Apprenticeships: What Parents Need to Know
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Young people’s priorities have changed since Covid-19, with 75% now considering an apprenticeship to future-proof their career.
The opportunity to bypass £45,000 of student debt and get a paid job straight out of school or college has become too good to pass up.
So the more you know about apprenticeships, the better.
Here at RateMyApprenticeship.co.uk, we’re committed to encouraging young people to pursue the right career path for them, whether that starts with university or an apprenticeship.
We’ve put together this no-nonsense guide to apprenticeships, so that you too can do everything within your power to help your child make an informed decision about their future.
If you’ve got a burning question that needs answering, jump ahead to…
What actually is an apprenticeship?
In a nutshell, an apprenticeship is a real job with a real wage, primarily designed for young people between the ages of 16-25.
Combining on-the-job training with study, an apprenticeship is a brilliant way for young people to gain an insight into the world of work and come out with industry-recognised qualifications.
Apprenticeships have come a long way since the days of greasy overalled, spanner-wielding tradesmen. No longer confined to vocational trades, there are up to 20,000 apprenticeship vacancies available at any one time across the UK.
“An apprenticeship is an incredible opportunity for your child to qualify in a profession without being weighed down by huge student debt. At 21, my daughter is almost a fully-qualified Chartered Tax Advisor, whilst most of her friends have only just finished their degrees.” Kerry Viljoen, Parent of a Higher Apprentice at Mazars
High-quality apprenticeships can be found in a huge variety of roles and industries, including:
Whether your child wants a household name on their CV or they’re keen to make a bigger impact in a smaller team, there are plenty of companies offering exciting opportunities to school and college leavers.
RateMyApprenticeship.co.uk works closely with 100 of the best apprenticeship employers in the country, including Aldi, EY, IBM, Vodafone and the NHS. Check out the vast range of opportunities available for yourself on our jobs board below…
Who can apply for an apprenticeship?
Apprenticeships are open to anyone who is:
- Aged 16 or over by the end of the school summer holidays
- Living in the UK
- Not in full-time education
If your child doesn’t feel ready to take on an apprenticeship just yet, a traineeship is a short, flexible programme designed to help school leavers gain the skills they need to secure an apprenticeship.
How do apprenticeships work?
An apprentice spends 80% of their time working for an employer, and the rest of their time working towards professional qualifications.
These qualifications can include:
- Functional skills: GCSE level qualifications in English, Mathematics and ICT
- National Vocational Qualifications (NVQs): from level 2 (equal to five GCSEs) up to level 5 (postgraduate degree level)
- Technical certificates: BTECs, City and Guild Progression Awards etc.
- Academic qualifications: Higher National Certificate (HNC), Higher National Diploma (HND) foundation degree or the equivalent of a Bachelor’s degree
An apprentice will typically spend ONE day a week studying in college or with a training provider. The other FOUR days are spent working alongside experienced professionals, developing their industry knowledge and soft skills on the job.
In some cases, apprentices may be required to work on a full-time basis for consecutive weeks, with extended breaks or ‘block releases’ to attend college.
If the scheme is with a small or medium-sized company (SME), they will likely send the apprentice to a local college to earn their qualifications. Larger companies will either keep their training in-house or use an external training provider.
Apprenticeships can last anywhere from one to six years depending on the level the apprentice is studying at.
They have been divided into FOUR tiers to suit different ages and abilities: intermediate, advanced, higher and degree. The level of apprenticeship that students can apply for all depends on what qualifications and experience they already have.
Confused by what level your child should be applying to? Read on...
What do the different levels mean?
Each apprenticeship level equates to a different educational level, with degree apprenticeships offering 18 to 19-year-old school leavers a chance to get a paid-for bachelor’s or master’s degree whilst they work.
Over 16 and not in full-time education
3 GCSE passes or equivalent (e.g. intermediate apprenticeship)
4, 5, 6 & 7
Foundation degree and above
5 GCSE passes plus relevant Level 3 qualifications (e.g. A-Levels, BTEC National or a Level 3 NVQ)
6 & 7
Bachelor’s or master’s degree
3 A-Levels or equivalent
Further reading for parents...
Apprenticeships are co-funded by the government and the employer, providing apprentices with a debt-free route into their chosen career.
This is possible because of the apprenticeship levy. Introduced by the government in April 2017 to replace all taxpayer funding of apprenticeships, the levy is designed to encourage more employers to hire apprentices.
Any business with a PAYE bill of over £3 million per annum is required to pay into the levy. This money goes into a pot, which employers have 24 months to claim back and spend on approved apprenticeship training and assessments.
If they don’t use it, they lose it. Any unclaimed levy payments are then up for grabs for other employers, or put towards funding apprenticeships for small, non-levy paying companies.
Small businesses that do not pay the levy (less than 50 employees) contribute just 5% towards the training, whilst the government covers the rest.
Guide your child towards the right career path with our interactive career tool.
How much do apprentices get paid?
As well as gaining priceless work experience, apprentices are paid a salary for the duration of the programme.
As with most jobs, the amount varies depending on the role, sector and level of study. However, all apprentices are paid the National Minimum Wage or above.
The current NMW for apprentices is £4.81 per hour. This applies to those who are:
- aged under 19
- aged 19 or over and in their first year of an apprenticeship
All other apprentices are entitled to the minimum wage for their age. The table below lays this all out quite nicely.
23 and over
21 to 22
18 to 20
Whilst this may not sound like a lot, many employers choose to pay their apprentices above the minimum wage. In fact, according to the thousands of reviews on RateMyApprenticeship.co.uk, the average salary for an apprentice is £16,184 a year.
Apprentices are entitled to the usual employee perks like paid holidays (a minimum of 20 days plus bank holidays), sick pay and enrolment on a pension scheme. For exclusive discounts on restaurants, gym memberships and transport, they can apply for an NUS Apprentice extra card.
Young care leavers (aged 16-24) will also receive a £1,000 bursary payment to support them in the first year of their apprenticeship.If you or your child are concerned that they are being underpaid, they should first broach the subject with their manager. To take further action, contact the Advisory, Conciliation and Arbitration Service (Acas) helpline.
“My daughter is able to get real experience, build her confidence, and network with professionals in the industry at a very young age. She’s at the forefront of technology with brilliant career prospects, paying for her own car and able to save for her first house since she was 18.” Lynne Craddock, Parent of a Data Science Degree Apprentice
How will it affect my Child Benefit?
“Your Child Benefit stops on 31st August on or after your child’s 16th birthday if they leave education or training. It continues if they stay in approved education or training, but you must tell the Child Benefit Office.” GOV.UK
If your child leaves full-time education to start an apprenticeship, they are no longer considered your dependent. As such, families of apprentices are currently not entitled to financial support.
This includes any child maintenance you may be receiving through the statutory system, and may also impact your working tax credits, housing benefit and/or council tax reduction.
The matter of whether or not apprentices and their families should receive the same assistance as college and university students has been much debated in parliament. This could change in the future, so make sure you stay in the loop by checking GOV.UK’s website for updates.
Got friends and family who are hoping to steer their children in the right direction?
Is my child guaranteed a job at the end?
90% of apprentices go into work or further training after completing an apprenticeship, and two-thirds get hired permanently by their employer. The average length of time an apprentice stays with Siemens is 26 years!
In order to address skills shortages in the UK economy, the government has empowered employers to develop their own apprenticeship standards and qualifications.
As such, employers design each scheme to transform fresh-faced school kids into highly employable professionals by equipping them with the skills their industry needs.
So, whilst there is no legal obligation to offer them a job, if an apprentice performs well in their role, it is likely the employer will really want them to stay on as a permanent employee. After all, they’ve invested a lot of time, effort and money into them.
How many hours a week does an apprentice work?
As per the law for all workers, an apprentice works a minimum of 30 hours a week and a maximum of 48 hours (or 40 for those who are under 18). This includes any time spent studying at college or in training.
Apprentices are also entitled to at least one 20-minute break for every six hours they work, and at least 11 hours off between shifts.
In exceptional circumstances - for example, if an apprentice has caring responsibilities - part-time apprenticeships can be agreed by the employer, at a minimum of 16 hours per week.
Not convinced? Browse reviews from over 35,000 school and college leavers who have taken on an apprenticeship themselves.
Do apprentices need to relocate?
If your child is worried about missing out on the ‘university experience’, they may want to consider applying to apprenticeships further afield.
Lots of employers pay their apprentices enough money to rent their own place. Based on the reviews on RateMyApprenticeship.co.uk, the average salary for a higher apprentice is £23,987 a year.
Some programmes even provide accommodation, whilst others may require apprentices to carry out their training at a residential training centre. The Honda Institute Apprenticeship Scheme, for instance, asks all their apprentices to complete their training in blocks of one week, from two up to eight times per year at the Honda Institute Centre of Excellence near Reading.
If they would rather stay closer to home, our location-specific ‘Featured Jobs’ service means your child can search for jobs near them by entering their postcode, town or city. They can then select whether they want to find an apprenticeship within one, five or ten (or more) miles.
How to find apprenticeships
Is your child interested in applying for an apprenticeship? Point them in the direction of the following so that they can find the right scheme for them:
New vacancies open up all the time - with employers recruiting throughout the year - so encourage your child to keep their finger on the pulse by checking these sites on a regular basis.
They can also sign up to RateMyApprenticeship.co.uk to be first to hear about new job opportunities, events, competitions and more via email.
Written by Louise
Louise is a Senior Content Writer at RateMyApprenticeship.co.uk. Having started her own career with four unpaid internships, she jumped at the chance to help others make better, more informed decisions about their futures. Since joining in 2018, Louise has penned countless blogs and how-to guides, alongside award-winning campaigns that connect millions of young people with top employers like Lidl, J.P. Morgan and Police Now. With seven years writing experience, Louise has previously covered everything from Wowcher vouchers to Ghanaian music festivals - making her more versatile than Vaseline. She currently works in Bristol with her cat Peggy