Support for carers taking apprenticeships

Here, we outline what you need to know if you have caring responsibilities and are interested in an apprenticeship.

An apprenticeship is a hands-on route to gain professional experience and earn money at the same time.

A carer is anyone who has a commitment to providing unpaid care to a family member or friend who couldn’t cope without their support. This may be due to illness, disability, mental health issues, or substance misuse. This could be short-term, such as supporting someone with their recovery following an accident, or long-term, like helping someone with a long-term illness.

Being a carer means you may have had some disruption to your education or career. However, this doesn’t limit your job or study choice. We recommend researching apprenticeships as one of your options to find out whether they will suit you. Here, we cover funding, support networks, and more.

What is an apprenticeship?

An apprenticeship gives you the opportunity to work and study at the same time. You spend most of your time doing on-the-job training and the rest working towards a nationally recognised qualification.

This qualification could be the equivalent to GCSEs, or even a master’s degree, depending on the apprenticeship level you start at. As an apprentice, you're paid a salary and get a holiday allowance, just like an employee.

You’ll spend most of your time at work, and 20% of your time studying with a training provider, university, or college. There are also part-time options for many apprenticeships, which may help you balance your caring responsibilities.

Carer’s leave

UK employees (including apprentices) have a right to take up to seven days of carer’s leave per year to provide unpaid care for a dependant. This can be taken all together or spread over 12 months – and you are entitled to take this leave from the first day your employment starts. 

More about carer's leave on GOV.UK 


You’re not entitled to any student loans as an apprentice because you’re employed and receive a salary. However, that doesn’t mean you’re not entitled to any benefits:

Talking about your background

There is no obligation to tell your employer, university, or college about your caring responsibilities. However, you may find some support helpful – especially if your circumstances change. For example, your employer may be able to offer you flexible working hours, or your uni or college might be able to offer you extensions on assignment deadlines.

There are also lots of transferrable skills that you may have developed as a carer. You may find it helpful to look at our personal statement guide to think about how your caring responsibilities may have helped you build certain skills and characteristics which will be valuable as an apprentice. – you can talk about this in your apprenticeship application.

Networks and societies

It’s important to have a good support network around you to help you through working and studying, and to give you some respite from your caring responsibilities.

  • Work: Lots of employers have social events you can get involved with, like sports teams and activities outside of work or at lunchtime, as well as professional networking opportunities. This varies depending on which employer you go to and their size.
  • Study: If you’re studying for a degree apprenticeship, or a graduate apprenticeship in Scotland, universities have lots of networks and societies you can join. These are often based around interests and hobbies, but some universities have specific clubs and networks just for carers. You can find out more on the university’s website, or by contacting the Students’ Union.

It’s worth understanding how frequently these groups meet. For example, if your apprenticeship structure means you’re on campus for a certain day each week, will that group fit around you and your caring responsibilities? Some providers may also have online communities you can join.

Support and advice

If you'd like to contact an independent body for more help, some options include: