In our opinion, university gets talked about wayyy too much when you’re considering your post-16 options. So allow us to shine a light on an equally valid choice. Read on as we explain all you need to know about apprenticeships, including answers to questions like what’s an apprenticeship how long does an apprenticeship last and more.

A young man is giving a presentation about apprenticeships. This is a wide-angle image.

What’s an apprenticeship?

Essentially, an apprenticeship is a way of learning and training on-the-job whilst getting paid a (small) wage. It’s really killing two birds with one stone because as well as gaining work experience, you’ll usually have the opportunity to go to college and study your chosen profession. Plus, all apprenticeships end in a qualification. That way you’ll be covering a kind-of degree and apprenticeship all in one neat bundle.

Who can do an apprenticeship?

In England, anyone over 16 and not in full time education can do an apprenticeship. Apprenticeships are also available in Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland, but the details may differ. We’d recommend checking each country’s website via the links at the end of this article for more information.

How much will I get paid?

We’re gonna be brutally honest. People don’t exactly get into apprenticeships for the money. But the good news is that by law all apprentices under 19 must be paid a minimum apprenticeship wage. Beyond that, everyone over 19 or not in the first year of a level 2 or 3 apprenticeship should get the National Minimum Wage for their age. You can find out more about the specifics of what that means in our article on minimum wage here.

How many hours a week do I need to commit?

Between 30 and 40 hours of college time and working hours each week. So basically the same hours and days a week as a full-time job. That’s why you should never make the mistake of thinking an apprenticeship is a part-time thing. It’s worth mentioning that some people do manage to work part time in things like bar jobs alongside their apprenticeships to keep the cash coming in. But if that’s the path you take then, unless you’re superhuman, you’ll be relying on Red Bull to keep you awake in meetings. So it’s not really a sustainable option for most.

How long does an apprenticeship last?

Apprenticeships have to be at least 12 months long. But they could last as long as 24 months or even take up to four years to complete depending on the level of qualification you’re gonna get.

What kind of qualification will I get?

Important reminder – All apprenticeships lead to a qualification (might be a good fact to mention when you bring up the topic with your parental figures)

There are three different levels – intermediate apprenticeships, advanced apprenticeships and higher apprenticeships (equivalent to a degree). You can find out more about the different qualifications available on the apprenticeships website.

What kind of apprenticeships are on offer?

There are honestly too many different types of apprenticeship for us to list right now. So we’ll just say that they range from restaurants to web design. It’s also worth noting that while large companies tend to offer big apprenticeship schemes – for example British Gas – smaller organisations are also starting to take on apprentices.

This is because apprenticeships are an increasingly popular option with employers. Hence, more are becoming available. But this doesn’t mean that there’s suddenly as many apprenticeships as there are unis.

How to find an apprenticeship

Finding an apprenticeship can still be very frustrating because there’s a lot of competition. So all we can say is prepare to not get your first choice. 

If you’re interested it’s important to get started on the search early. The apprenticeships website is the best place to find an apprenticeship, head there to see what’s currently available.

What makes a good apprenticeship?

A good apprenticeship should offer you the following:

  • Good support. This includes a manager you can talk to about any issues you’re having
  • A clear framework of what it entails – what are you going to learn? What’s expected of you?
  • Time to study. You have to know that you’ll be able to manage your daily workload and study commitments
  • Clear communication and an answer to ‘how long does the apprenticeship last’

Do I get the same rights as other employees – like maternity leave and sick leave?

Apprentices get the same working rights and conditions as everyone else. If you wanna learn more, you can find out about maternity leave here, paternity pay here and sick leave here.

Does an apprenticeship guarantee me a job?

A percentage of apprentices are taken on by their employers. But doing an apprenticeship doesn’t mean the company has to take you on. And even if they don’t, you’ll go on to find work elsewhere. Especially with all those employability skills you’ve accumulated. 

Find out more about apprenticeships in Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland here. Not sure an apprenticeship is for you? Take a look at our ‘what qualification’ resources here and our article on what to do after GCSEs here.

Next Steps

By Nishika Melwani

Updated on 30-Apr-2022