Introducing apprenticeships: a great pathway to career success
Apprenticeships are a fantastic choice for many students, either straight after GCSE or after sixth form. They provide a way of getting qualifications while doing a real job, and are a great alternative to full-time study for those students that prefer practical experience over classroom learning.
Apprenticeships help build solid, professional skills transferable from one organisation to another. Employers pay a salary and tuition fees are covered by the employer and the government. Apprenticeships can last from one to five years – and result in a professional qualification.
For more information on apprenticeships and how you can help your child apply and prepare for an interview, you may be interested in The Parents' Guide to Apprenticeships.
Apprenticeships vary in the qualifications that can be achieved, length of commitment and balance between work and study.
Depending on their age, experience and qualifications already achieved, there are different entry levels for apprenticeships, starting at Level 2 (straight after GCSE for those that have few or no GCSE passes) through Level 6/7 (degree level). The qualifications obtained at each level range from GCSE/BTEC equivalent, A/T Level, diploma/foundation right through to masters degree. Qualifications are nationally recognized.
Length of study
Apprenticeships can last for just one year or as long as seven (or more) depending on the final qualification. If your teen isn’t comfortable with committing to several years of further study, they can take one- or two-year options and still gain recognised, valuable qualifications. Better still, if they change their mind later on and decide they wish to extend the apprenticeship to gain higher level qualifications, this is often possible. This means they don't have to make decisions about long-term commitment when they are young or unsure of their future direction, but needn't miss out on getting higher level qualifications if they decide later that's what they want to do.
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Work and study
As well as doing the job itself, apprentices will get dedicated time during the working week to study the education element of the apprenticeship. This usually takes place at a college, university or other education centre. However, it may also be necessary to spend persona
l time completing projects and keeping on top of studies, so just like being in full-time education, there may be "homework" during evenings and weekends.
An easier option than full-time education?
Taking an apprenticeship is not an easy option and competition can be fierce. It takes organisation and dedication to balance work (where your teen will be expected to contribute to the same standards as everyone else) and study. Holidays are far fewer than at college or university. However, if they learn more easily through practical application, the work-based nature of apprenticeships will suit them well and they will obtain valuable experience which will strengthen opportunities in finding rewarding work when the apprenticeship is over.
Tuition fees for apprenticeships are paid by the government/employer. Apprentices are also paid a wage for their time, so they will usually complete their apprenticeship debt free. However, there will be costs for education materials, travel to and from work, and possibly living expenses (if they are not based at home).
After the apprenticeship
Many apprentices are offered full-time roles with the company where they have served their apprenticeship. Employers invest significant time and money in their apprentices and they are keen to maintain the relationship if things have worked well.
Additionally, there's much to be learned from first-hand experience in the workplace: working to genuine timelines with real customers and colleagues. This can provide a significant edge when applying for other jobs later.
Find out more
The Parents’ Guide to Apprenticeships gives a full overview of apprenticeships, both after GCSE and sixth form, including:
Types of apprenticeship – the qualifications needed at each entry stage, what further qualifications are on offer and how long each apprenticeship lasts
The pros and cons – why apprenticeships are ideal for some teens but not for others
Degree apprenticeships – how they differ from full-time university degrees
How to research an apprenticeship
Top ten apprenticeship providers
The application process and how it works
Helping to prepare teens for interview enabling them to make the best impression
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