What is a Traineeship?

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After doing GCSEs, many students find the huge number of options for further study overwhelming. One of the least known options at this stage is called a traineeship. Many students have never heard of a traineeship.

Those that have often have misconceptions or preconceptions about who they are for and how they work. If you are looking at options beyond A-Levels or college after you finish GCSEs, a traineeship is a good option for you to explore. This article will explain the qualification, how to apply, and answer common questions about traineeships, to help you make the right choice for your future.

A traineeship is a skills development course designed to help 16–24-year-olds to get ready for an apprenticeship or job by giving them the skills and experience they need. They last from 6 weeks to 1 year. 25-year-olds can also undertake one if they have an EHC plan. They give work experience while also improving maths and English skills. Thus, improving chances of gaining employment or an apprenticeship after the traineeship finishes.

While this should have given you a simple answer to your questions about traineeships, please read on for the full information about this qualification.

What is a traineeship in the UK?

A traineeship is a programme of skills development and work experience designed for 16–24-year-olds or 25-year-olds with an education, health and care plan (EHCP). They help prepare students for an apprenticeship or a job in the future and are designed for those who may not yet have the skills or experience needed for these options.

Traineeships help students to gain real world experience of work, skills in maths and English, and an understanding of the workplace. This is invaluable once you progress to employment, as it can help you transition smoothly into the new and often difficult environment. It also shows employers that you are dedicated and have previous experience. This makes your career prospects much higher.

To be taken on for a traineeship in the UK you must be eligible to work in the UK, or whichever country your traineeship is taking place in. As mentioned, 16–24-year-olds, or 25-year-olds with an ECHP are eligible to take part. Usually, traineeships are only available to students who have little to no work experience and are unemployed.

If you do not meet the requirements above, you should look into an apprenticeship, as they are available at any age and require more experience to undertake. However, if you have been unsuccessful in applying for jobs and apprenticeships, it could be the ideal route for you.

To learn more about what a traineeship, check out this governmental guide. For more options of what to do after GCSEs, check out this Think Student article for a huge range of ideas.

How long is a traineeship?

Traineeships last from around 6 weeks to a maximum of a year, however most last for less than 6 months. The length of training usually depends on the trainee’s needs. It is usually not set before meeting the trainee and determining what they will need, as this is a personalised programme.

Throughout the traineeship, you can expect to experience at least 70 hours of a high-quality work placement. You will also get training to prepare you for employment. This usually includes support in CV writing, workplace behaviour and job seeking guidance. Also, most trainees receive help in maths and English skills, as well as technology training, often working towards formal qualifications.

There is no set number of hours a week that a traineeship will last, or an official guide on how much time you should spend during a traineeship gaining skills and working.

However, employers usually discuss this with trainees during the interview process. This is to ensure that the number of hours they are providing to provide matches up with trainee’s expectations. For more about how long traineeships are, check out this governmental guide.

Do you get paid for a traineeship in the UK?

Traineeships in the UK include a work placement of at least 70 hours with a registered employer. However, as this is a work placement and not employment, the company has no requirement to pay trainees. It is an opportunity to gain experience, rather than a job outright.

If employers do choose to pay their trainees, they are exempt from the minimum wage, so can be paid however the employer sees fit. For more on this, check out this governmental guide.

However, employers are encouraged by the government to support you with expenses such as travel and lunch costs. This is not required but is becoming more common among traineeship organisations. If this is something you are concerned about, ask your employer for more information on the support they provide to trainees.

Young people in traineeships are counted as undertaking education and training, so may be eligible for the 16-19 bursary fund. For more information about the bursary, this government page has key facts as well as help with applying.

You will also remain eligible for any benefits you currently receive, but if you are struggling with finances contact your local Jobcentre Plus, who should be able to help you with funding and allocating your money. You can find your nearest Jobcentre Plus with this helpful government tool. Even if your training exceeds 16 hours a week, as the traineeship is classed as “education” it does not prevent you from receiving benefits.

All trainees should have the opportunity to apply for a bursary at application, which is usually means tested and is often provided by their employer. This is discussed during interviews and application, so if you have questions about this please ask your employer for more information.

What are the benefits of a traineeship?

Traineeships are intended to improve skills in general, but especially for the workplace, in maths and English skills. Often, students work towards formal qualifications during their traineeship such as functional skills qualifications, which helps with building evidence for future job applications.

Traineeships also offer students the chance to build their CV with work experience, as well as learning about the business and industry you work with. This helps you to gain confidence and skills for applying for further opportunities after you finish.

Traineeships are primarily designed to prepare students to undertake an apprenticeship. However, after finishing a traineeship you have many options for progression. You can apply for a permanent job, go onto further study such as getting a degree, or even volunteer to build more skills and experience.

Some employers even offer a job or apprenticeship to trainees when they finish the programme, as a paid role within the company. However, this is not all companies and is usually dependant on individual performance within the traineeship. For more about this, check out this guide by the National Careers Service.

Are traineeships the same as apprenticeships?

Traineeships and apprenticeships can seem similar on the surface. However, they have fundamentally different aims and conditions. They should not be confused as they are intended for different purposes and different types of student and give completely different skills and progression options.

The biggest difference between a traineeship and an apprenticeship is the length of time they take to complete. Traineeships take usually around 8 weeks to 6 months.

However, apprenticeships are a minimum of 1 year and up to 6 years of work. This shows the difference in the depth and type of training received in each of these options.

Also, traineeships are usually unpaid. Although sometimes trainees receive expenses for travel and food while at work. There is also no guarantee of a job at the end of training. Apprenticeships are paid the minimum wage at least and may offer a job upon completion.

A traineeship is intended to prepare students for an apprenticeship, or another path such as further training or an entry level job. If you are looking to complete an apprenticeship but do not yet have the correct skills, a traineeship could be the best option for you.

For more information on apprenticeships, check out this helpful Think Student guide.

How do you find a traineeship?

The requirements for being a trainee are listed above, however there are a few essentials to ensure you can fulfil before you apply to find a traineeship.

Trainees must be 16-24 years old (or 25 with EHCP) and qualified below level 3 (GCSE and equivalent maximum). They usually also need to be unemployed or not in full-time work, with little to no work experience.

Finally, trainees need to be motivated to work and achieve their goals, or they will gain little from the traineeship programme. To learn more about these criteria, check out this governmental guide.

If you already have the skills and experience needed for employment, or are already employed, a traineeship is likely not the best option for you. An apprenticeship, or further study at a college may better suit your needs.

The government has a very helpful tool for finding and applying to traineeships, which can be found here. Opportunities are regularly posted by companies and employers on this service, and you can search within your area of interest, as well as proximity to where you live. This helps you find the best traineeship for you.

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