What does the term ‘apprentice’ actually mean?

The dictionary defines an apprentice as: ‘A person who is learning a trade from a skilled employer, having agreed to work for a fixed period at low wages'.
Relevant to

But I think we can do better than that. Let’s break it down:

A person

The first thing it’s important to say is that an apprentice can be anybody, of any age or level of study, in almost any profession. 

Lauren, an employer at Tulip

Apprentices can be varying ages, varying experiences, various backgrounds. You never know who’s going to walk through the door. And I think they can all add different things in their own ways.

Learning a trade

In days gone by, apprentices tended to be young people working under a skilled craftsperson to learn their trade. Usually in a practical profession.

But these days, apprentices can be found in almost every industry, from TV production and broadcasting to education and healthcare.

And because of the variety of employers and their needs, an apprentice might find work in a department they’re skilled in, for an employer in a sector they’re personally interested in.

Like, say, an accountant for a Premier League football club.

Jill, an employer at Nestle

When you see the word apprenticeship, think opportunity. With all the changes and reforms in recent years, apprenticeships now open the door to a different world – available for all ages, new to industry and for career changers, all academic levels and hundreds of occupations. There’s a fantastic opportunity that’s just right for everyone.

From a skilled employer

The list of employers offering apprenticeships is hugely diverse, and only getting more so.

The Government is incentivising apprenticeship programmes of all levels, but especially at the top end with degree apprenticeships. This means the kinds of employers offering apprenticeships across the board is becoming more varied. So, keep an eye out for newcomers.

Take a look at the sectors and industries offering apprenticeships, or the Government’s A-Z list of apprenticeships

For a fixed period

Typically, apprenticeships last three – four years, but can be anything from two – six.

Wages

Many intermediate apprentices do make a modest living, with the minimum being £3.90 an hour. But this reflects someone entering a first job with zero experience.

If you’re over 19 and have finished your first year in an apprenticeship, you’ll receive a minimum of £6.15 an hour (the national minimum wage for 18 – 20 year olds).

But remember, employers have to compete for your talent just like you have to compete for the job. Most offer more than the minimum, with some higher and degree level apprenticeships offering salaries between £16,000 and £24,000 per year. And in some cases, more.

'Just go for it'

Apprenticeships are a way to gain the skills, knowledge and experience you need to get into many careers. They combine work, training, and study, letting you 'earn while you learn'. Saima, from PwC, shares her story.

FInd out more

Lauren, an employer at Tulip

Our degree apprentices start on the national living wage of £8.45 per hour, and their wages scale as they gain experience. We believe it allows them to have a bit of autonomy and earn a good salary while learning.
See our full advice on money, funding, and finance for apprenticeships in England, Scotland, Wales, and Northern Ireland.

Miguel, apprentice at EMS

Make sure you’re 100% certain it’s a route you want to go into. Then be prepared for the workload ahead, and the sacrifices you might have to make in terms of your social life. But the reward at the end – it’s out of this world, really.

So, what does it mean to be an apprentice?

An apprentice is someone who challenges themselves to work and study at the same time. It’s essentially a full-time job where you spend 20% of your time studying.

It’s not easy, and it requires a commitment to a specific career path where traditional educational routes offer more flexibility.

But for those who take an apprenticeship in a field they know they want to work and progress in, the reward is consistent applied learning, relevant workplace experience, and the opportunity to work for an exciting employer from day one.
 

Joe, apprentice at Caterpillar

A degree apprenticeship was the only way for me gain a university qualification while earning enough to supporting a young family throughout. It was a lot of hard work – but it’s worth it.

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