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What is an apprenticeship? Why should I do one?

An apprenticeship allows you to combine work and study by mixing on-the-job training with classroom learning at college or University. Apprenticeships provide a great opportunity - you gain practical, hands-on experience while studying for a qualification and also earning a wage.

How does an apprenticeship work?

You would be employed to do a real job while you are studying for a formal qualification, you would usually be at college one day a week or a month and working full time the rest of the time. Once you have completed your apprenticeship, you would have gained the skills and knowledge needed to either succeed in your chosen career or to progress onto the next apprenticeship level.

The specifics of what you would learn during your apprenticeship depends on the role that you are training for. However, apprentices in every role follow an approved study programme, which means you would gain a nationally-recognised qualification at the end of your apprenticeship.

These qualifications can include:

• Functional skills - GCSE level qualifications in English, Maths and IT.

• National Vocational Qualifications (NVQs) - from level 2 (comparable to five GCSEs) up to level 5 (similar to a postgraduate degree).

• Technical certificates - such as BTEC, City and Guild Progression Award etc.

• Academic qualifications - including a Higher National Certificate (HNC), Higher National Diploma (HND) foundation degree or the equivalent of a full Bachelors degree.

You will also be constantly developing your transferable skills, which are highly valued by employers. These include communication, teamwork, problem solving, as well as knowledge of IT and the application of numbers.

Apprenticeship levels

There are four different levels of apprenticeship:

• Intermediate - equivalent to five good GCSE passes.

• Advanced - equivalent to two A-level passes.

• Higher - equivalent to the first stages of higher education, such as a foundation degree.

• Degree - comparable to a Bachelors or Masters degree. Find out more at degree apprenticeships.

At UCPS eLearning we offer the opportunity to take a Level 3 (intermediate) Digital Learning & Graphic Design apprenticeship, with the opportunity, if you want to, to move on to Level 4 (advanced) once you have completed a Level 3 qualification.

Types of apprenticeships

Most job sectors offer apprenticeship opportunities. These include:

• Business apprenticeships in roles such as accounting, marketing, people/HR administration, recruitment and sales.

• Construction apprenticeships in roles such as building, plumbing and quantity surveying.

• Engineering apprenticeships in roles such as civil engineering, mechanical engineering and electrical engineering.

• Healthcare apprenticeships in roles such as dental, nursing and youth work, as well as NHS apprenticeships.

• IT apprenticeships in roles such as information security and software development.

• Law apprenticeships offered at paralegal, legal executive or solicitor level.

• Media apprenticeships in roles such as journalism, live events and costume design.

At UCPS eLearning we offer a Digital Learning & Graphic Design apprenticeship in partnership with Sparsholt College, Hampshire.

Length of apprenticeships

The length of your apprenticeship will depend on the level of the apprenticeship, your chosen sector, and your employer requirements.

An apprenticeship will usually last between one and six years, depending on the level you are working towards.

The length of the apprenticeship follows a basic framework:

• intermediate apprenticeships typically last between one year and 18 months

• advanced apprenticeships are usually studied over two years

• higher and degree apprenticeships take three-to-six years to complete.

Pay rates and working hours

If you are either aged under 19 and an apprentice, or 19 or over and still in your first year as an apprentice, you will be entitled to the apprenticeship wage of £3.70 (from April 2018). Apprentices aged 19 or over and who have completed their first year will be able to claim the National Minimum Wage, which currently stands at £5.90 per hour (for those aged 18-20) or £7.38 (21-24). The minimum wage rate is reviewed yearly each April.

This pay rate is stated as a guideline - some employers will pay you a higher wage. You are also entitled to sick pay and holiday.

Your working hours will vary depending on your employer, this is usually between 30 – 40 hours per week. Typically, you would work between 35 and 37.5 hours per week. The sector you are entering will determine your daily working hours; while most apprentices can expect to work a 9am-5.30pm day with an hour's break for lunch, those in hospitality or healthcare roles, for instance, should expect to work antisocial shifts.

Age limit

There is no upper age limit on being an apprentice. As long as you are over 16 and have the right credentials, you will be eligible to apply for your chosen apprenticeship.

If you start your apprenticeship after you turn 19, you may be entitled to additional government funding.

Entry requirements

As each type of apprenticeship offers a different-levelled qualification on the Qualifications and Credit Framework (QCF), their entry requirements will vary. Generally speaking, they are as follows:

• To apply for an intermediate apprenticeship, you will just need to be over 16 years old and no longer in full-time education.

• For an advanced apprenticeship, you are likely to be asked for prior work experience and at least three A*-C or 9-4 grade GCSEs or equivalent - such as an intermediate apprenticeship qualification.

• As higher apprenticeships are the equivalent of a foundation degree, HNC or first year of a Bachelors, you will usually need at least five A*-C or 9-4 grade GCSEs, as well as some Level 3 qualifications in relevant subjects, to apply. Your Level 3 qualifications could be AS-levels, a BTEC National or a level 3 NVQ.

• Degree apprenticeships will have the tightest entry requirements. These may include three A-levels in a specified grade range or a higher apprenticeship qualification, on top of at least five A*-C or 9-4 GCSE grades. It's likely you'll be required to have prior work experience.

You can apply for apprenticeships at any time of the year - it all depends when an employer has a vacancy.

The best place to look for current vacancies is https://www.gov.uk/apply-apprenticeship

We wish you all the best for the future.

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