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What Should I Look for When Applying for an Apprenticeship?

We’ve written this post to help advise GCSE and A-level students about what to look for when applying to apprenticeships.

The government has reported that there are an increasing number of fake apprenticeships being advertised that don’t meet with their guidelines and don’t provide quality training. Hopefully, by following the advice in this post, you’ll have all the information you’ll need to spot a genuine apprenticeship opportunity.

There are more than 520 specific roles that you can do an apprenticeship in. At the moment, there are more than 190 different jobs in the UK that you can do through apprenticeship training and the government plans to introduce many more over the next few years.

So here are 4 important things you should look for in an apprenticeship:

1. A recognised qualification

A legitimate apprenticeship will enable you to ‘earn while you learn’, meaning that part of your training should involve studying at college towards a nationally-recognised qualification. Apprentices normally work towards gaining a National Vocational Qualification (NVQ), a Business Technology Education Council (BTEC) qualification, or a City & Guilds qualification.

If the apprenticeship you see advertised doesn’t mention any of these three qualifications, then you should investigate whether the advertised role is genuine. There are also four levels of apprenticeship that you should be aware of.

The level that you should take will vary depending on your circumstances, however, for most 16/17-year-olds leaving school, it’s likely that you’ll be applying to an entry level apprenticeship. Entry level (ie intermediate apprenticeships) are normally completed within a year.

2. High quality training that lasts one year

As part of your apprenticeship training, your employer should arrange for you to attend college in order to learn the theory behind the job. At college, you should expect to learn the theory that you’ll need to do your job and pass your final exam at the end of the year.

Apprentices attend college to learn the theory behind
their jobs

Similarly, your college lecturer should be experienced in delivering the programme and should have all the relevant qualifications necessary to teach an apprenticeship course.

Before you apply to an apprenticeship, make sure that you know where your training will take place and what college you’ll be attending during your first year.

3. Communication between employer and college

With most apprenticeships, you’ll attend college one or two days a week, sharing your time between your workplace and the classroom. However, in some cases, employers prefer apprentices to do ‘block release’, where you’ll attend college for three or four weeks at a time and then be based at your workplace for the same time period. Either of these rotas are completely acceptable and vary according to the requirements set out by the employer.

Whichever rota your apprenticeship works on, it’s important that your employer and the college keep in close contact over your progress. This enables both parties to address any concerns over your learning and put a plan in place to help you achieve the outcomes.

Some larger employers, like private companies, for example, sometimes have their own training centres that they use for apprenticeship training, in which case, all your training will be done under the one roof.

4. An agreed minimum rate of pay

Regardless of what any employer advertises, an apprenticeship should always be a paid training programme. Although there isn’t a single rate of pay for apprentices (pay varies depending on your employer and the job itself), there is a minimum agreed rate set by the government.

Employers must pay apprentices at least £4.30 per hour - that rate applies if you're under 19 or if you're over 19 and in your first year of the programme (April 2021 figures).

If you're an apprentice aged 19 or over, and you've completed your first year, then you'll be paid at least the minimum wage rate for your age. From April 2021, that is at least £6.56.

For more information about this, read our article about how much apprentices are paid

If you come across an employer offering an apprenticeship at less than the minimum hourly rate then alarm bells should start ringing.

Likewise, employers should help you out towards the cost of materials like books, safety equipment and uniforms and you should also have paid holiday entitlement.

Do the apprenticeships that you’ve seen offer all of these essentials? What advice do you have for GCSE and A-level students looking to apply for apprenticeships?

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