Hands On

By J&C Team

Are you keen to kickstart your career, but don’t have any experience or qualifications? An apprenticeship could be a really good option!

Not everyone wants to go to university, but it can be hard to kickstart your career if you have no experience.  That’s why an apprenticeship can be such a good option – it gives you the chance to learn what it is like to work in a certain area while getting paid and studying for a recognised vocational qualification.

The government is keen to invest in apprenticeships. In 2015/16 there were 509,400 apprenticeship starts in England – 9,500 more than the previous year, according to a briefing paper Apprenticeship Statistics: England prepared for the House of Commons. Almost half – 44% - were taken up by people aged 25 plus.

‘Apprenticeships are available in 1,500 roles across 170 industries, with more than 28,000 live vacancies at any one time. With progression from intermediate to advanced, higher and degree apprenticeships, they provide a ladder of opportunity for many,’ says a spokesperson for apprenticenews.co.uk.

The majority of apprenticeships are in the service sectors and almost three quarters (71%) are in three particular sectors: business, administration and law; health, public services and care; and retail and commercial enterprise.

First-hand experience

Loving what you do is important, so it’s worth looking at ways to get into the field you’re truly passionate about. An apprenticeship is a good option as it gives you the opportunity to gain practical skills while earning and studying for qualifications, usually by attending college one day a week. An apprenticeship will help you to get that all-important first-hand experience of the workplace, plus the qualifications you need for your chosen career. Combined, these will give you a head start in the job market.

OK, so you’re not going to earn a whacking great salary while you’re an apprentice – current rates are £3.50 an hour for 16-18 year olds and those aged over 19 in their first year of apprenticeship. Other apprentices should earn at least the minimum wage, which is  £4.05 for under 18s, £5.60 for 18-20 year olds, £7.05 for 21-24 year olds and £7.50 for people over 25.

However, this is the minimum. Many employers pay apprentices more than this. But if it’s a career you really want, it’s well worth struggling in the early days. Within a few years you’ll have the experience and qualifications you need to be promoted on to a higher salary or move sideways to gain new experience within your chosen industry.

This will put you a step ahead of the people who have gone to college and have a qualification, but are in debt and have no practical experience.

Get stuck in

You can become an apprentice in a broad range of industries. Apply directly to individual companies, many of whom have apprenticeship schemes, or through the government National Apprenticeship Service at findapprenticeship.service.gov.uk/apprenticeshipsearch.

At any one time, there are up to 20,000 apprenticeships available on this site. Whatever industry you choose, you will work with an existing team, gaining valuable hands-on experience.

You’ll be paid a wage, earn holiday pay and study to gain a recognised national qualification – normally one day a week at a local college.

Apprenticeships come in three stages: Intermediate (equivalent to five GCSE passes), Advanced (equivalent to two A levels) and Higher, which can lead to an NVQ level 4 and above or a foundation degree. They normally take between one and four years to complete and, once you’re done, you can go on to take further education or continue in employment. You need to be 16 to apply and not in full-time education.

It’s a great way for those who have a passion to get into their chosen field, but it can also be a good option for school leavers who don’t know what to do next or who perhaps didn’t get the qualifications they had hoped for.

For some intermediate apprenticeships, employers might ask for two or more GCSEs (grades A*-C) or equivalent. For others, however, you may not need any qualifications. If you don’t have GCSEs in English and maths, you may be required to take a basic literacy and numeracy test.

For an advanced apprenticeship, you will usually need to have completed an intermediate apprenticeship or have at least five GCSEs (grades A*-C), although this isn’t always the case.

Employers may, however, also take into account other qualifications or work experience. Often, enthusiasm and a desire to learn matter as much as qualifications, as does being able to demonstrate practical skills, commitment and an interest in your chosen area.

You can increase your chances of success by demonstrating you have researched the sector in which you want to work and have the drive to succeed.

Volunteering in your chosen field will give you an advantage over others, as it shows commitment and enthusiasm. If you’ve left school without qualifications, you could also look into the traineeships programme, which provides a stepping stone to success by giving people aged 16-23 the English and maths skills, and work experience, they need to start an apprenticeship or find employment.

Traineeships usually last between six weeks and six months – visit getingofar.gov.uk/traineeships to find out more.

Unsure what to do?

If you are not sure whether you are suited to apprenticeships or are still considering what to do next, investigate your options by checking out notgoingtouni.co.uk for more information on your choices. The National Careers Service is a great place to find useful independent, impartial advice about careers and the job market – it is aimed at everyone aged 13 and over (nationalcareersservice.direct.gov.uk).

Director of the National Careers Service Joe Billington says: ‘Young people need impartial, inspirational information and advice to motivate them to succeed and help them make the right choices. Apprenticeships are an increasingly popular option with young people as they provide the opportunity to work in a range of settings and to earn and learn at the same time. They can lead to life-changing career opportunities with real job progression.’

The good news is that, even though some areas of the job market may be struggling, companies are actively recruiting apprentices. This may change, however, following the introduction in April this year of a new apprenticeship levy on companies looking to take on apprentices.

As part of a drive towards creating three million apprenticeships by 2020, the government is committed to increasing the number of higher apprenticeships to deliver the high-tech skills employers are calling out for.

In 2015, the government launched degree apprenticeships, which bring together the very best in academic learning and hands-on training.

So whatever your level, you should be able to find an apprenticeship that can help you get the career you want.