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Apprenticeships in 2020: All You Need to Know

Apprenticeships in the UK

A combination of practical experience and continued study, apprenticeships let you enjoy the best of both worlds while earning money as well. If you think you’re ready to join the workforce but still have some learning to do, read on to find out how to get an apprenticeship and if it could be the right decision for you and your career.

What you’ll learn in this article

Are apprenticeships a good idea?

In short, yes. They are beneficial to everybody. As an apprentice, you will gain good experience and the company offering you a chance to train gets a keen employee. As an option, apprenticeships make perfect sense for anyone who doesn’t want to continue in full-time education and has an idea of the career they would like.

You won’t need to wonder how to get an apprenticeship with no experience, as nobody applying should have experience! These are starter positions that help you gain the skills and knowledge you’ll need later on.

There are many reasons to become an apprentice. If you know that you don’t want to go to college or university, but your dream job needs specialist training and experience, then doing an apprenticeship is an excellent idea, not just a good one! You’ll work alongside experienced people, gain skills that will be important in your career and you’ll be entitled to wages and paid holidays. You’ll also be given time off to complete any part-time studies.

The downsides of becoming an apprentice can be low wages, pigeonholing yourself into one specific role and putting a lot of pressure on yourself, as going from school to a workplace environment can be a shock and requires a good deal of initial discipline. These are just some of the reasons people use for staying in education instead, but it’s an individual choice.

💡 Read more: Become an apprentice on GOV.UK website

Do apprenticeships count as full-time education?

The law says that everybody needs to stay in full-time education until the age of 18. It also stipulates that 16-year-olds can make the decision to take an apprenticeship, if continued schooling is not for them, so in practical terms, an apprenticeship is considered as a full-time education option – but only if you are aged between 16 and 18. After 18, you will be considered as being in work.

When should I apply for an apprenticeship?

As soon as possible! There’s no such thing as ‘playing it cool’ when it comes to applying for an opportunity you know you want, especially when there are probably many others wanting it as well. Reminding yourself to search regularly is a good idea so that hopefully, you can choose between a few offers. Remember that not everyone will advertise at the same time, so you can’t search once and think that’s enough. You might need a role to start in summer (check your term dates, though!), but an amazing opportunity might have been advertised back in September and already been filled.

Apprenticeships are advertised throughout the year, many of which can be found on UCAS and the best piece of advice is to apply early. Don’t wait for the deadline, as many firms will close applications once they have secured all the people they want.

How long does an apprenticeship last?

Anywhere from one to five years, depending on the level of the final qualification. You can gain GCSE equivalents all the way through to degrees. There are also apprenticeships that award extra qualifications, such as diplomas.

How many hours a day can an apprentice work?

As an apprentice, you’ll be expected to work regular full-time hours. You will be expected to work a minimum of 30 hours a week and a maximum of 40, with your study time factored in. This means that eight hours a day is your maximum.

Do apprentices pay tax?

Yes. As an apprentice, you will need to pay income tax, just like everybody else in full-time work, in accordance with your personal tax allowance. Earn over this amount and you will pay income tax as well as National Insurance contributions. These will both usually be deducted from your wages automatically by a company payroll team, so you don’t have to worry about doing anything yourself.

How old do you have to be to do an apprenticeship?

The minimum age to start an apprenticeship is 16 and you need to be sure that you are not in full-time education anymore. This means that you will need to make a declaration of intent to leave school, in favour of a working position.

Is there a maximum age for an apprenticeship?

No. Anybody, of any age is eligible to take on an apprenticeship and in recent years, people have been taking them up later in life, in order to retrain for a new passion or interest area. After the age of 24, the funding options change and you will need to be prepared for the possibility of employers asking you to contribute to the cost of your training.

There are fair access rules in place to prevent age discrimination and if you think you have been unfairly overlooked, you can look for support.

Can you do an apprenticeship at any age?

As long as you can commit to the hours needed, as well as the study and you are over 16 years old, yes. Anyone younger than 16 will need to stay in school for a while longer. You need to be able to complete a minimum of 30 hours a week, and physical fitness will be a factor in certain roles.

Can you do an apprenticeship at 14?

No. There may be some educational courses more geared towards certain future careers, but 14-year-olds cannot undertake formal apprenticeship training. This is because the law states that everybody must stay in full-time education until the age of 18 and only those aged 16 or over can choose to leave school.

Can a 16-year-old get an apprenticeship?

Yes, and many do, but having a plan is essential as many apprenticeships are competitive and nobody is guaranteed a place, so how you apply and present yourself is important.

Previous exam results can be important, so don’t forget to put the work in and start looking and applying for potential apprenticeships as soon as you realise you want one.

Is 24 too old for an apprenticeship?

Not at all, but it’s worth knowing that the funding from the government will no longer be available to your employer, so you might be asked to contribute towards the cost of your training. The good news is that this can be covered by an Adult Learner Loan and you might be eligible for a bursary if you have extra responsibilities to account for, such as childcare.

Can you be an apprentice at 30?

Thirty is one of those ages that seems to be used as an unofficial cut-off for certain opportunities, but not apprenticeships. There is no upper age limit for applying or being accepted as an apprentice. If you’re asking how to get an apprenticeship and worrying about your age, take that concern out of the equation.

Can you be an apprentice at 40?

Life – and apprenticeships – can start at 40! If you’ve spent years in a career or industry that no longer satisfies you and you are able to take a potentially significant wage cut in order to retrain, an apprenticeship could be the answer. Fair access rules will ensure that you are considered on merit, not in terms of your age and you might find that years of experience elsewhere will have a positive impact on your suitability.

💡 Read more: How to change career at 40

Is there any financial help for apprentices?

Your employer is legally obliged to pay you the minimum wage at least, but a low income can be supplemented with benefits if you are eligible. On top of this, there are grants and bursaries for people with extra responsibilities, such as travel costs or childcare and older apprentices can apply for an Adult Learners Loan. Your individual circumstances will dictate what and if you are eligible for any financial aid.

Are apprentices paid?

Yes. Apprenticeships are not voluntary positions – they are legitimate employment opportunities that also support an element of learning. If you are offered an apprenticeship that does not pay you a living wage, you should question the validity of the final qualification.

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Are apprenticeships paid weekly or monthly?

This all depends on your employer. If they pay their staff weekly, that’s how regularly you will be paid as well, but many will choose to give monthly wages. It won’t make any difference to ow much you earn and take home and your taxes and National Insurance contributions will be deducted automatically for you, if applicable.

How much do apprentices get paid?

This varies according to industry and individual employer. You are legally entitled to the minimum wage for your age group, although employers are free to pay more, and many do. The national average salary is £25,632 for an apprentice, but don’t forget that this covers a wide spectrum of positions and ages. The national minimum wage for apprentices is currently £3.90 per hour for those aged 16-18 or people in their first apprenticeship year.

What apprenticeships pay the most?

Adzuna currently has over 25,000 apprenticeship positions listed. At the top of the salary tree are skilled technician roles, data analysts, finance and police apprenticeships. Positions that include an element of sales usually incorporate an anticipated commission structure, so be aware of this before applying. Skilled manual work usually commands competitive rates of pay.

You’ll find that most apprenticeships are available for those in IT, recruitment, finance, business administration and sales, as well as maintenance and electrical work. So if you’re looking for a higher chance of acceptance, these would be great areas to focus on.

The range of salaries for apprenticeships with different companies varies greatly, but we tried to average the data we have to see which of the popular titles are paid the most (please note that salary stats and number of vacancies available are updated in March 2020).

Popular apprenticeshipsNumber of apprenticeships availableAvg. salary
Electrician apprenticeships1,246£19,067
Engineering apprenticeships702£22,362
Accounting apprenticeships308£20,549
Beauty therapy apprenticeships243£14,382
Business apprenticeships1,133£21,654
Chef apprenticeships665£12,626
Childcare apprenticeships252£14,369
Construction apprenticeships226£20,668
Customer service apprenticeships309£18,008
Cyber security apprenticeships150£17,903
Data analysis apprenticeships202£23,386
Dental nurse apprenticeships114£16,082
Finance apprenticeships1,357£20,361
Hairdressing apprenticeships115£12,908
IT apprenticeships2,760£18,349
Law apprenticeships747£18,809
Maintenance & Carpentry apprenticeships1,288£14,321
Digital marketing apprenticeships893£17,817
Mechanic apprenticeships557£17,666
Nursing apprenticeships154£15,244
Police apprenticeships63£20,054
PR & Communications apprenticeships147£17,374
Recruitment apprenticeships2,351£18,418
Sales apprenticeships1,283£18,528
Teaching apprenticeships585£18,572

Which industries offer apprenticeships?

The vast majority of apprenticeship positions fall into IT, engineering or hospitality and catering industries, but the range of opportunities out there is enormous. See below for a taster of the vast number of popular apprenticeships that are always looking for new talent and are willing to support people while they train.

If you have your heart set on a role but can’t find a relevant apprenticeship, you shouldn’t feel nervous about approaching companies you respect to ask if they have any plans to take on apprentices at a later date. It will show initiative and you will be hard to forget. It will also set you apart from people that don’t take the time to even enquire.

Sometimes, it’s not a particular industry that you want to break into but a company or institution renowned for looking after its staff or providing lifetime employment opportunities. Starting with an apprenticeship allows you to get a feel for the organisation itself and might allow you to work in various departments until you find the right fit.

The most popular companies offering apprenticeships in the UK include:

  • NHS with their apprenticeships, traineeships and cadet schemes where you can get trained in all things healthcare management.
  • Network Rail offer two tacks for apprentices: engineering or IT and Business.
  • BBC who offer apprenticeships in journalism, production, business management and more technical roles in design and engineering.
  • ITV apprenticeships programme offers training in various fields: legal, production, news, business, technology, finance and more.
  • Sky apprenticeships are available for those who are interested in technology, customer service, media and business.
  • IBM apprenticeships, as expected, are heavily focused on tech, but also welcome those who are interested in business development and operations management.
  • BT who are welcoming a wide range of apprentices in areas like business management, cyber security, finance, HR, L&D, engineering and more.
  • Rolls-Royce apprenticeships are focused on engineering work.
  • BMW offer different technician apprenticeships, as well as roles in sales and after-sales.
  • Barclays welcome apprentices of any age and backgrounds and help them transition into roles that support activities of the company.
  • KPMG offer apprenticeships in auditing, management and engineering for those who see their future in the finance sector.
  • RAF (Royal Air Force) is an exciting place for those who are fascinated by all things Air Force. Apprenticeships are available in various areas, including HR, cyberspace communications, intelligence analytics, and many more areas.
  • Army apprenticeships have much more to offer than you might think: public services and health, engineering, telecommunications, animal care, IT, logistics, construction, business administration.

While these are some of the most searched for companies in the Uk, there are many options out there with less well-known brands that offer great apprenticeships and high quality experience.

💡 Explore thousands of apprenticeships in the UK on Adzuna

If you have the determination to pursue a career within a certain field and know that you’re keen to start as soon as possible, an apprenticeship could be the right choice for you. Make sure that any potential employers are engaged with the programme and that they don’t look for further-educated candidates over apprentices and start applying today.

And don’t forget to check out our Value My Degree tool to see how much your degree is worth.