What is an apprenticeship?

What is an apprenticeship?

An apprenticeship is a combination of paid work and fully-funded study. Often referred to as ‘earn as you learn’. UK apprenticeships provide real jobs within companies while part-time studying for a qualification.

You are employed by a company and given practical, real-world training. You are fairly compensated for your work, meaning you earn at least the minimum wage for your age group and often more.

At the same time, you will be studying towards a qualification, a diploma, HND, degree or equivalent. Apprenticeships are equally funded by the Government and your employer, so you don’t need to worry about student loans or educational debt.

UK apprenticeships are divided into four levels : intermediate, advanced, higher, and degree.

What does an apprenticeship cost?

Unlike University courses, apprenticeships do not require tuition fees, allowing you to complete relevant qualifications while also being paid for your time.

Apprenticeships comply to a minimum wage, are always paid positions, and should never cost you money. This is why apprenticeships are often referred to as ‘earn while you learn’.

Modern apprenticeships can be a lot of different things to a lot of different people. Whether you’re still in education, fresh out of college, looking to skill up, or change careers altogether, an apprenticeship can be a great way of finding a rewarding job.

Apprenticeship basics

Apprenticeships are primarily about four things:

  1. Obtaining high quality, practical, and specific on-the-job work experience.
  2. Gaining news skills, confidence, and qualifications.
  3. Growing your network and learning from experts.
  4. Getting paid a living wage while doing it.

Let’s take a look at each of these things in a bit more detail.

The history of apprenticeships

Our country has a long history of apprenticeships. In the UK, apprenticeships can be dated all the way back to the 12th century!

Back then, parents would endeavour to get their children an apprenticeship with a master craftsman or tradesman, so that they could learn their trade and have fruitful careers. This also meant that many apprenticeships were actually paid for by participants, not employers!

All sorts of crafts and trades employed apprentices that you might not think about. Even famous artists would use apprentices to do the more tedious parts of their work while they worked on the more complex details.

As our working lives evolved with the industrial and then digital revolution, many attempts have been made to reform apprenticeships and give them a set of standards similar to that of schools or universities. This means that the quality of apprenticeships is now held to much higher standards. One of these improvements is that all apprentices now earn a national minimum wage.

Fast forward to today, and the working landscape doesn’t look much like the 12th (or even 19th) century. Yes, crafts and physical trades are still very important, but we also have huge industries and services based entirely on “knowledge workers“.

Apprenticeships have had to evolve once more, adapting to the types of knowledge work that people now do. Modern apprenticeships help to get young people into a diverse selection of industries while supplying the knowledge and technical know-how they will need to flourish.

Today, you can even earn a University degree while undertaking an apprenticeship.

Apprentices ‘earn and learn’

Modern apprenticeships are made up of two things: working and learning.

While this may seem obvious, one of the best thing about an apprenticeship is this great mix of studying and practical application. Not only are you doing something that you (hopefully) really love, but you’re also learning how to do it better every single day.

Apprenticeships come in all shapes and sizes, from two-year intermediate apprenticeships in retails, to expansive 5-year engineering degrees. The important thing is that this flexibility exists.

There are several levels of apprenticeship and entry requirements can vary. Some only require that you have passed your English and Maths GCSE, while others are the equivalent to a university foundation degree, bachelors, or even masters degree.

Apprenticeships are often described as on-the-job-training. This is because, unlike other forms of study, the skills you acquire will be directly related to the work you do. When you study, it’s not just for an exam. What you learn, you actually get to use!

Not only that, but your new-found expertise has an instant impact on a business. Your learning and skills are applicable to real-world problems and projects.

No limits

With a range of levels, sectors and occupations, there are apprenticeships out there to suit anyone. If you already have an idea about the type of job you would like to do, that’s great, but don’t panic if you don’t. One of the easiest ways to get a feel for the types of roles out there is to simply jump in and take a look.

Growing numbers

Each year, more and more apprentice roles are being created. Thanks to a government push, incentives to businesses such as the apprentice levy, and in an effort to close the ever-growing skills gap in the UK, there has never been a better time to be considering an apprenticeship.

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