros and cons of level 3 apprenticeships against A-levels to help you make the right decision for yourself.

Level 4+: Higher apprenticeships (HND/Foundational degree)

These types of apprenticeships are more for the 18+ age range because they generally require some higher-level qualifications (i.e. A levels) but anyone over the age of 16 can complete one. They sit snugly between advanced apprenticeships and degree apprenticeships as a kind of ‘stepping stone’ between the two, though you can get onto any kind of apprenticeship if you reach the requirements in the form of alternative qualifications.

These can take between one to five years to complete and entry requirements are a little higher than the previous levels. Higher apprenticeships tend to ask for at least five GCSEs grade A*-C (9 - 4 in the new system) including Maths and English AND some level 3 qualifications which could be A-levels, NVQs or BTECs. Generally, companies will also you to have studied subjects related to the apprenticeship or have relevant previous experience.

Level 5 - 7: Degree apprenticeships (University degree)

These level apprenticeships mean you get a degree after completing them and act as an alternative to university. One of the main factors that make level 5-7 apprenticeships so appealing is that you will be earning a salary whilst still working towards a degree. Obtaining a degree through an apprenticeship will also mean you won’t have to pay tuition fees which means all the money you earn is yours to keep. 

As with all after-school options, there are still pros and cons to this level apprenticeship. This Fledglink article weighs up the different factors involved in apprenticeships and university to help you discover the best option for yourself.

Apprenticeship wages and salaries

If you are under the age of 19 OR aged over 19 but in your first year of an apprenticeship, you are entitled to the National Minimum Wage for apprentices. Unfortunately, that means you can be paid a minimum of  £3.90 per hour (so maybe put those sports car dreams on hold for now). However, this IS the minimum wage and depending on what type of work you are doing, what level of apprenticeship you are in and the company, you may be paid slightly more.

You do get paid for your training hours in addition to your working hours. Essentially, this means that if you have a day out of the office to go into college to study, you will still be paid for that time. 

In terms of holidays, there’ll no longer be a nice big six-week chunk in the middle of summer. Just like in most ‘normal’ jobs, apprentices are entitled to a minimum of 20 days of paid annual leave, plus bank holidays, though some companies offer more.

Employee benefits are also something to watch out for when choosing an apprenticeship. Some companies are able to provide you with employee benefits! This changes drastically between each company and range from free breakfast buffets to gym discounts. Whilst they’re not usually the ‘make or break’ of a role, employee benefits are definitely something to consider when you’re searching. 

Read our article about the apprenticeship wage to learn more.

Applying to apprenticeships

Deciding an apprenticeship is the best option for you can be an empowering moment. But the work doesn’t stop there. Now begins the application process. Much like with jobs, apprenticeships require you to complete an application process, which usually involves creating or updating your CV, writing a cover letter, filling out an application form and attending an interview before being offered the apprenticeship role. Luckily for you, this Fledglink article contains everything you need to know for applying to apprenticeships.

Often, if you’re applying to an apprenticeship straight out of education, the application process can be quite daunting. Apprenticeship interviews are conducted very similarly to job interviews and if it’s your first time, you might want to know a few tips before starting. Check out Fledglink’s 10 job interview tips for school leavers to find out more.

Where to find apprenticeships

So, you've decided an apprenticeship is what you want to do and you're ready to take the plunge! But where to begin? The Fledglink app of course! If you haven't already downloaded it,, why ever not? You can find tonnes of exciting apprenticeships at varying levels on the jobs board. The best way to take advantage of the app's features is to get personalising! Fill in your digital CV with what sectors you're interested in, what level of apprenticeship you are looking for etc. Make sure you've got the 'Exploring Apprenticeships' channel on the Discovery Feed switched on! That way, you're less likely to miss out on the amazing opportunities that come to the app.

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