What is an Apprenticeship?

An apprenticeship in the UK is a paid job with a contract of employment, where the employee learns and gains valuable experience. It is the start of a pathway to building a successful career.

Here are the key aspects of an apprenticeship

Apprenticeship Standard: Apprenticeship standards in the UK are detailed frameworks that outline what an apprentice will be doing, and the skills required for a specific job role. These standards are developed by employer groups known as trailblazers. Essentially, an apprenticeship standard defines the job role that an apprentice will be training for. The standards are continually updated and expanded as new ones are developed and approved. There are many standards to choose from although they are not all available to everyone.

Paid Employment: Apprentices work in a real job, earning a wage and enjoying holiday leave. They must receive at least the minimum wage. They can be new or current employees.

On-the-Job Training: They receive hands-on experience in a specific sector or role.

Off-the-Job Training: Based on the apprentice being employed for 30 hours per week and above, there is an expectation that the apprentice will spend 6 hours a week on off-the-job training activities. If they are employed for fewer than 30 hours per week, the expected off-the-job-training activity will be a proportionate (20%) number of hours per week.

Off-the-job-training is formal classroom-based learning which can include theory, practical skills, shadowing, mentoring and written assignments. This learning is delivered by a college, university or independent training provider and leads to a nationally recognised qualification.

End Point Assessment (EPA): EPA is the final assessment that an apprentice must pass to gain an accredited standard. The assessment can take up to three months and is performed by an independent awarding body. The EPA tests learners on the skills, knowledge and behaviours developed during their apprenticeship training.

Eligibility: Apprenticeships are available to people over the age of 16 in England who are early in their career, looking to upskill in their current job, or seeking a career change. Those not in full-time education can also apply.

Levels: Apprenticeships can start at various levels, from Level 2 Intermediate (equivalent to GCSEs) to Level 7 Degree (equivalent to a bachelor’s or master’s degree).

Duration: The minimum duration for any apprenticeship is 12 months. The typical duration of an apprenticeship varies according to the apprenticeship standard. The durations published are based on a 30-hour week.  If an apprentice works fewer hours, the duration should be proportionally extended to ensure they receive all the training they require and develop the knowledge, skills and behaviours to become occupationally competent.  If the potential apprentice has prior attainment or experience, this can be considered during the initial assessment and may result in a shorter training duration.

English and maths: If the apprentice has not already attained a grade 4 or GCSE grade ‘C’ in English and maths or equivalent, they will also need to do their functional skills alongside the apprenticeship.  If you would like the apprentice to already have the required English and maths grades, you can stipulate this in your advert.

Cost to the employer

There is a cost to the employer of hiring an apprentice. As well as salary and other associated costs, there are training costs. To find out more about this and what funding is available, read our advice on getting funding for apprenticeships.

Your responsibilities

You’re responsible for making sure your apprentice:

  • has a ‘real’ job with a contract of employment
  • works with experienced staff
  • learns job-specific skills
  • gets time off during their working week for apprenticeship training.
Benefits to your business

Apprenticeships are suitable for people at any age and any level so you can hire someone new or upskill an existing employee. This will allow you to grow talent and develop a motivated, skilled and qualified workforce. You’re training someone in the skills you need and that are relevant to your workplace, and showing a commitment to ongoing learning and development.

Find out more about the benefits to your business and what other employers have to say about apprenticeships.