There's generally a lot of confusion about apprenticeships amongst young people and their parents....... What exactly is an apprenticeship these days? How does one find out about them? When do they start appearing? What are the entry requirements? Are the qualifications studied actually worth anything?
In general, apprenticeships are a formalised training contract that combine on the job training along with studying for work related qualifications. They are available in many career areas, not just the traditional craft/technical areas that have always been known about. Increasingly, new career areas are being added - e.g. there is a new apprenticeship route to qualify as a solicitor rather than via the usual Law Degree.
The qualification level studied varies from NVQ Level 2 (equivalent to GCSE level) to NVQ Level 3 (equivalent to A level standard) and on even higher to the equivalent of Higher Education qualifications. The minimum entry requirements to go on a Level 2 apprenticeship also varies, depending on the academic difficulty level of that particular career area, as well as the competition level likely to access that career, or employer. Hence to get a Level 2 Hairdressing Apprenticeship, it is possible that only a couple of GCSEs at grade C+ may be asked for; whereas to get into a Level 2 Electrical Engineering Apprenticeship, it is more likely that up to 5 GCSEs at grades C+ may be required, to also include specific subjects (such as English, Maths, Science preferably Physics, and sometimes Design & Technology - Resistant Materials). The specified subjects are usually required because they form the basis of knowledge to progress within that vocational area, and to cope with the NVQ or other vocational qualifications. The qualifications that are studied on an apprenticeship are those required by the employer, so by definition they are valued and are very transferable, both to other employers and to colleges. It is possible to transfer back into full time study afterwards, if a student has second thoughts for example about university study.
When and where are apprenticeships advertised?
The larger companies with HR departments usually advertise early - between December and April. But smaller companies advertise when they know their requirements & budget, which could be any time of the year. Don't wait until you have taken your exams, or have your results to apply for apprenticeships - companies ask for "expected grades". Don't only apply for one apprenticeship - no matter how much you may want to work for a particular company, I have known great apprenticeship candidates lose out because they banked on one job.
Apprenticeships are explained and advertised via the Careers Wales website; www.careerswales.com - see the Apprenticeship Matching Service. There are 3 different levels in Wales:
Foundation Apprenticeship, Apprenticeship, and Higher Apprenticeship.
Apprenticeships are explained via www.apprenticeships.org.uk. Once registered on the site, you can search & apply for vacancies. The website also allows you to save your searches & will email you when new vacancies that match your criteria are notified to the site. There are 3 levels of Apprenticeship in England:
Intermediate, Advanced, and Higher Apprenticeships.
Career Dragon's Top Tips:
- Register with the relevant English/ Wales website (or both if you're on the border!) as soon as possible.
- Apply for any apprenticeships that interest you, taking extreme care over the application form. This is the employers first impression of you: spelling mistakes and bad grammar will not get you an interview.
- Prepare a CV that can be posted or left with potential employers. It has been estimated that over half of all vacancies are never advertised at all. Use any contacts you and your family/ friends have to network and put the word out for you.
- Make sure that you know what you're applying for; about careers in that area, and as much as you can about the firm. Try and show that you have done this research in your application form/CV - it shows enthusiasm, commitment, and intelligence.
- Have a back-up plan. Apprenticeships are VERY hard to get, so apply for a full-time course at college, or at school in case you're not lucky this year. You can continue to apply for apprenticeships whilst studying, or after your course next year.