Apprenticeships: The Basics

What are Apprenticeships?

As employees, apprentices earn a wage and work alongside experienced staff to gain job-specific skills. Off the job, usually on a day-release basis, apprentices receive training to work towards nationally recognised qualifications.Anyone living in England, over 16 years-old and not in full-time education can be an apprentice.

Apprenticeships can take between one and four years to complete depending on the level of Apprenticeship, the apprentices’ ability and the industry sector.The minimum salary is £3.30 per hour from the 1st October 2015 however, many apprentices earn significantly more.

Who are they for?

Apprenticeships are open to all age groups above 16 years-old whether you are just leaving school, seeking to start a new career or are moving into a new role with your existing employer that requires new skills.

There may be different entry requirements depending on the Apprenticeship and the industry sector. However competition for places with employers can be fierce, so you will need to show that you are committed, and aware of your responsibilities to both yourself and the company who would employ you.You also need to be happy to work as both part of a team and individually, and be able to use your own initiative.


Apprenticeships are designed with the help of the employers in the industry, so they offer a structured programme that takes you through the skills you need to do a job well.There are targets and checks to make sure that your employer is supporting you and you are making progress.

As an employee you will be in your place of employment or on a relevant work /building site which has been risk assessed. for most of your time as most training takes place on the job.The rest usually takes place at a local college or a specialist training organisation such as CableComTraining Ltd.You can complete this off-the-job training on day release or over a number of days in a block.The amount of time you spend varies according to your Apprenticeship. It could be anything from one day every other fortnight to two days every week. So all the subjects you study will be useful in your job and help you succeed in your future career.

Your employment will normally be for a minimum 30 hours per week but may be more. In a small number of circumstances where there is a recognised reason why the apprenticeship needs to be for fewer hours this will be allowed as long as it does not fall below a minimum of 16 hours.When this occurs the actual length of the apprenticeship will then be extended in order that sufficient time is spent to gain the required experience and skills you will need to do the job.

Apprenticeship Agreement

An Apprenticeship Agreement is an agreement between you and an employer.The purpose of the Apprenticeship Agreement is to:

  • identify the skill, trade or occupation for which you are being trained; and
  • confirm the qualifying Apprenticeship framework that you are following.

An Apprenticeship Agreement reflects the fact that an Apprenticeship is primarily a job rather than training.


Apprenticeships are increasingly recognised as the gold standard for work-based training. There are three levels of Apprenticeship available:

1 - Intermediate Level Apprenticeships

Apprentices work towards work-based learning qualifications such as a Level 2 Competence Qualification, Functional Skills and, in most cases, a relevant knowledge-based qualification.

2 - Advanced Level Apprenticeships

Apprentices work towards work-based learning such as a Level 3 Competence Qualification, Functional Skills and, in most cases, a relevant knowledge based qualification.

3 - Higher Apprenticeships

Apprentices work towards a work-based learning qualification such as a Level 4 Competence Qualification, Functional Skills and, in some cases, a knowledge-based qualification such as a Foundation Degree.

The National Apprenticeship Service has released a full guide to the Higher Apprenticeships expected to be available to A-Level school leavers and existing apprentices in 2013. For more information visit

All Apprenticeships must include the following elements:

  • A competency based qualification which must be achieved by the apprentice to qualify for an Apprenticeship certificate, and which is the qualification required to demonstrate competence in performing the skill, trade or occupation to which the framework relates
  • A technical knowledge qualification which is the qualification required to demonstrate achievement of the technical skills, knowledge and understanding of theoretical concepts and knowledge and understanding of the industry and its market relevant to the skill, trade or occupation to which the framework relates. Sometimes an Apprenticeship framework may have an integrated qualification which combines competence and technical knowledge elements in which each element is separately assessed
  • A module on employee rights and responsibilities
  • A module on personal learning and thinking skills
  • Functional Skills (e.g. Mathematics and/or ICT depending on the apprenticeship English) qualifications or a GCSE with enhanced content (e.g. Mathematics and English)

Apprentices who have already achieved the appropriate GCSEs at grade C and above will be given an exemption.