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Becoming an Apprentice

The main reasons for becoming an apprentice are to learn skills specific to a job, work alongside staff with more experience, and to earn a wage while you do so. This section explains the different apprenticeship levels and what to expect from apprenticeships. Further topics cover pay conditions for apprentices and how to make an official complaint.

UK Apprenticeship Levels and Equivalents

Apprenticeships have equivalent levels for educational purposes, with some offering an additional qualification (e.g. a diploma).

  • Intermediate (level 2): Equivalent ‘GCSE’
  • Advanced (level 3): Equivalent ‘A level’
  • Higher (levels 4,5,6, and 7): Equivalent educational level ‘Foundation degree’ (and above)
  • Degree (levels 6 and 7): A bachelor’s or master’s degree

If you become an apprentice, you will have an opportunity to combine studying with hands-on practical training in a job.

You will work together and in cooperation with experienced staff who will help you gain job-specific skills. Besides earning a wage and getting holiday pay, you also get time to study topics related to your role in the workplace.

As a rule, you would get one day a week for studying and most apprenticeships take between one and five years to complete (depending on the level).

How to Apply for an Apprenticeship

You can start an application to become an apprenticeship from the age of thirteen (i.e. the schooling years). But, the rules for becoming an apprentice in work, include:

  • Being at least sixteen (16) by the end of the summer holidays
  • Living in England
  • Not being in full-time education

Follow these three steps if you want to apply for an apprenticeship in England:

  1. Use GOV.UK website to find an apprenticeship by searching for vacancies.
  2. Create an account and sign in to register your profile.
  3. Complete your application online and then submit it.

Note: You can get expert advice about writing applications and how to prepare for interviews from the helpline at the National Careers Service (details below).

What if You Do Not get Selected?

A traineeship can help you prepare for an apprenticeship if you want to get more experience beforehand. You can find a traineeship in England using an online postcode search.

You will be able to ask for feedback if your application for an interview or apprenticeship is unsuccessful. You can also make a complaint to the apprenticeship helpline, such as if:

  • You feel that you were discriminated against (read more about your discrimination rights).
  • Your believe you were treated unfairly during the interview or through the application process.

Apprenticeship Helpline
Email: mailto:[email protected]
Telephone: 0800 015 0400
8am to 10pm (7 days a week)
Check UK call charges per minute.

Note: You can search the Register of Regulated Qualifications (RQF) to find out if it is officially recognised and what level it is. The guidelines for becoming an apprentice differ in Scotland and in Wales according to the way different organisations deal with apprenticeships.

Apprenticeship Pay and Working Conditions

You should get paid the National Minimum Wage (NMW) during your time served as an apprentice. Furthermore, you must receive the current minimum wage rates for apprentices (according to UK employment laws).

Note: The rates apply to apprentices who are under the age of nineteen (19) and for those aged 19 or over who are serving their first year of an apprenticeship.

Paid Hours for Apprentices

The hours that apprentices are paid for must include (both):

  • The normal hours that you work
  • The training that is part of the apprenticeship (most often one day per week)

Paid Holidays for Apprentices

Anyone who is completing an apprenticeship must get a minimum of twenty (20) days of paid holiday per year (plus UK bank holidays).

Note: Use the holiday entitlement calculator to check what you should be getting or you can contact the Acas helpline for free and confidential advice.

Apprenticeships Guide

Careers Helpline for Teenagers

The National Careers Service helpline provides information and advice about careers, jobs, and training for teenagers (13+) in England.

They can also give you advice if the results of your exams were not as successful as you were expecting.

National Careers Service Helpline
Telephone: 0800 100 900
Text messages: 07766 413 219
Textphone: 0800 096 8336
Monday to Sunday: 8am to 10pm

strong>Note: The helpline opens from A level results day through to the week after GCSE results day. You can also arrange for an adviser to call you instead (without charge) through their ‘Telephone and Callback‘ service.

Complain about an Apprenticeship

There is a set process to complain about an apprenticeship provider (e.g. a further education college). In serious cases, it may involve the Education and Skills Funding Agency (ESFA).

Employing a Trainee

Get in touch with the National Apprenticeship Service if you want to offer a trainee some work experience as part of their traineeship (e.g. in your business).

Note: The Department for Education announced new support to help apprentices find new opportunities if they lost their jobs due to the Covid-19 outbreak.

Taking On an Apprentice

As an employer, you have several responsibilities to meet when employing an apprentice, such as making an agreement and handling their pay and working conditions.

Note: Another section explains how the law treats employment rights and pay for interns and students in the workplace (e.g. work placement).

Apprenticeships Guide for United Kingdom