Kick-start your career

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Keen to boost your employability and job security? Think about undertaking an apprenticeship…

What do successful hairdresser John Frieda, Manchester United manager Sir Alex Ferguson and celebrity chef, Marco Pierre White have in common? They all started their careers as apprentices. A great way of experiencing new challenges and learning a trade at your own pace with support available when you need it, apprenticeships are popular with companies, too.

Simon Waugh, chief executive of the National Apprentice Service (NAS) says: ‘More and more employers are recognising that training people through an apprenticeship is the most competitive and efficient way to grow stronger.’ And they’re not, as many people think, a thing of a past. Nearly a quarter of a million (240,000) people took up apprenticeships last year, and over 130,000 employers in England are currently offering the schemes to new and existing staff, according to the NAS.

What’s an apprenticeship?
In essence, it’s a way of gaining both qualifications and practical skills from the workplace at the same time. Most apprenticeships are split between on-the-job training and theoretical training at a local college or a specialist learning provider, to gather vocational qualifications. You will earn a salary, get paid holidays, get valuable qualifications and learn job-specific skills.

Are there different levels?
The types of apprenticeships generally fall into one of three categories:

  • Apprenticeships are equivalent to five good GCSE passes.
  • Advanced Apprenticeships are equivalent to two A-level passes.
  • Higher Apprenticeships are equivalent to a degree.

What qualification will I get?
All apprenticeships include: a work-based qualification such as an NVQ at Level 2, 3 or 4; key skills qualifications; and in some cases, a knowledge-based qualification such as a BTEC or foundation degree.

Who can undertake an apprenticeship?
They’re open to anyone over the age of 16, who lives in England and is not in full-time education. They’re available to people of all walks of life, whether you’re just leaving school, have been working for years or are seeking a change of career.

What sectors offer them?
Apprenticeships are available in all industries throughout England. There are almost 200 types of apprenticeships, in fields from dental nursing to accountancy, and air cabin crew to product design. Finding one that’s right for you will depend on your interests, your experience and the opportunities in your area.

How long do they last?
Apprenticeships can take between one and four years to complete depending on the industry sector, the level of apprenticeship, and the apprentice’s ability.

How much do they cost?
Nothing. While you’re on an apprenticeship, your employer pays you a salary and supports the cost of training. Depending on your age, the National Apprenticeship Service will pay the costs of your training.

Will I get paid?
Employed apprentices must receive a wage of £95 per week. However, as skills develop, employers can increase wages. On average, apprentices earn £170 per week, and in some job roles around £210 per week.

What time of year can I start?

You can apply at any time of year. When you begin the work-based training, depends upon the availability of a position with an employer.

What are the benefits of doing an apprenticeship?
Earning while you learn has a great deal of advantages, including:

  • Support when you need it. Your employer or training provider will ensure that your training fits your personal requirements, offers the skills needed for the job and satisfies national standards.
  • The chance to work better and more effectively. Apprentices are 20-30% more productive than colleagues who have not completed an apprenticeship, according a study carried out by the University of Warwick.
  • Better pay. People who start their career through a Level 2 NVQ apprenticeship could earn £70,000 more during their professional lifetime than those who have not been an apprentice, according to a study carried out by Sheffield University.
  • Good job prospects. Apprenticeships train you in the skills employers want.

For more information on apprenticeships visit

Apprentice of the Year
Holly Manley, 20, a retail management apprentice from Erith in Kent, has been crowned Apprentice of the Year 2010 by NAS at the annual Apprenticeship Awards.

Holly is a great example of how an apprenticeship can expand career horizons. Through her hard work, she has progressed from store supervisor to manager in a matter of months and now leads a successful team at Superdrug, achieving high sales targets and creating a productive working environment. ‘My apprenticeship has opened up lots of avenues in a short period of time,’ she says. ‘It’s amazing to be selected from all the apprentices nationwide to be a winner of the National Apprenticeship Awards.’

Pictures: getty images

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