Following news that the government is planning to launch a consultation into the quality of UK apprenticeships, we’ve written a post to help advise GCSE and A-level students of 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.
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. Some essential things that you should look for in an apprenticeship include:
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 make further enquiries into the authenticity of the opportunity. There are also four levels of apprenticeship that you should be aware of.
- Intermediate (Entry level),
- Advanced (Supervisor level)
- Higher (Manager level)
- Degree (Manager level)
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 or Intermediate apprenticeships are normally completed within a year, although timescales do vary depending on your existing knowledge.
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.
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.
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.
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.
As an apprentice, you can expect to be paid a minimum of £3.40 per hour as of October 2016. However, nowadays, many employers pay above the minimum rate and the average weekly pay for apprentices is around £170 per week.
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?
Image credit: Ana C - https://www.flickr.com/photos/anitacanita/576225352/