Apprenticeships: What Parents Need to Know

The National Apprenticeship Service found that whilst 87% of parents give their child careers advice, up to 90% of those don’t feel well-informed enough to offer it in the first place.

Are you feeling overwhelmed by all the career options available to your children after they leave school or college?

This can be a huge stumbling block when it comes to helping your son or daughter make such a big decision. Which is why it’s essential that you familiarise yourself with each route they might take.

So, how much do you as a parent know about apprenticeships?

Apprenticeships are fast-becoming a popular choice for career-conscious school and college leavers. Offering a debt-free alternative to university, as well as several years of invaluable training in their chosen industry, it’s easy to see why.

Here at, 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 do the different levels mean?
Who funds apprenticeships?
How much do apprentices get paid?
How will it affect my Child Benefit?
Is my child guaranteed a job at the end?

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 between 12,000 - 20,000 apprenticeship vacancies available at any one time across England.

High-quality schemes can be found in a huge variety of roles and industries, including:

  • Accounting & Finance
  • Banking
  • Business
  • Creative & Digital Marketing
  • Engineering
  • Retail
  • Health, Science & Pharmaceuticals
  • IT & Technology
  • Law
  • Leisure, Tourism & Hospitality

Whether your child wants a household name like the BBC on their CV or they’re keen to make a bigger impact in a smaller team, there are plenty of companies offering exciting apprenticeships opportunities.

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 nationally-certified 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 for a breakdown of each level...

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 bachelor’s or master’s degree whilst they work.



Equivalent to

Age group

Entry requirements




5 GCSE passes


Over 16 and not in full-time education

12-18 months



2 A level passes


3 GCSEs (9-4) or equivalent (such as a level 2 apprenticeship)

18-24 months


4, 5, 6 and 7

Foundation degree and above


5 GCSEs (9-4) and Level 3 qualifications (e.g. A-levels, BTEC National or a Level 3 NVQ)

3-4 years


6 and 7

Bachelor’s or master’s degree


5 GCSEs (9-4) and 3 A-levels or equivalent

3-6 years

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. It will also go a long way in helping the government reach their target of 3 million apprenticeship starts by 2020.

So, how does it actually work?

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 (less than 50 employees).

Small businesses that do not pay the levy (less than 50 employees) instead contribute 5% towards the training, whilst the government covers the rest.

As well as gaining priceless work experience, apprentices are paid a salary for both work and study periods.

As with most jobs, an apprenticeship salary varies depending on the role, sector and level of study. However, an apprentice can expect to start on an average of £170 - £210 per week.

The current National Minimum Wage for apprentices is £3.90 per hour. This applies to those who are:

  • aged 16 to 18
  • 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.


25 and over

21 to 24

18 to 20

Under 18


April 2019






Whilst this may not sound like a lot, many employers choose to pay their apprentices above the minimum wage.

In fact, after analysing the thousands of reviews submitted to, we found that the average salary across all apprenticeship programmes is £17,484 a year.

Apprentices are also entitled to employee perks such as paid holidays (a minimum of 20 days), sick pay and enrollment on a pension scheme. For exclusive discounts on restaurants, gym memberships and transport, they can apply for an NUS Apprentice extra card.

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.

Guide your child towards the right career path with our interactive career tool.

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.

You will need to inform the Tax Credit Office and the Child Benefit Office about any changes to your circumstances. If you do not, you may be overpaid and have to pay the money back.

The matter of whether or not apprentices should receive the same assistance as college and university students has been has been debated in parliament, and could be subject to change. 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, with two-thirds of those staying with the same employer.

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, each scheme is designed to mould fresh-faced school kids into highly employable professionals by equipping them with industry-relevant skills.

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? Read reviews from over 20,000 school 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 higher apprentices enough money to rent their own place. Based on the thousands of peer-to-peer reviews on RateMyApprenticeship, the average salary for a Level 4 apprentice is £19,043.

Some programmes even provide accommodation, whilst others may require apprentices to carry out their training at a residential training centre.

For instance, the Honda Institute Apprenticeship Scheme 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 students 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 to keep up-to-date with the latest opportunities and career advice via email.