Apprenticeships: A guide for parents

School leavers in the UK have an increasing number of options for progression routes after they finish their GCSEs. From A-levels, further education courses and university, the choices available are varied and require a great deal of consideration. An additional option which is becoming more popular with school leavers and parents alike are apprenticeships, as they provide a great way of earning a salary whilst getting a recognised qualification. In this article we’ve put together a brief guide on apprenticeships for parents, to clarify what options are available as well as the benefits that doing an apprenticeship can bring for your child.


Why do an apprenticeship?


Unlike with a course at college or university, an apprentice actually gets paid a real wage or salary whilst working towards a regulated qualification. As an employee they are entitled to many of the same rights that other employees enjoy, such as entitlement to annual leave. They can also be a great way for your child to get their foot in the door of a particular industry, whilst they also provide an excellent opportunity to gain work experience. With apprenticeships steadily increasing in popularity, they are becoming a more valued and acceptable route into the workforce as an alternative to college or university. Completing an apprenticeship may even prove to be a better option as there is no prospect of accumulating any student debt.


What apprenticeships are available?


You can now start an apprenticeship in a huge number of industries, from traditional vocations such as hairdressing and plumbing to more specialist white collar professions such as marketing and accountancy. Depending on what existing qualifications your child has in terms of GCSEs or A-levels, there are also different qualification levels available. Intermediate apprenticeships at Level 2 might be more suitable for your child if they only have a few GCSEs at grades A-C. By contrast, advanced apprenticeships at Level 3 are equivalent to A-levels and might therefore be more suitable if your child has attained five or more GCSEs. Another option could be to do a degree apprenticeship, although entry onto these would usually require a Level 3 qualification such as A-levels.


How do apprentices spend their time?


Around 80% of an apprenticeship is spent working and learning in the employer’s workplace, whilst the remainder of that time is usually allocated to attending classes with a local training provider or college. Your child will therefore be provided with a structured learning and working routine should they choose to undertake an apprenticeship. The length of time it takes to complete an apprenticeship can vary and often depends on the type and level of the qualification being undertaken. For example, an intermediate apprenticeship at Level 2 might take at least a year, whilst a Level 3 advanced apprenticeship would likely take longer to complete. Depending on what previous grades the apprentice has received in GCSE Maths and English, your child may be required to gain those or similar qualifications such as Functional Skills during their apprenticeship.


What costs are involved for apprentices and how much do they earn?


The good news is that apprentices are under no obligation to cover the cost of their qualification or training fees, as this is usually covered by the apprenticeship levy which is paid for by the employer running the apprenticeship. This same principle also applies to degree apprenticeships, meaning that there is usually no student debt for degree apprentices. As an apprentice your child should also be entitled to sick pay and enrolment into a pension scheme. Whilst there are no training costs for apprentices, the minimum wage for apprenticeships is somewhat lower than for other employers. As of April 2021 the minimum wage for apprentices is £4.30 per hour regardless of their age. Degree apprenticeships can however pay a higher salary, with some even paying up to £18,000 per year.


How do you find an apprenticeship?


Finding an apprenticeship shouldn’t be too much of a difficult task, especially as employers are being given greater financial incentives to offer them. Websites such as gov.uk have a ‘Find an apprenticeship’ search portal which enables you to search for apprenticeships according to factors such as industry, location and qualification level. The portal also lists apprenticeships that are provided by disability confident employers, which mean be of benefit if your child has a disability. Alternatively, you can also look for apprenticeship vacancies in job sites, local newspapers and on employer’s websites.