Guide to apprenticeships

Apprenticeship success at Priestley

Among Priestley’s 2014 cohort dozens of young people who achieved apprenticeships at major companies including the NHS, AMEC Nuclear, the BBC, Airbus, Monarch Airlines, Barclays, Lloyds, BAE and Widnes Vikings.

They have started their working lives as trainee dental nurses, rugby players, teaching assistants, engineers, electricians, care home assistants and accountants.

“At a time when there is still concern about youth unemployment we take great pride in the number of former students who have found apprenticeships and jobs,” said Matthew Grant, Deputy Principal of Priestley College.

“A lot of these jobs and placements have been achieved through the sheer hard work of students and also the strong links that Priestley enjoys with businesses in Warrington and Halton.

“It is vital that young people are prepared for life either at university or in the workplace and I believe this shows Priestley does achieve both for its students.”


What are Apprenticeships?

They’re the chance to work for an employer, earn a salary and gain a qualification at the same time.

  • They’re a good way to gain the skills and experience to get into many careers.
  • There are over 280 types of Apprenticeship and over 1,500 job roles – anything from engineering and boat building, to veterinary nursing and accountancy.

Apprenticeships generally fall into one of three categories

  1. Intermediate Level Apprenticeships – equivalent to five GCSE passes
  2. Advanced Level Apprenticeships – equivalent to two A level passes
  3. Higher Apprenticeships – can lead to NVQ Level 4 and above or a foundation degree

What do I need to do an Apprenticeship?

  • You have to be over 16 years old.
  • Entry requirements vary, and you may need up to five GCSEs at grade A* to C – including English and maths.
  • You’ll need to show you have the ability to complete the programme – what’s required varies across training providers, employer and job roles.

An Apprenticeship usually takes between one-three years to complete. They’re made up of three parts – all completed on the job, online or in a classroom.

Why do it?

Each Apprenticeship trains you for a specific job, so it’s worth finding out as much as you can about that job as well as the career and progression route your Apprenticeship could lead to.

  • You’ll be earning while you qualify.
  • You’ll gain good work and training experience, which will support your applications for other jobs.
  • A survey of employers in 2013 showed that employers think that qualified apprentices are 15% more employable than those with other qualifications.

Earn while you learn

All apprentices receive the appropriate national minimum wage, paid holiday and bank holidays.

  • Learning is completed on a day-release basis – one day a week – or in a block-release of several days at a college or training provider.
  • This enables you to develop the knowledge and skills you need, while the employer provides the practical experience to put those skills to the test.
  • Training might be classroom-based, in a workshop or in a workplace.

The job

Over 150,000 employers are currently offering Apprenticeships in more than 200,000 locations, covering more than 170 industries across the UK.

  • Your employer provides on-the-job training and pays your wages.
  • All apprentices should work at least 30 hours a week, alongside experienced staff, gaining job-specific skills and earning a wage.

The qualification

Apprenticeships are at least 12 months long – they lead to a national, recognised qualification and follow a ‘framework’ developed by Sector Skills Councils. Most include:

  • National Vocational Qualification (NVQ) – e.g. Level 2 for Intermediate Level Apprenticeships, Level 3 for Advanced Level Apprenticeships
  • knowledge-based qualification – such as a Higher National Certificate (HNC), Higher National Diploma (HND), or foundation degree
  • functional skills qualifications – e.g. in maths, English or ICT
  • technical certificate – such as a BTEC, or City & Guilds Progression Award

Applying for Apprenticeships

Take a look at the UCAS Progress Search or the National Apprenticeships Service (NAS) for useful information and tips on how to register, search and apply for an Apprenticeship.

  • You might also find local Apprenticeships on job and company websites, or advertised in your library.
  • If an Apprenticeship is advertised by a training provider, check if the opportunity includes the job, or if you need to find the job element with a local employer.
  • Training providers can give you help, advice, and guidance on finding appropriate employment.

The future and careers


You could continue in employment
  • Government research shows the majority of apprentices (85%) stay in employment – with 64% staying with the same employer.
  • A third of all apprentices received a promotion within a year of finishing, and in their lifetime can earn £150,000 more than their peers without an Apprenticeship.
You could continue training or go to university
  • After completing an Apprenticeship you could continue to train for a higher level Apprenticeship or a related vocational qualification.
  • Alternatively you could continue studying at university, or for a professional qualification that leads to a specific job role – such as accountancy, social work, teaching or construction.