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Apprenticeships Have Changed and You May Not Have Realised

Apprenticeships in the UK date back to the middle ages, when young people would learn a craft or trade under the guidance of a master.

Throughout the years, apprenticeships have evolved into what they are today and much has changed, but the underlying premise remains the same – apprentices earn and learn on-the-job to get the skills needed for their future career.

The traditional stereotype of apprenticeships has often been of teenagers leaving education to pursue a manual trade. Here, with Newcastle College, who offers its apprentices good guidance according to the Newcastle College Ofsted 2018 report, we take a look at the biggest changes to apprenticeships over the last decade and why it’s time to ditch those stereotypes.

Apprenticeships aren’t just for 16-year-olds

Apprentices must be at least 16, living in England and not in full-time education, but there is absolutely no age limit.

All apprenticeships are open to people of all ages and could be a great opportunity for people to change careers or upskill in their existing careers. Even if you have a degree or other qualifications, you can still apply for an apprenticeship.

An apprenticeship isn’t working for free

One of the main attractions of an apprenticeship is earning while you learn. If you’re under 19, or over 19 and in the first year of your apprenticeship, you’ll be paid a minimum of £3.70 per hour. Over 19s must be paid the minimum wage for their age after they’ve completed their first year.

Many apprenticeships offer higher salaries, depending on the company and the type of apprenticeship, plus once you’ve completed your apprenticeship there’s a chance you may be kept on in a permanent role by the company you’ve been working for.

You can do any kind of job on an apprenticeship

The traditional roots of apprenticeships lie in manual trades, with many apprentices pursuing careers in manufacturing or engineering. This is because these roles are very practical and require a lot of hands-on skills which are often best taught ‘on-the-job.’


However, apprenticeships are available in hundreds of fields, including professional office-based roles. Did you know you could do apprenticeships in roles such as theatre, digital marketing, web development, sales or even law?

Digital marketing agency Mediaworks takes on four apprentices each year to help them gain new skills and gives them the opportunity to progress into full-time employment. Will Hill, now a junior planner within the company, progressed through their apprenticeship scheme in 2018. “I chose to go down the apprenticeship route because I wanted the real-world experience and to earn while I was learning,” he said. “It’s opened doors for me that would otherwise not have been possible so quick and it has put me ahead of the competition as I’ve been taught vital skills and gained experience.”

Of course, engineering and manufacturing apprenticeships are still available too, but the field has opened up to allow people with various skills and interests pursue an apprenticeship.

Apprenticeships aren’t the ‘easy option’

There are now many routes you can take when you finish full-time education at 16. Whether you choose to pursue A-Levels, vocational study or an apprenticeship, none of those routes are the ‘easy option’ or signify that someone isn’t clever enough to do one of the alternatives.

While A-Levels are more academic and theory based and allow you to study a mix of subjects, vocational study tends to lean towards one area of interest, so you can really focus your time and attention on something you’re passionate about. It includes a lot of hands-on learning and gaining work experience, alongside study in a college.

Apprenticeships are another form of vocational study. It means learning while you’re actually doing the job that you’re being paid for, but you’ll also spend at least 20% of your time during an apprenticeship studying for and completing work related to your job role, which can be tricky to balance!

Apprenticeships are also available at a number of levels and in 2015, degree level apprenticeships were introduced. You can now even study an apprenticeship at a level the equivalent of a master’s degree!

The main thing to remember is that everybody is different and learn in different ways. 

So, if you’re still deciding what your next steps are after school or wondering how you can get into the career you’ve always wanted, bear an apprenticeship in mind. You could get a qualification, experience and a wage while you’re doing it!

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