For some students, the end of GCSEs is a point where they feel they need a change in their lives. This often means moving school or going to college; however, some students choose to completely change their method of study. Apprenticeships are becoming a very popular choice for this reason. However, the world of apprenticeships can be confusing, and working out which one to take can cause anxiety for many students. This article will discuss which levels of apprenticeships are available after GCSEs, and the required qualifications to take an apprenticeship.
Apprenticeships are a system of qualifications that are studied by students after the age of 16. There are many levels, from traineeship to degree. Students who have no GCSE passes can complete a traineeship. Students who have 2+ GCSE passes can complete an intermediate apprenticeship, and students who have 5+ GCSE passes can complete an advanced apprenticeship. These qualifications usually lead to gaining a technical certificate, as well as another qualification depending on the course you do.
While this should have answered some of your basic questions about apprenticeships, this can be a complex and confusing topic. Please read on for the full details of how apprenticeships work for post-GCSE students.
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Which apprenticeships are for post-GCSE students?
When thinking of apprenticeships, many students’ minds go straight to traditional trade careers such as hairdressing and construction. However, modern apprenticeships are far more wide-ranging and can be studied in almost any career you can think of. They combine practical experience on the job with gaining a qualification in your area of work, while also being paid minimum wage or above!
Student finance while doing an apprenticeship can be confusing, so please check out this Think Student article for more information.
GCSE students can undertake either a traineeship, an intermediate apprenticeship, or an advanced apprenticeship depending on their qualifications. See below for the requirements and benefits of each of these courses.
Students who are beyond A-Level can also undertake apprenticeships, particularly higher or degree apprenticeships, which are more rigorous, and comparable to a university degree or master’s qualification.
What types of apprenticeships are there?
There are 4 levels of apprenticeship that students in the UK can undertake. These are part of a system designed by the government called the Modern Apprenticeships scheme. They provide access to any student over the age of 16 at varying levels depending on their capabilities.
- Traineeships – for students who have not yet gained the skills or qualifications needed to apply for an apprenticeship. These courses last 6 months, and work on developing key maths and literacy skills to provide an alternative route into a level 2 apprenticeship.
- Intermediate Apprenticeships (level 2) – These are for students aged 16+ who have two or more GCSE pass grades. These last between 12-18 months and are wide-ranging, with a large number of career paths that can be followed. They give a qualification such as a BTEC or NVQ (which is equivalent to 5 GCSE passes) and prepare students for an Advanced Apprenticeship.
- Advanced Apprenticeship (level 3) – for students with 5+ GCSE passes, or equivalent, lasting 12-18 months. These are equivalent to 2 A-Levels and pay a salary as well as give great on-the-job training and experience for your chosen career.
- Higher Apprenticeships (level 4/5) – for school leavers aged 18+ with 2+ A-Levels. These last 3-4 years and focus on management-related skills as well as the practical ones. They give students a higher national qualification, foundation degree, or undergraduate degree depending on the course.
- Degree Apprenticeship (level 6/7) – a 3–5-year course similar to other types of degree, where students work full time while also studying for a master’s or bachelor’s degree. They usually require 2 A-Levels or a set amount of UCAS points and are completely free to study, as well as paying at least minimum wage.
More information on the types of apprenticeships can be found in this helpful guide from RateMyApprenticeship. You may also want to check out this extensive guide to apprenticeship levels on the Think Student website.
Do you need GCSEs to study for an apprenticeship?
To study for an apprenticeship, you must have achieved at least 2 GCSE passes. This is because apprenticeships are more than just work experience, they are technical and demanding qualifications which will prepare you to work in a difficult industry. Therefore, GCSEs can be essential to getting the most out of an apprenticeship.
Students who have not achieved at least 2 GCSEs, or have left school without any qualifications, can take a traineeship qualification. These, detailed above, are short qualifications aimed at improving students’ maths and English skills, in preparation for entering an apprenticeship of their choice. They enable students to gain key skills in a shorter time, while still providing a different environment for students who do not thrive in the school system.
Students with no GCSEs (or GCSEs that do not reach the grades needed for entry) can also look into applying for level 2, or intermediate apprenticeships if they have relevant work experience, or are particularly passionate about the scheme. This means they can bypass the traineeship stage, especially for students who are strong candidates in other areas such as technical skills.
Entry requirements are decided by individual employers and are not available for all schemes. If it is something you are interested in, please contact individual schemes to see different options for entry.
If you are interested in looking at other options for studying post-GCSE, please check out this Think Student article.
How many GCSEs do you need for an apprenticeship?
Intermediate apprenticeships typically ask for a pass in maths and English language at least, or an equivalent qualification such as functional skills level 2. This is because those are the national standards students are expected to reach before leaving school and they are needed to complete any qualification. This requirement is sometimes generalised to 2 passes at GCSE or more, depending on the apprenticeship.
If you do not already have maths and English, apprenticeship courses usually require that you complete these qualifications during the course of the apprenticeship.
For an advanced apprenticeship, students need 5 or more passes at GCSE. This is similar to other A-Level equivalent qualifications and includes GCSE equivalent marks such as BTECs, or an intermediate apprenticeship. These passes can be in any subject, but again typically need to include maths or English, or these will need to be completed during the apprenticeship.
How do you apply for an apprenticeship?
The first step to applying for an apprenticeship is to create an account on the UK government’s ‘Find an Apprenticeship’ service. This was created specifically for students, improve access to opportunities, and can be found here. On this site, you can save apprenticeships that interest you, as well as applying to the ones that you want to go for.
The other way to find an apprenticeship is to look on your desired employer’s website, where you can usually apply directly. This is great if you have a specific workplace in mind, so do not be afraid to contact companies to find out what opportunities they have available.
To apply for an apprenticeship, you also need a CV and a cover letter. These outline your skills and qualifications and help you to find the right apprenticeship for you. They also help employers to see why you would be a great employee. For help writing a CV, check out this guide from Indeed, which includes helpful tips and examples to create the best view of yourself.
For a comprehensive guide to applying to apprenticeships, please read this Think Student guide.
Usually, applying for several apprenticeships at a time increases your chances of being chosen. Also this means you shouldn’t have to wait as long to find somewhere to work. Feeling nervous about applying or waiting to hear from an employer is very normal, and if you are worried, ask your school or others for support.
Often it takes a few tries to find the right apprenticeship, just as it does when you are applying for jobs. Between interviews and trial workdays, you have many opportunities to prove why you would be a good fit for a company, so do not give up. If you are motivated and work hard you will find the right apprenticeship for you, even if it takes a while.