The information below gives a brief overview of apprenticeships and areas to think about when considering apprenticeships. Please note this is not an exhaustive list and there will be differences between Northern Ireland, Scotland, Wales and England as well as between sectors, but this information should give you a good basis to work from.

What is an apprenticeship?

An apprenticeship is a work-based training programme for people who want to develop their prospects and career in a particular sector.

Why are apprenticeships good for an employer?

  • Better-trained employees, with the right skills specific to the particular industry and business
  • Improved productivity due to relevant training
  • Motivated and loyal workers
  • Potential managers/leaders of the future
  • Improved retention especially in high turnover sectors
  • Addressing Skills Shortages

Who are apprenticeships for?

Apprenticeships are open to anyone aged 16 and over who is not taking part in full-time education. There is no upper age limit but they are usually undertaken by people aged between 16 and 24. Some apprenticeships may have a particular age range so it is important to check this.

How much are apprentices paid?

The current minimum wage rate for an apprentice is £2.68 per hour (June 2014). This rate applies to apprentices aged 16 to 18 and those aged 19 or over in their first year. Apprentices aged 19 or over who have completed their first year must be paid at least the minimum wage rate for their age.

Apprentices must be paid for:

  • their normal working hours (minimum 30 hours per week)
  • training that is part of the apprenticeship (usually 1 day per week)
  • at least 20 days holiday per year, plus bank holidays

How long does an apprenticeship last?

Apprenticeships take between one and four years to complete, depending on the level and type of apprenticeship.

Required qualifications

Entry requirements are flexible because apprenticeships are not just based on academic achievement  they may not require any formal qualifications.

Practical skills also count but employers may simply want to see that a young person is going to be dedicated and enthusiastic to learn.

The young people The Prince’s Trust works with may not have strong numeracy and literacy skills. If an employer insists on this then it might be worth suggesting they provide additional English and Maths support during an apprenticeship, rather than including it as a requirement. 

Apprenticeship levels

There are three main levels of apprenticeship:

  • Intermediate Level Apprenticeships (Level 2)
  • Advanced Level Apprenticeships (Level 3)
  • Higher Level Apprenticeships (Level 4)

How are apprenticeships structured?

Each apprenticeship involves a structured programme of work and training, often leading to a recognised qualification.

Young people will spend most of their time in work and training on the job.  The rest of their time will usually be spent at a local college or specialist training provider, either on day release or studying for a number of days in a block.

An apprenticeship varies but can be structured as follows:

  • National Vocational Qualification (NVQ) or Qualifications and Credit Framework (QCF)  a competency based qualification which shows that a young person has the ability to perform skills related to each particular Apprenticeship.
  • Technical Qualification – this is a technical qualification which provides the theoretical underpinning for that chosen Apprenticeship
  • Functional Skills  these were brought in by the Government to try to build up the nation’s literacy level. Functional Skills are the fundamental, applied skills in English, mathematics and IT.

Further guidance about apprenticeships