National Apprenticeship Week_Why do an apprenticeship

National Apprenticeship Week_Why do an apprenticeship

What are your first thoughts when you hear ‘apprenticeships’? As National Apprenticeship Week 2020 took place during 3rd to 9th February, we thought we would investigate modern apprenticeships in more detail and crush those preconceived ideas some of us may have.

With a bid to have more opportunities for school leavers to stay in some form of education, the new government apprenticeships mean that a lot has changed over recent years. No longer are manual trades such as plumbing and carpentry at the top of the list, now we are seeing customer service, hospitality and catering and business administration making the top ten. The appeal is also not only for school leavers, as more and more new industries offer apprenticeships requiring different levels of expertise. So whether you are looking at warehouse apprenticeships or are looking for a career change, this is an option for you to consider.

Back in the early 20th century an apprentice was legally required to work for their employer for a set number of years. They likely received no pay for this, although they may have been given board and lodgings. On top of that they had to pay their employer a fee to cover the cost of their training as well as buying their own tools.

The modern government apprenticeship in England has undergone a complete transformation since those days, and even since the latter part of the last century. Apprenticeships today are a mutual arrangement. Employers invest in their apprentice and the apprentice earns and learns from their employer whilst being an integral part of their workforce.

As Sue Husband, Director of Apprenticeships at the National Apprenticeship Service said:

“The employers of yesterday, like those of today, recognised the value of apprenticeships in equipping people with the skills businesses required. Today more than 100,000 employers are offering quality apprenticeships, building on the example of pioneering forefathers before them.”1

Today an apprenticeship can help you, whatever stage you are at. You could be at the start of your working life, changing career direction or returning to work after a break.

Apprenticeships are available all over England in companies of varying sizes and in a wide range of industries. You could work in a small independently owned business or for a big brand like Ford, Airbus, Barclays, Google IBM and the BBC.

Not everyone finds full-time study the best way to learn so an apprenticeship offers a different form of education, combining practical training in a job with study, leading to an industry recognised standard or qualification. Apprenticeships are designed by the employer so you develop the right skills and knowledge for the industry, whilst working alongside experienced staff. You are also given time to study a subject related to your job role, usually one day a week. Including your training, most apprenticeships require you to work 30 hours or more each week. It can take anywhere from 1 to 6 years to complete your program depending on the sector, the level of the apprenticeship and your previous work experience. At the end you will have earnt a qualification that will help you further your career.

We found out some of the main misconceptions people still have about apprenticeships and below we set about putting them right.

I don’t think apprenticeships apply to me, they’re for school leavers aren’t they?

It is true that some apprenticeships are targeted more at school leavers but they are available to anyone. The minimum requirements for government apprenticeships in England are

  • Aged over 16, no upper age limit
  • No longer in full-time education
  • Living in England

Other parts of the UK have their own equivalent government backed apprenticeships.

Apprenticeships are a great option for anyone who has a clear idea of the type of career they want to want to progress in.

My life’s too busy with kids/elderly parents to care for. I can’t seriously go back to studying.

Apprenticeships are available to anyone, at any age or stage in their life. Study is usually only one day a week, and while you may be among the higher age range in the classroom, the rest of the time you will be at your workplace working with your colleagues. It may require some extra time and commitment to fit the study in around home and work, but the hours in the workplace are usually reduced to allow for this.

I don’t know of any apprenticeships that accept you if you only have work experience. I don’t have any GCSE’s.

Each apprenticeship has its own specific entry requirements. Most will prefer you to have at least Maths and English GCSEs but if you don’t have those, there are courses you can do to get up to speed.

Apprenticeships don’t cater for people with loads of experience.

Apprenticeships are not only for starter levels. There are apprenticeships at intermediate, advanced, higher and degree levels. These are equivalent to the following academic levels:

  • Intermediate Level 2 = 5 GCSE passes
  • Advanced Level 3 = 2 A level passes
  • Higher Level 4, 5, 6 or 7 = Diploma or Foundation degree
  • Degree Level 6 or 7 = Bachelor’s or Master’s degree

If you already have A levels or the equivalent then you might want to think about a Higher or Degree level apprenticeship. These can be in anything from Nursing to Sales and Marketing. The study part usually takes place at a College or University or with a specific training provider, there may even be the opportunity for some online study. The Complete Guide to Higher and Degree Level Apprenticeships from the National Apprenticeship Service will provide you more information on this.

Businesses take on Higher and Degree level apprentices because they need to have a highly-skilled workforce. When you finish your apprenticeship you will have a diploma or degree and can then work your way further up the career ladder of your chosen industry. 30% of the senior UK managers at Rolls Royce started out in the company as apprentices.2

Apprenticeships are a way of paying people less money aren’t they?

An apprenticeship is essentially a real job, so you are considered an employee with a contract of employment, earning a salary just like everyone else. You get paid for all of your working hours as well as for all of your training time. As an employee, you are also entitled to at least 20 days paid holiday per year, plus Bank Holidays.

The legal requirement is that apprentices must be paid at least the National Minimum Wage, or the Apprentice Rate when applicable. However, many apprentices get paid more than this, especially for higher level apprenticeships.

  • Apprentice Rate for those aged under 19 or in the first year of your apprenticeship
  • £3.90 per hour (£4.10 per hour from April 2020)
  • National Minimum Wage for apprentices aged 19 or over who have completed the first year of their apprenticeship
  • Age 19- 20: £6.15 per hour (£6.45 per hour from April 2020)
  • Age 21 – 24: £7.70 per hour (£8.20 per hour from April 2020)
  • Age 25 and over: £8.21 per hour (£8.72 per hour from April 2020)

The apprenticeships I’ve seen cover really basic jobs and skills that I already have.

The Government backed apprenticeship scheme has between 12,000 and 20,000 apprenticeships available at any one time across England. With all the different apprenticeships across many sectors and at various levels, it will require some time and research to find the right one, but there is bound to be something that will help you move on in your current career or perhaps enable you to make a career change.

There are lots of resources available to help you on your quest to find an apprenticeship. The best place to start is on the website. It is a good idea to register so you can set up email and text alerts about new opportunities that might interest you.

Other places for more information are the Apprenticeships, Apprentice Hub website and Amazing Apprenticeships.

If there is a particular company that you would like to work in then you can always contact them directly or check their websites to find out about any available apprenticeships.

Top 5 reasons to do an apprenticeship

  • Earn a real wage
  • Hands-on experience working whilst you learn
  • Training paid for by your employer and the Government so no tuition fees or student loans
  • Be trained in the right skills for your chosen occupation
  • Set up your future career path

Other parts of the UK have their own apprenticeship schemes, similar to England. Skills Development Scotland has designed Modern Apprenticeships to help with filling the skills gaps in the workforce. The Modern Apprenticeship is a way for existing employees to upskill and new employees to learn, combining on-the-job experience with study for a qualification so that employers can develop their own workforce and fill the skills gaps they have.

As a Warehouse Operative you could search warehouse apprenticeships as a means to upskill, increasing your knowledge and expertise working in various parts of the warehouse and gaining a relevant qualification at the same time. This can be a step up the ladder of your career, leading you into Warehouse Management or perhaps onto a related industry such as Transport or Logistics.

If you need more inspiration about your next career move, read our blog, Future of Work – Top 10 Job Roles of the Future.


1 Commemorating 100 years of apprenticeships (2014) (Accessed February 2020)

2 The Complete Guide to Higher and Degree Apprenticeships (2019) (Accessed February 2020)