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A parent's guide to apprenticeships

You’ve almost certainly heard about apprenticeships by now. But if you think they’re second best to a university degree, you’ve been misinformed! Apprenticeships can be a pathway to a degree – paid for in full by the employer while your child earns a wage.

In this article, we define apprenticeships, go through the different types, compare them to university, explore some of the programmes available, look at how much your child can expect to earn and explain how to help your child find an apprenticeship.

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What is an apprenticeship?

An apprenticeship is a job with training and the chance to gain qualifications. As with any job, an apprentice gets paid, but they also take part in formal on-the-job training and study for relevant qualifications linked to their role. Qualifications are paid for by the employer. Apprentices do not pay anything towards their qualifications.

Check out our video guide to apprenticeships:

Types of apprenticeship

There are four levels of apprenticeship:

  • Intermediate – level 2 – equivalent to five GCSEs.
  • Advanced – level 3 – equivalent to two A-levels.
  • Higher – level 4-7 – equivalent to a certificate of higher education or foundation degree right the way up to a master’s degree (mostly give a bachelor’s degree).
  • Degree – level 6-7 – guarantees a bachelor’s or master’s degree on successful completion.

If your child doesn’t have any GCSEs, they can often apply for an intermediate apprenticeship anyway. They can study for GCSEs or the equivalent functional skills qualifications alongside their apprenticeship. So very few students are barred from taking on an apprenticeship.

Apprentices can gain all manner of qualifications from an apprenticeship. Here is a guide outlining some of the most common.

Apprenticeships versus uni

Have a look at this video summarising the different benefits university and apprenticeships can offer:

Apprenticeships are vocational and all of them offer a large degree of work experience. Learning is linked directly to the kind of work that the apprentice is doing in their job, although study will often cover the theoretical background in the abstract.

As you can see, if your child undertakes a higher or degree apprenticeship, they will very likely work towards a degree of some kind. This means that they will come out with the same qualifications as a graduate. The beauty is, the student is not liable for the cost of study. Any university (or other) tuition fees are paid for by the employer. That means no student debt.

Higher and degree apprentices gain a degree with no student debt and get paid to do a job while they study. This puts them ahead of graduates going into the equivalent career path by the time graduates from the same school year-group are leaving university.

Shouldn’t every student go to uni?

No. University isn’t for every student, and students do not need to feel that university is the only route to a high-skilled career.

Young woman in lab

Apprenticeships can lead to high-skilled careers in science, engineering and other technical fields

For some students, an apprenticeship is better because it is more practical, allowing them to earn and gain work experience.

For others who want to study an academic qualification full time within an academic setting, or experience some of the other things university can offer, university may be the better option.

It is the more practical, applicable degrees – such as engineering, law and software – that are available via the apprenticeship route. Students who want to study subjects such as history or English to degree level need to go to university. Currently, if you want to enter a career such as doctor or teacher you need to go to university.

Here is a post to help you guide your child as they choose between these two options.

What fields are apprenticeships available in?

A surprising number of career paths are available through the apprenticeship route, and the list is growing all the time.

As well as a tradesperson, you can train to be a software engineer, nurse, solicitor, graphic designer, accountant, scientist and researcher via an apprenticeship.

Visit our apprenticeship pages to see our in-depth guides to different career paths available through the apprenticeship route.

How much will my child get paid?

Apprentices are entitled to a special minimum wage, which rises in accordance with the age and experience of the apprentice.

The apprenticeship wage – the absolute minimum an apprentice can earn – is currently £5.28 per hour. However, that is only for 16-18 year olds and 19 year olds with less than one year’s experience of an apprenticeship. If you are 19+ and in year 2+ of your apprenticeship, the minimum you are entitled to rises sharply.

How to find an apprenticeship

 Take a look at this video summarising the ways your child can find an apprenticeship:

The government’s Find An Apprenticeship website lists most apprenticeship schemes. You can apply filters such as location, distance and apprenticeship level.

We would also recommend searching Google because apprenticeships don’t always show up on Find An Apprenticeship.

We display many listings here on Success at School and you can view these here. Your child can apply by clicking the Apply button. Encourage them to set up a free Success at School account, by clicking Register at the top of any page of our website, to make applications easier.

Image credits

Young woman in lab via US Gov