Who are apprenticeships for?

Apprenticeships are work-based qualifications, which are designed to suit people who learn best by performing tasks.

Apprenticeships would suit someone who:

  • has a clear idea of the type of career they wish to pursue
  • is willing to commit to work and study, but would prefer a more practical and work-related approach to learning
  • is ready to start work with an employer, and be based in the workplace most of the time
  • is well organised and able to cope with the competing demands of work and academic study at the same time
  • is ready to be assessed through a mix of assignments and written work, including essays, reports, practical exercises, end tests, and exams

Get the inside view from Lucy Ackland from Renishaw, as she shares her apprenticeship journey from GCSEs to award-winning engineer.

How do they work?

An apprenticeship is essentially a job. You’ll spend 80% of the working week at your place of employment, clocking in hours and building up holiday pay – all in accordance with your contract of employment, just like any other employee.

For the rest of the time, you’ll study the theory behind what you’re doing at work. This could involve travelling to a university or college, or studying at work, usually one day a week. It’s down to whatever suits you and your employer best, so make sure you discuss it in your interview.  

You’ll earn a salary, and your course fees will be covered by your employer and the government. You just have to be willing to put in the work and manage your time between work and study. Apprenticeships don't usually involve exams, but you should expect to be assessed while you're working. You'll need to demonstrate you can do your job effectively, by putting what you study into practice.

You can start an apprenticeship at the level appropriate to the job and work all the way up through the levels to higher and degree level apprenticeships for some job roles and career areas. You can also progress onto other further or higher education courses, including degrees.

To be considered for an apprenticeship programme, you need to be:

  • aged 16 or over
  • living in the UK
  • not in full-time education

It's worth making sure you fully understand the ups and downs of life as an apprentice:

Pros Cons
Apprenticeships offer a direct alternative to full-time higher education for those who would prefer to start employment. It can be difficult to balance academic study with work commitments — you need to be well organised!
You can earn a wage while completing a higher education qualification, and you won't have to pay tuition or course fees. Although you will study a higher education qualification, your experience of student life will be different to those attending full-time courses at university or college.
You will gain real knowledge, skills, and experience required for specific careers, and possibly professional accreditation. You need to have a clear idea of the type of career you wish to pursue, as this is a vocational qualification.
Your investment in high level training and study can provide a long term career path and increase your earning potential. There is the possibility you may have to pay back your course fees if you decide to leave your apprenticeship early.
Your work experience, transferable skills, and high level qualifications may leave you well placed to obtain employment in a number of related careers. The initial apprenticeship wage you start on may be quite low compared to other employment, and you'll need to cover your day-to-day living costs, rent, travel costs, equipment, and materials. Tax and National Insurance contributions will come out of your salary.

University Vs Apprenticeship? It’s not an either/or choice

Degree apprenticeships combine the layout of an apprenticeship, with the distinction of a university degree. And none of the debt.

Into Apprenticeships — Guide for disabled people

Read this guide from Disability Rights UK, answering common questions, such as how to find an apprenticeship, whether the training will be accessible, and what support is available in the workplace.

International students

Any international applicant must be eligible to work in the UK, and have the necessary visas, etc. International applicants need to look at the details of each apprenticeship vacancy and contact the university/college and employer to check their eligibility criteria.

Sign up to Career Finder

If you think an apprenticeship could be right for you, head over to Career Finder and create an account. 

You'll be able to:

  • search for all apprenticeship roles
  • filter by subject area, role type, location, and level of apprenticeship
  • shortlist jobs
  • sign up for alerts
  • keep tabs on applications you've made

Go to Career Finder

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