Students in secondary school will likely be considering their goals for after their GCSEs. This leads to pondering over their choices and their journey to get to their destination. Unfortunately, the multitude of choices can often overwhelm students. It can be super stressful when mulling these paths over, and especially the specifics of each choice. One such choice is apprenticeships, and a concern of students is the financial aspect. Who exactly pays for an apprenticeship?
Apprenticeships are paid for in two ways, and neither is by the apprentice themselves. One way is through the employer, if they have a pay bill of over £3 million per year. Another way is through the government, and this is done when the employer has a pay bill of less than £3 million a year.
While this may have given a brief summary of who pays for an apprenticeship, it may be worthwhile to read on for additional information.
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Do apprentices have to pay for their training?
In short, apprentices do not pay for their own training. There are two ways the apprenticeship is paid. The first is through the business itself and the employer. This is if the employer has a pay bill of over £3 million a year.
However, if the employer has a pay bill of less than £3 million per year, at least 90% of apprenticeship expenses, training costs and assessment costs are paid for by the government.
If they are eligible, the employer may also receive money from the government for taking on a sixteen to eighteen-year-old. The apprentice’s earnings should be made up of their bonuses, commissions, pension contributions and wages. To find out whether an apprentice has to pay tax and national insurance, click here to visit a Think Student article.
To find out more about apprenticeship funding, click here for a spreadsheet from gov.uk.
How much does an apprenticeship cost?
To summarise, the cost of an apprenticeship really does vary. There are many different training methods and skills to be learned through an apprenticeship, therefore the prices of an apprenticeship shift a lot.
Fortunately, you may be eligible to get a student loan for an apprenticeship. To find out more about this, read this article on Think Student.
For an employer, if their annual wage bill is less than £3 million, they only have to pay approximately 5% of the cost of the apprenticeship. The government would pay the other 95% if applicable.
If the apprentice is aged 16-18, (or up to 25 if they have an Education Health Care Plan) and the total apprentices’ number less than 50, the government pays 100% of the cost. If the apprentice is aged 19+ or you employ more than 50 members of staff, the Government will fund 95% of the apprenticeship costs.
To find out more about how much apprenticeships cost for employers, check out this article from HTP Apprentice College.
How does an apprenticeship work?
At a surface level, apprenticeships combine on-the-job learning with classroom experience. Apprentices will earn at least the National Minimum Wage while they work and will study from a GCSE (intermediate) to degree level. Apprenticeships take from one to six years to complete.
An apprenticeship consists of being employed to do a real job, and at the same time studying to achieve a formal qualification (for example at a college, training centre, or at a university). The skills taught during an apprenticeship vary as it all depends on the role the apprentice trains for.
Apprentices will also learn transferable skills: communication, teamwork, problem solving and IT. These skills are highly valued by employers.
At the end of an apprenticeship, apprentices gain a nationally recognised qualification. To read up a more in-depth guide to these qualifications, check out this guide at prospects.ac.uk.
These qualifications that apprentices can obtain include:
- Functional skills – including GCSE-level qualifications in English, IT and Maths
- Technical certificates – for example BTEC qualifications
- National Vocational Qualifications from level 2 – these are comparable to 5 GCSEs, up to level 5 – postgraduate degree level
- Academic qualifications – including a Higher National Certificate – HNC, foundation degree, or the equivalent of a full bachelor’s degree
What are the different types of apprenticeships?
Many apprenticeships are available in the UK. To find out more about the different types of apprenticeship available, check out this article at All About Careers. Here is a list of a few:
- Accounting – in areas such as taxes, banking and payrolls
- Business – in business administration, consultancy and leadership
- Construction – in building and plumbing
- Engineering – in civil, electrical and mechanical engineering
- Information technology (IT) – in software development, information security and cybersecurity
- Law – at paralegal, solicitor and legal executive level
- Media – in the television, film and radio industry
What are the different levels of an apprenticeship?
There are also four levels of apprenticeships in the UK:
|Intermediate||Five good GCSE passes|
|Advanced||Two A-Level passes|
|Higher||First stages of higher education, such as a foundation degree|
|Degree||Bachelors or master’s degree|
If you are unsure or want to find more information on what a master’s degree is, click here to visit another Think Student article. As shown above, different levels of apprenticeships require different entry requirements. If you have only completed your GCSEs, find out which level of apprenticeship is right for you by visiting a Think Student article linked here.
Click here to find a more detailed and accurate guide to apprenticeship levels on the Think Student website.
What are the entry requirements for an apprenticeship?
Apprentices must all be over 16 (however, there is no upper age limit). Only the right certification is required, as is the suitable age. To find out more about the age limit and other such requirements, check out this article from Think Student.
However, as there are four main types of apprenticeship in the UK, their entry requirements all vary:
- Intermediate apprenticeship – over 16 and not in full-time education
- Advanced apprenticeship – at least three 9-4 grade GCSEs (or its equivalent) as well as any previous work experience
- Higher apprenticeship – typically at least five 9-4 grade GCSEs, and Level 3 qualifications from related subjects (like AS-Levels, Level 3 NVQ, etc)
- Degree apprenticeship – might include 3 A-Levels in related subjects in a specified grade range, at least five 9-4 GCSEs, and previous work experience
The intermediate apprenticeships have the least entry requirements, and typically only take a year to 18 months to complete. Advanced apprenticeships take over two years, whereas higher and degree apprenticeships have tight regulations and take approximately three to six years to complete.
Find out more about becoming an apprentice at apprenticeships.gov.uk with this article.
Is an apprenticeship the same as an internship?
It is important to understand the difference between these terms as students may not know the difference and think them the same. Apprenticeships and internships are drastically different; therefore, it is vital for students to know what they are getting into. Find more information on internships at Prospect.ac.uk by clicking here.
Below is a table highlighting the main differences:
|Formal employment programmes||Informal arrangements|
|Undertaken by school leavers||Undertaken by students and graduates|
|Long term (approximately one to six years)||Short term (a week to a year)|
|A contract is signed to indicate the employment||No contract is signed, as it isn’t a formal arrangement|
|Suited to those with a clear idea of what they are looking for in a career||Suited to those who want more of an insight to what career they would prefer|
|Paid (at least the National Minimum Wage)||Unpaid|
|Direct route to employment (majority of apprentices are guaranteed a job on completion)||No guarantee of employment after internship finishes|
What are the pay rates for an apprenticeship?
If the apprentice’s age is below 19, they are still entitled to the apprenticeship wage of £4.81 per hour. Apprentices aged 19 or over and those who have completed their first year will be able to claim the National Minimum Wage. From April 2022, this has been set at £6.83 per hour (aged 18 to 20), £9.18 (21 to 22) and £9.50 (23 and above). To read more about the wages, you can visit this page on the gov.uk website.
However, some employers pay a higher wage. Apprentices are allowed sick pay, bonuses, healthcare, and other usual workplace perks. The approximation of the wages above is simply a rough framework.
Visit this article on Think Student detailing whether you get paid for an apprenticeship, and how much.
What are the working hours for an apprenticeship?
Work hours depend on both employer and work sector; however, apprentices will not be able to work more than 40 hours or less than 30. Most apprentices will work 35 to 37.5 hours, and 9-5 shifts are expected of most apprenticeships – it’s fields such as healthcare that have the more irregular timed shifts.
To summarise, the bare minimum an apprentice can expect is minimum wage and approximately 35 hours of work a week, which is prone to variation.
What are the pros and cons of an apprenticeship?
Students may find it difficult to decide on specific options, and so weighing the positives and negatives is key to making informed decisions. Check out this Think Student article to find out more about the pros and cons of apprenticeships.
Apprenticeships are an efficient way to combine studying and work. They can teach you both transferable skills and sector specific skills, all while enriching experience with the apprentice’s desired career. The apprenticeship does not cost anything for the apprentice, and they are paid whilst working. Almost all apprenticeships secure a full employment after completing the apprenticeship, and so apprenticeships are a reliable way of learning on the go.
However, apprenticeships require a lot of dedication to continue. Apprenticeships require the person to have a dedication to their career, because it’s a long-term placement and teaches you mostly career-specific skills. If the apprentice gets cold feet and backs out, it’s not like they can just take up another career easily.
It can be worthwhile, as the experience gained is vast, but also apprenticeships require dedication.
If you are interested and would like to do an apprenticeship, visit this Think Student guide on how to apply for an apprenticeship. To get yourself started, click here to find out how to find potential apprenticeship employers.