Apprenticeships offer the best of both worlds. Not only do you start your career and earn a wage – you also get the chance to work towards nationally recognised qualifications.
How do apprenticeships work?
If you’re employed as an apprentice, you’ll spend most of your time in the work-place, working alongside experienced staff. You’ll build up knowledge and skills through on-the-job training.
The rest of your training is likely to take place at a local college or a specialist training organisation. This off-the-job training can be carried out on day release or over a number of days in a block. The amount of time you’ll spend will depend on the job sector you’re working for. It could be anything from one day every other fortnight to two days every week.
What qualifications can I get?
There are two levels of apprenticeships available - Apprenticeships and Advanced Apprenticeships
Apprenticeships give you the chance to complete an NVQ at Level 2 (equivalent to five GCSEs at grades A* - C), Key Skills qualifications and a technical certificate such as a BTEC or City & Guilds.
Advanced Apprenticeships give you the chance to complete an NVQ at Level 3 (equivalent to two A Levels), Key Skills qualifications and a technical certificate such as a BTEC or City & Guilds.
How much will I get paid?
Apprentices do real jobs for real employers - so you earn while you learn. There’s no set rate of pay for apprentices, but all employed apprentices must receive a minimum wage of no less than £2.65 per hour. (This works out at about £100 for a 39 hour week.) A recent survey showed that the average wage for an Apprentice is actually around £170 a week and in some job roles, around £210 a week.
What are future career prospects like?
Apprenticeships can be demanding but they’re also very rewarding. Because apprenticeships train you in the skills employers want, they give you choices in your career.
When you’ve finished your apprenticeship you can carry on working - maybe get promoted – do an Advanced Apprenticeship, or (with a Level 3 qualification under your belt), go on to do more qualifications at a college or university.
How can I get started?
A good place to start looking for an apprenticeship opportunity is www.apprenticeships.org.uk. Click on the ‘Vacancies’ section to find out more about apprenticeships or search and apply for local apprenticeship opportunities. Vacancies are regularly updated on the site – so keep checking if you don’t find one that suits straight away! Your Careers Adviser can help you apply on-line and also help you build your interview skills if needed.
Check out www.staffordshireapprentices.org.uk to see the Apprenticeship opportunities at Staffordshire County Council.
Employers may also advertise apprenticeship vacancies in local or national newspapers. Remember to check them out on a regular basis!
You could try contacting employers directly to see if they’d be willing to take you on as an apprentice. One way to do this is to send them your CV with a speculative letter. You’ll need to sell yourself and explain why taking you on as an apprentice will be good for the company. (Tip: To find out how other employers have benefitted from taking on an apprentice, check out the employers section of www.apprenticeships.org.uk) Instead of sending a speculative letter, if you prefer you could visit an employer to ask if they’d be willing to take you on as an Apprentice. Make sure you do some background reading on apprenticeships first - and check out our tips on interview skills to help you prepare for your visit. Remember to leave them a copy of your CV.
If you still can’t find what you’re looking for, you may be able to find an apprenticeship through a training provider – they organise training for local employers and may be able to help you find an apprenticeship or a work placement. Visit www.way2go.me.uk to find out which training providers offer the type of apprenticeship training you're looking for, then contact the provider for more information. (Apprenticeship training starts throughout the year – not just in September, so you can apply at any time.)
How can I find out more?
To find out more about apprenticeships or search and apply for local apprenticeship opportunities visit www.apprenticeships.org.uk
Remember: Your Careers Adviser will be pleased to help you if you’ve got any queries about apprenticeships or would like help looking for or applying for an apprenticeship vacancy. They can also help you with interview practice.