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Apprenticeships 101

If university is not for you, an apprenticeship might be just what you need to take the next steps in your education and career journey. Sara Whatley reports

You’ve got the leavers hoodie, been to the end of term party, but now what? After you finish full time education you might not be ready for uni. The thought of three years of study and the university lifestyle can be quite overwhelming, and certainly not for everybody. But, you still want to educate yourself and secure your future so why not look to an apprenticeship? 

In an apprenticeship you will be a paid employee with a contract and holiday leave. Your learning will mostly be on-the-job training with dedicated study time built into your week, so the skills you learn you can put into immediate practice. You will be working alongside skilled professionals and enjoying the benefits of employment, such as a broader social life and new opportunities.

Apprenticeships are not only suitable for school leavers, but for those upskilling in their career and also for those taking a completely new direction with their career.

There are thousands of different apprenticeships available in a broad range of subjects. So ask yourself, what are you interested in? This could be the perfect opportunity to try out something new.

You may have your sights set on one day becoming a manager or CEO – try something in the Business and Administration sector. Perhaps you love playing video games and have a burning desire to design your own? Step into a role in the Creative and Design category. It might be childcare you are passionate about, or architecture; cooking or finance. Whatever floats your boat, there are apprenticeship opportunities out there for you.   

Depending on what sort of apprenticeship you choose, the qualification you achieve at the end of it will vary. However, apprenticeships have equivalent educational levels:  



Equivalent educational level






A level


4,5,6 and 7

Foundation degree and above


6 and 7

Bachelor’s or master’s degree


To start an apprenticeship in this country you must be 16 years or over, living in England, the British Overseas Territories, or Crown Dependencies (Channel Islands and Isle of Man), and not in full time education.

There are various different channels of application, such as creating an account on the website, or you might see an apprenticeship advertised straight from an employers website. If you are upskilling in your current career, talk to your manager or HR department and they should be able to point you in the right direction.

You will need a CV and cover letter to apply. If successful, you will be invited for an interview, just like any other job application, which can be daunting. Find out beforehand what the dress code is, who to ask for when you arrive, the travel arrangements and where to park, to calm your nerves.

And if you are not ready to commit to an apprenticeship there are other options. T levels are an alternative to A levels which have been created for 16 to 18-year-olds. They are the equivalent to 3 A levels, and can be completed in a two-year course combining classroom based learning and a work placement.

The other alternative is a traineeship. These skills development programmes are suitable for 16-24 year olds who need some work experience and training in order to give them the skills they need to start an apprenticeship or career. Traineeships are unpaid work placements that run alongside a training course. They can be anywhere from 6 weeks to a year long, although most are approximately 6 months.

Whatever the next step is on your education journey, keep in mind that taking on a new challenge may be scary but will ultimately help you grow in life skills, confidence and happiness.


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