How to tell if your apprenticeship’s the real deal

Apprenticeships can be a fantastic way in to a wide range of professions – you can even train as a space engineer or crime scene investigator! And with the average graduate racking up an estimated £44,000 of debt, it’s small wonder that more and more school-leavers are choosing on-the-job training instead.

The TUC is squarely behind apprenticeships, but we’ve also seen worrying evidence of exploitation in recent years (nearly one third of apprentices were paid below the minimum wage in 2012). If you are planning to ‘earn while you learn’, here are five things you should be looking for in an apprenticeship:

Proper pay

The current (for June 2015) National Minimum Wage rates for apprentices aged 16 to 18 and those aged 19 or over who are in their first year of training is £2.73 per hour. If these criteria don’t apply to you, you are entitled to the minimum wage for your age. Decent employers are likely to pay you considerably more.

Enough training

Apprenticeships can take between one and four years to complete depending on the level of apprenticeship and the industry sector. Check that the length of your apprenticeship matches up to the qualification offered (which should be one of those listed below). As a basic rule of thumb, allow one year for Intermediate courses, and two years or more for Advanced and Higher courses. Your contract should also allow at least one day a week for training.

Recognised qualifications

Your apprenticeship should lead to one of the following:

  • Intermediate Level Apprenticeships (NVQ Level 2);
  • Advanced Level Apprenticeships (NVQ Level 3); and
  • Higher Apprenticeships (NVQ Level 4 and above).

Wider work experience

Apprenticeships amount to more than just a qualification: they are an excellent way of gaining workplace experience, understanding how a business works, and improving your personal and social skills.

Genuine job prospects

You want to feel confident there’s a decent chance of landing a job at the end of it. Find out if your would-be employer offers an internal career path for its apprentices and/or support to find work elsewhere.

And finally, you may be surprised to know that apprentices earn £100,000 more over the course of their career than less qualified workers. Tempted?

Visit our Apprenticeships section for more detailed information and useful links.

Read the Charter for Apprenticeships for more on the TUC’s framework for decent apprenticeships and how unions can help.


Photo: Lorne Campbell / Guzelian

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