Shop cart


An introduction to apprenticeships

Apprenticeships equal paid real-life work experience paired with a bank of transferable skills and qualifications that will lead to a successful career.

Apprentices at work What is an apprenticeship like?

An apprenticeship is in essence a full-time job with training. Basically, you’ll work alongside experienced members of staff to learn the exact skills needed for your chosen career. As well as learning on the job, you’ll go to a college or training provider, usually on a day-release basis, to study towards a nationally recognised qualification, such as an NVQ. This gives you the perfect mix of theory and practical learning.

All apprenticeships include the following elements:

  • a competences qualification which you’ll need to achieve to qualify for your apprenticeship certificate. This qualification shows that you are competent in performing the skill, trade or occupation your apprenticeship requires;
  • a technical knowledge qualification to show you have the necessary technical skills, knowledge and understanding of theoretical concepts as well as knowledge and understanding of the relevant industry and its market;
  • either Key Skills (e.g. team-working, problem-solving, communication and using new technology) or Functional Skills to help you achieve a good standard of literacy and numeracy.

How long does an apprenticeship take?

Different types of apprenticeships take different amounts of time to complete, depending on the level, sector and employer. Typically, an apprenticeship takes between one and four years to complete.

What are the benefits of an apprenticeship?

There are lots of great reasons to do an apprenticeship, but here are the big ones:

  • money - you’ll be working for an employer and earning a salary while you learn. Salaries vary, but apprentices earn an average of £170 per week;
  • other perks - you’ll get paid holidays too, plus the same benefits as other employees - pension contributions, subsidised canteen, leisure facilities, etc;
  • qualifications - you’ll gain nationally recognised qualifications that will be valid for any employer. That means you can change jobs and take your skills and qualifications with you;
  • training - with an apprenticeship under your belt, employers will know that you’ve got the skills and training needed to do the job and they’ll be more likely to hire you.

Apprenticeship levels

There are three levels of apprenticeships:

Intermediate level apprenticeship

Working towards work-based qualifications such as a Level 2, competence qualification, as well as functional skills and in most cases a relevant knowledge-based qualification. The qualifications you receive are equivalent to five GCSEs at grades A-C.

Advanced level apprenticeship

You can expect to gain a work-based qualification such as a Level 3 competence qualification as well as functional skills and in most cases a relevant knowledge-based qualification. These qualifications are equivalent to two A levels.

Higher apprenticeship

You’ll work towards work-based learning qualifications such as a Level 4 competence qualification and perhaps a learning-based qualification, functional skills and, in some cases, a knowledge-based qualification such as a foundation degree.

Early career programmes as a route to higher qualifications

Many advanced apprenticeships offer great educational opportunities, allowing apprentices to walk away with a graduate or event a master’s degree.

To find out more about such opportunities, watch this video of Bethan Murray [new window], an apprentice at Rolls-Royce, talking about her scheme and what it entails at the 2013 IET apprenticeship conference.


Reproduced and edited from The Apprenticeship Guide 2013