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Getting started: How to help your child choose the right apprenticeship

Apprenticeships were developed to help address the skills shortage in UK businesses. They provide a way of combining learning with on the job training, which helps build solid, professional skills transferable from one organisation to another. Apprenticeships can last from one to five years – and may be longer if undertaken part-time. They result in a professional qualification. Employers pay a salary and tuition fees are covered by the employer and the government.

Who can become an apprentice?

Apprenticeships are aimed at candidates between 16 and 25 years old. However, they are now open to anyone age 16 or over looking to improve their expertise. This means there’s plenty of competition from more experienced applicants, but organisations are often keen to take on school-leavers in order to train them both in the job and the organisation’s values. Very often the relationship between employer and apprentice continues long after the apprenticeship is over, creating long-term work opportunities. Apprenticeships vary in the qualifications that can be achieved, length of commitment and balance between work and study. They may involve moving away from home. With so many options, it may be helpful to consider the various elements independently.

How to help your child choose the right apprenticeship


What level of apprenticeship is appropriate?

First, your child needs to decide which level of apprenticeship they wish to take. This will be determined by two things: • Having the required level of qualifications to be accepted; • How long they intend to commit to their apprenticeship. Apprenticeships range between Level 2 and Level 7. There is no “Level 1” – that’s because enrolling on an apprenticeship requires demonstrating a certain aptitude.

Most apprenticeships work towards one or more qualifications. These qualifications correspond to the level of apprenticeship. Intermediate apprenticeships (level 2) is equivalent to gaining five GCSEs at grade 4 and above. Most apprenticeships at this level will cover basic numeracy and literacy skills as well as providing level 2 qualifications, such as awards, certificates, diplomas or NVQs depending on the length and difficulty of the work and training provided. Advanced apprenticeships (level 3) provide qualifications equivalent to 2 A levels. Level 3 qualifications may include National Certificates, National Diplomas or NVQs, suitable as a post 16 or post 18 option. Higher apprenticeships (level 4 / 5) provide a higher education qualification equivalent to the first or second year of university. Level 4 and 5 qualifications include Higher National Certificates (equivalent to the first year of university), Higher National Diplomas (equivalent to the second year of university) or foundation degrees.

Degree apprenticeships

Degree apprenticeships (levels 6 and 7), developed by universities, professional bodies and employers, offer the chance to qualify with a bachelors or masters degree whilst working. Time is split between work and study. This can be an attractive alternative to attending university. At the moment, degree apprenticeships are only available in England or Wales but applications can be made from anywhere in the UK. There are no tuition fees to pay when working towards a degree offered by a level 6 or 7 apprenticeship (these are covered by the employer and the government) and the apprentice will receive a salary to cover living expenses, paid holiday and sick leave. Salaries usually range between £7k-18k p/a, although some employers offer more. For more information on degree apprenticeships including how to apply and prepare for interview, you may be interested in The Parents’ Guide to Degree apprenticeships 2020-2021. Summary of apprenticeship levels:


Check carefully what qualifications your child will receive

It’s important your child checks the qualifications on offer before applying for an apprenticeship. For example, an employer may offer a level 6 or 7 apprenticeship without it resulting in a degree – although the qualification earned would be considered equivalent to a degree.


Check for flexibility

Apprenticeships are often flexible in that it may be possible to extend the apprenticeship period and obtain a higher qualification. For example, some apprenticeships will allow your child to continue on to a higher apprenticeship (level 4 / 5) once the advanced apprenticeship (level 3) is complete. Always check with their employer whether such progression is possible.


Helping your child choose the right apprenticeship

Once your child has decided on the level of apprenticeship they want to apply for, next they should decide on their area of interest and see what apprenticeships are available within that sector. If they don’t know where their areas of interest lie, it’s time to do some research! Of course, careers advisers can help at school, but they might want to jump online themselves. If they get bored reading about a certain sector, chances are that’s an indication the sector isn’t for them. Getting some work experience is also a good way of deciding whether reality matches up to the theory of a dream job.


Will the apprenticeship help them get the career they want?

There’s no need to be too specific about the job or role they ultimately want, but it’s important that they can see a correlation between their apprenticeship, the areas of study, the experience it will give them, and where they want to be in the future (say five years’ time).


Is your child applying for an apprenticeship?



For more information on apprenticeships and how you can help them apply for one, check out The Parents’ Guide to Apprenticeships 2020-2021.



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Wherever we refer to ‘parents’ we mean ‘parents and carers.’ This includes grandparents, older siblings or any other  person with significant caring responsibilities for children.