Parent and guardian guide to apprenticeships

Heard of an apprenticeship but not sure what it’s all about? Here, we share what you need to know and practical tips for supporting someone who might be thinking about an apprenticeship.

What is an apprenticeship?

An apprenticeship is a paid job, with formal training. Apprentices are an employee of an organisation, so they’re paid a salary and entitled to all the same employment rights as other employees. They are paid at least the relevant national minimum wage, but it’s worth being aware that the average apprentice wage is often higher than the minimum hourly rate required by the Government.

Rights and responsibilities of an apprentice

Apprentices do have some additional rights in their role. For example, they have protected time as part of their contracted hours that has to be used for studying. This isn’t part of their day-to-day job and is called ‘off the job training’. Off the job training is delivered by subject experts and can be activities like:

  • classroom learning
  • work shadowing and mentoring
  • time to research and write assignments

Need to know

There are different types or ‘levels’ of apprenticeships depending on where you are in the UK.

Each apprenticeship will have different entry requirements and offer a different salary.

There is no specific start date for apprenticeships. They come up as and when throughout the year.

Levels of apprenticeships

Apprenticeships are offered at different levels and the different levels equate to different qualifications. For example, a Level 2 is equivalent to GCSE and Level 7 is equivalent to a master’s degree.

However, the level of the apprenticeship isn’t the full story. Because apprenticeships are assessed against the knowledge, skills and behaviours the apprentice must demonstrate to be competent in their job role, it is common to engage in an apprenticeship at the same or even a lower level than you may have already achieved.

Pros
  • An apprentice is treated the same as an employee, gets a salary, and is entitled to a holiday allowance and sick pay.
  • An apprentice doesn’t pay any study costs, even if they are studying for a degree. The costs are funded by the employer and the Government.
  • An apprenticeship is a great way to gain professional experience. Apprentices are very employable as they already have lots of industry experience.
Considerations
  • Apprentices need to get to work on time and keep up with what’s expected of them. It takes organisation and dedication.
  • Learning and studying on the job can be tough. Apprentices need to manage their time well to fit in working and studying.
  • With an apprenticeship, life is very different to going to uni full-time. While there are plenty of opportunities to meet new people, it isn’t like doing a traditional degree. You also can’t access student accommodation.

How to apply for apprenticeships

Applying for an apprenticeship is like applying for a job. Applicants will need:

  • an up-to-date CV: this includes any academic achievements, work experience, volunteering or internships. If someone is still at school they may not have any professional experience, so filling a CV with any transferrable skills like sports teams and part-time jobs can demonstrate relevant skills
  • a cover letter: this explains why they are interested in the apprenticeship, why they would be a good fit and why they want to work for the company specifically. Do a bespoke letter for each application – one that's copied and pasted one is less likely to be effective

You might find this more detailed guidance helpful:

More advice on applying for an apprenticeship

£19,319
Average salary of an apprentice in the UK
Glassdoor, correct as of October 2022
90%
of apprentices stay in employment after their apprenticeship
GOV.UK, correct as of October 2022
One – six
Years it takes to complete an apprenticeship (depending on the level you take)
GOV.UK, correct as of October 2022

How to support someone with their next steps

As a parent, you should focus on providing all the support and reassurance you can. Make sure you’re there to listen; it's the most important thing you can do.

  • Be positive and supportive: Remember, there's no need to rush into a decision. It’s okay to take a step back and figure it all out. Give reassurance, stay calm and remain positive.
  • Get clued up: Learning about the path your child is interested in can help them have confidence in their next steps. Take a look at our resources below as a starting point.
  • Help them explore: Helping your child make their next steps is all about finding the right path for them. If they’re interested in an apprenticeship, help them find the information they need. But you might also want to take them to university open days and encourage them to do a UCAS application too so they can keep their options open. 
  • Help them prepare: Help with their CV, cover letter, and any interview prep. You might also be able to help or encourage them secure work experience, volunteering, or an internship which can make their application stand out.

Eshan, apprentice at Coca-Cola European Partners

The best thing about an apprenticeship is once you’re doing it you’ve proven you’re willing to learn and work hard, which naturally opens more opportunities. Businesses put a lot of trust in their apprentices and you’re given real responsibilities from the start.

Caira, solicitor apprentice at Capsticks

At the end of my apprenticeship, I’ll be in the same position as other graduates but with six years’ experience actually working at a law firm. This route doesn’t take any longer to qualify, but if I’d gone to university, I’d only have two years’ work experience at the end.

Useful resources