Apprenticeships explained

An apprenticeship is a real job with training, so you can earn a wage while you learn and become fully trained in your chosen occupation by the end of the apprenticeship. They allow you to improve your skills and progress in your career.

What is an apprenticeship?

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An apprenticeship:
  • is open to anyone over the age of 16, not enrolled in full-time education
  • is available in over 170 industries, including aerospace, finance and fashion
  • takes from one to five years to complete, depending on: age, skills and sector
  • combines practical ‘on the job’ training with study, and you might work towards a qualification.
Apprenticeships have equivalent educational levels in England
Name
Level
Equivalent educational level

Intermediate

2

GCSE

Advanced

3

A Level

Higher

4, 5, 6 and 7

Foundation degree and above

Degree

6 and 7

Bachelor’s or Master’s degree

To be accepted onto an apprenticeship, you must meet any entry requirements.

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What would I learn?

Every apprentice follows an approved programme of study, designed for the job they’re training for.

Your employer will decide the structure of your training, but apprenticeships generally combine:

  • a detailed training plan
  • regular progress reviews
  • practical training on the job
  • theoretical study at a college
  • assessment testing at a training facility
  • mentoring and support throughout your apprenticeship.

By the end of the course, you should have gained the qualifications, skills and experience potential employers in the field are looking for.

How many hours would I work a week?

Apprentices should work for a minimum of 30 hours a week, and a maximum of 40.

Time spent off the job at a college or in training is included.

Part-time apprenticeships can be agreed by your employer, at a minimum of 16 hours per week. For example where apprentices have caring responsibilities.

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Wages for apprentices

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One of the main benefits of doing an apprenticeship is you can earn a wage while you work and study.

An apprentice’s salary depends on various factors. These include:

  • the type of apprenticeship you apply for
  • your age, experience and existing qualifications
  • the sector you’re working in – for example, engineering, retail or finance.

Minimum wage

There’s a minimum wage for all young people enrolled on apprenticeships.

How much you get depends on your age and how long you’ve been doing the apprenticeship.

  • If you’re aged 16-18, or in your first year and aged over 19, you’ll earn at least £4.30 an hour (for 2021-22).
  • If you’ve completed your first year and are aged over 19, you’ll earn at least the National Minimum Wage, which varies depending on your age.

Some employers might choose to pay you more than the National Minimum Wage.

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As an apprentice, you might have to pay tax and National Insurance on your earnings.

You’re entitled to a payslip, which will show how much you earn and what deductions have been made.

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Apprenticeships during the coronavirus outbreak

As an apprentice, you’re entitled to the same support as an employee.

If you were put on unpaid leave on or before 28 February 2020, you can be furloughed on 80% of your salary. You can’t work while you’re furloughed, but you can continue your training.

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If you’ve been asked to take a period of unpaid leave, you can take a ‘break in learning’ and restart at a later date. For example, if it’s not possible for you to work from home or social distancing means your apprenticeship is not possible at the moment.

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Apprentice benefits

Apprentices working more than 33 hours a week are entitled to the same benefits as everyone else in the workplace.

These include:

  • sick pay entitlement
  • at least 20 days’ paid holiday a year
  • Statutory Maternity/Paternity Pay and maternity/paternity leave.

You might also be entitled to claim Universal Credit, and elements to cover other costs – for example, housing or bringing up children.

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Apprenticeships and workplace pensions

As an apprentice, you’ll be automatically enrolled in a workplace pension. This is as long as you meet the eligibility criteria – including being at least 22 years old.

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If you’re under 22 years old, you won’t be automatically enrolled – but can choose to opt into the scheme.

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Where to find out more

Apprenticeships work differently depending on where you live. To find out more, go to:

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impartial help for all your money and pension choices.
Whatever your circumstances or plans, move forward with MoneyHelper.

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