The components of an apprenticeship

Apprenticeships are made up of a variety of components. Here's our breakdown of what they entail.

On-the-job training

On-the-job describes training that is given in a normal working situation. You gain skills and use the actual tools, equipment and materials that you'll be using when you're fully trained.

College education

As the name suggests, off-the-job training takes place outside of work (usually at college). Off-the-job training involves some written work and, in most apprenticeships, you complete off-the-job training to learn more about the industry you'll be working in. Oh, and it also gives you some of the qualifications you'll need if you decide to go to university.

Technical certificate

The technical certificate covers everything that you need to know in order to do your job.  These are classroom-based awards, generally taken on a day release basis.

It gives you a background to all the stuff you'll be doing in practice. So, you'll learn about the tools and techniques of the trade before you start using them in the workplace, cleverly avoiding any “new apprentice meets industrial digger”-type accidents.

National Vocational Qualifications (NVQs)

During an apprenticeship, you'll gain one or more NVQs. These are work-based competence qualifications, meaning that you train for them in the workplace, rather than in a classroom. Passing an NVQ proves that you put into practice the skills and knowledge you learnt in the technical certificate.

You don't have to complete them in a set time limit, unlike GCSEs and A levels. They're achieved by training and assessment - that is, by proving that you can actually do the job. Assessment is normally through on-the-job observation and questioning. Apprentices produce evidence, usually a portfolio, to prove they have met the NVQ competence standards. Assessors test the apprentice's underpinning knowledge, understanding and work based performance to demonstrate competence in the workplace. Assessors sign off units/modules when the apprentice is ready.

Definition of NVQ levels:

NVQs are organised into five levels, based on the competences required. The following definitions provide a general guide to the progression from level to level and the relationship between them. Levels 1-3 are those most applicable to learners within the 14-19 phase. Achievement of level 4 within this age group will be rare.

Level 1

Competence that involves the application of knowledge in the performance of a range of varied work activities, most of which are routine and predictable.

Level 2

Competence that involves the application of knowledge in a significant range of varied work activities, performed in a variety of contexts. Some of these activities are complex or non-routine and there is some individual responsibility or autonomy. Collaboration with others, perhaps through membership of a work group or team, is often a requirement.

Level 3

Competence that involves the application of knowledge in a broad range of varied work activities performed in a wide variety of contexts, most of which are complex and non-routine. There is considerable responsibility and autonomy and control or guidance of others is often required.

Level 4

Competence that involves the application of knowledge in a broad range of complex, technical or professional work activities performed in a variety of contexts and with a substantial degree of personal responsibility and autonomy. Responsibility for the work of others and the allocation of resources is often present.

Level 5

Competence that involves the application of a range of fundamental principles across a wide and often unpredictable variety of contexts. Very substantial personal autonomy and often significant responsibility for the work of others and for the allocation of substantial resources features strongly, as do personal accountabilities for analysis, diagnosis, design, planning, execution and evaluation.

At apprenticeship level the technical certificate and NVQ are level 2 which broadly reflect the competences of GCSE grades D-G and A-C respectively.  At advanced apprenticeship level you work towards level 3 awards which broadly reflect the competencies of A levels.

Key skills

Not all apprentices have to complete key skills but all have to show a good level of numeracy and communication skills. The key skills units are designed to bring you up to speed with basic numeracy (making sure that you are familiar with basic maths), communication skills (that you can work as part of a team) and IT (that you can use a computer), problem solving and working with others. These are all important in many jobs out there, so the training will come in handy whatever you end up doing.

Employment responsibilities and rights (ERR)

Sounds official, doesn't it? This is the bit of the apprenticeship that tells you what you can expect from your employer and what they can expect from you.

If you don't really know much about the industry you'll be working in, the ERR unit will fill you in. If you're working with an employer, this is normally covered in your induction.

Edited text is reproduced courtesy of Barker Brooks Media, publishers behind The Apprenticeship Guide. For more information go to The Apprentice Guide [new window].