First and foremost, apprenticeships are a legitimate and rewarding path to skill development and career progression. They are not simply the alternative choice for those who can't/won't go to uni, but they are programmes designed to train and develop recruits and furnish them with qualifications. Degree apprenticeships, for instance, can equip an apprentice with precisely the same degree qualification as someone who has spent three years at university as a student.
Who can join an apprenticeship programme?
Apprenticeships are available to those aged 16 and over that have achieved a minimum number of grades at GCSE and 18 year olds that have taken A levels or BTEC qualifications.
There are currently four levels of apprenticeship. The first is Intermediate, followed by Advanced, Higher and Degree apprenticeships. It's possible to complete a level of apprenticeship and gain entry to the next level above if so desired.
For school-leavers who have been out of education and work for at least 13 weeks and have difficulty meeting the entry requirements for their desired apprenticeship, the Access to Apprenticeship pathway is designed to facilitate entry into an apprenticeship. Your teen's school or college should have details of how to access this pathway, or help is available at the National Careers Service on 0800 100 900 or visit their website. The National Apprenticeship Service, who are present at What Career Live? (live events for school leavers) throughout the year, can also help with this and any other questions on apprenticeships.
What are the differences between the apprenticeship levels?
The following are broad definitions; some programmes may vary in length, content and qualifications (for getting onto an apprenticeship and in terms of those gained on the scheme). Whilst these are intended to be a guide only, they are a good indication of what is on offer to interested candidates.
Intermediate Apprenticeship (Level 2)
Employers might ask for school-leavers to be in possession of at least two or more GCSE grades (A*-C) or equivalent. For some intermediate apprenticeships, they might not need any formal qualifications but, if they don't have English and/or Maths at GCSE, they may be required to take tests that will demonstrate a level of numeracy and literacy.
What qualifications will they get with an intermediate apprenticeship?
Qualifications gained during the intermediate stage include a Level 2 Competence qualification, a Functional Skills qualification and a relevant knowledge-based qualification. The Level 2 qualification will usually be a NVQ at Level 2, which is equivalent to five GCSEs grades A*-C. In addition, the apprentice might also work towards a BTEC, GCSE, or City & Guilds qualification.
Advanced Apprenticeship (Level 3)
Generally lasting around 24 months, this is the second most popular apprenticeship after the intermediate level. Companies might run their programme in partnership with a training provider (like a further education college), meaning the apprentice will split their time between working at the company and attending college or the company will run it independently and have their own in-house training sessions. Generally, to be eligible to do an advanced apprenticeship the school-leaver must have either completed an intermediate apprenticeship or have a certain number of GCSEs (or equivalent).
What qualifications will they get with an advanced apprenticeship?
You will probably hear the phrase 'earn while you learn' a lot in your apprenticeship research. The Advanced Apprenticeship is a combination of paid employment, work-based learning – such as a Level 3 Competence Qualification – functional skills and, in most cases, a relevant knowledge-based qualification equivalent to two A-level passes.
Higher Apprenticeship (Level 4)
A higher apprenticeship functions pretty much like a normal apprenticeship in the sense that it involves both on- and off-the-job training. As the name suggests, however, higher apprenticeships are designed to develop the apprentice's skills and qualifications to the highest standard. In some cases, they offer another (albeit sometimes longer) route to gaining a university qualification. Again, it's a unique chance for them to 'earn while they learn'.
What qualifications will they get with a higher apprenticeship?
This apprenticeship leads to the equivalent of a higher education qualification. For context, A Levels are Level 3 and Level 4 includes qualifications such as:
Certificate of Higher Education
Key Skills Level 4
NVQ Level 4
BTEC Professional Award,
Certificate and Diploma Level 4
Certificate of Higher Education
Ready for work
Today, companies actively seek out suitable candidates for apprenticeships precisely because they wish to welcome their talent and resource into the workforce. Many apprentices are offered full-time, fully paid employment on completion of their apprenticeship since the company has invested time and effort in a worthwhile employee.
To find out more, for What Career Live? where you can meet with some of the UK’s top apprenticeship providers who can answer all of your questions.
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