The Beteenus Guide to Apprenticeships
Your child isn’t going to university – what now?
Your teenager’s put in the hard graft (or maybe not), exam hell is over, and the results are in. What’s next? If they’ve decided that university’s not for them they may need some support in finding the next step.
There are many different routes into fantastic careers available to young people after they leave school. One route that truly gives a hands-on experience of the reality of the day-to-day workings of their chosen career is apprenticeship.
Whereas it used to be assumed that a university degree was the only way to get a foothold on the career ladder to a decent job and a decent salary, things are changing. University is no longer the only route into a well-paid career with long-term prospects and better pay.
The thought of them driving you up the wall and clogging up the sofa with nothing to do and no direction for the foreseeable future may not have been in your plans, and as a parent you want your child to get the best possible start. Whether the decision to give university a miss is because of the sky-high tuition fees and living costs, to take some time out, because they’re not sure of the next step to where they want to be, or simply because they don’t know what they want for the future, there’s no need to panic.
Whatever your child wants to be, apprenticeships now offer them the chance to take a work-based learning route into a fantastic future.
Apprenticeships give young people the opportunity to earn while they learn by working for a real employer, as they gain qualifications and valuable workplace skills and experience. The professional experience offered by apprenticeships is extremely attractive to employers, and at a time when young people are facing more competition for fewer jobs than ever before, the experience offered by apprenticeships can make them stand out from the more inexperienced crowd.
The Beteenus guide to apprenticeships takes you through apprenticeships, explaining what they are, their benefits, the types of apprenticeships available, how to apply and wat you can do to help.
If you have any questions about apprenticeships or anything to do with the opportunities are available to your teenager if they’re not going to university, pop along to our chat room to share your questions, thoughts and worries with other parents facing the same dilemmas about what the future holds.
What is an apprenticeship?
An apprenticeship gives a young person the opportunity to work in a real job, earn a wage, and learn functional skills from other experienced staff while receiving hands-on training. Apprenticeships allow your child to earn while they learn and gain valuable qualifications that will help them to stand out as they progress in their chosen career.
The majority of training is done in the workplace, with some training (usually on a day release basis) undertaken at a local college or other training provider. Young people work towards achieving nationally recognised vocational, technical and/or professional qualifications which will help them to get a leg-up in a competitive employment market. Apprenticeships can also be a route to attaining special technical certificates, such as a BTEC or City & Guilds Progression Award.
Anyone living in England, over 16 and not in full-time education can apply. The minimum salary is £2.65 per hour, but lots of apprentices can earn much more. According to the Apprenticeship Pay Survey 2011, the average apprentice’s wage is around £200 per week. Apprenticeships at higher levels can attract wages of up to £500 per week.
Apprenticeships typically take between one and four years to complete. The time that it takes depends on factors including the level of apprenticeship (more of this below), the young person’s ability, where you live, and the industry they have chosen.
There are three levels – Intermediate, Advanced, and Higher, so whether your child wants a career in environmental conservation or engineering, their aspirations can become reality with an apprenticeship. And there’s no threat of a huge post-university debt, making this route into work a very attractive alternative.
What are the benefits of doing an apprenticeship?
- The opportunity to “earn while you learn”
- Mentored learning support tailored to individual ability
- Hands-on training to learn the skills that employers are looking for
- Great progression prospects, whether climbing the career ladder or choosing to study further
- Improved future and long-term earning capacity.
Because apprentices are working with real employers for up to 30 hours a week, and earning a salary, being a successful apprentice takes commitment, enthusiasm, self-motivation and dedication, all of which are essential long term skills for being a successful employee.
The majority of apprentices stay in work, as they will have already proved their worth to their employers while training. According to the Evaluation of Apprenticeships for Learners report from the Department for Business Innovation and Skills, May 2012, 85% of apprentices will stay in employment, with two-thirds (64%) staying with the same employer. Compare this to graduates, who may leave university saddled with five figure debts and struggle to find work in such a competitive employment market, especially as young people.
What different sorts of apprenticeships are available?
Apprenticeships are available to anyone over the age of 16. Entry requirements vary depending on the preferred sector and job.
According to Apprenticeships.org.uk there are extensive options for apprentices:
- over 100,000 employers offer apprenticeships in more than 160,000 locations
- there are more than 250 different types of apprenticeships
- apprenticeships can lead to over 1,400 job roles.
Apprentices can progress through the courses that will help them in their professional development while qualifying for specialised “knowledge-based” certifications such as HNC, HND, foundation degrees and other professional qualifications such as National Vocational Qualiﬁcations (NVQ).
There are three levels of apprenticeship available:
- Intermediate Level Apprenticeships
- Advanced Level Apprenticeships
- Higher Apprenticeships.
Intermediate Level Apprenticeships
This level of apprenticeship allows participants to work towards gaining qualifications while working, such as Functional Skills (qualifications in English, maths and ICT that equip learners with the basic practical skills required in everyday life, education and the workplace, available at Entry Level 1 through to Level 2) knowledge-based qualifications and other Level 2 qualifications.
Advanced Level Apprenticeships
The Advanced Level allows apprentices to gain work-based qualifications up to Level 3 as well as Functional Skills and relevant knowledge-based qualifications.
Higher Apprenticeships are specialised and highly skilled and are equivalent to university degrees. Suitable for those apprentices who want to aim high and reach their true potential, they allow apprentices to develop professionally. While working, Higher Level apprentices work towards learning qualifications at Level 4 and Functional Skills. Depending on ability, some Higher Level apprentices may be able to take a Foundation Degree.
Many local councils offer resources for connecting potential apprentices with prospective employers through apprenticeship programmes. Check your local city council webpage for opportunities, and to find out more about the government-sponsored options in your area.
The biggest and most dynamic companies in the world as well as smaller SMEs also offer fantastic apprenticeship programmes. Getting in on the apprenticeship rung of the ladder can be a great opportunity for your young person to show their enthusiasm and ability to prospective employers.
Big employers offering apprenticeship programmes that open up access to a wide range of careers include:
- Amey (public services)
- Barclays Bank PLC
- Barratt Developments PLC
- EDF Energy, Nuclear Generation
- Ford Motor Company Ltd
- IBM UK Limited
- KFC (GB) LTD
- Kwik-Fit GB Ltd (Training Academy)
- Royal Navy
- Siemens plc
- Unilever UK.
There are many more employers, large and small, offering young people the opportunity to learn invaluable workplace skills and gain nationally recognised qualifications. However, the bigger the company, the tougher the competition, so certain employers may have rigorous entry requirements. For more information, visit the National Apprenticeships Service [http://www.apprenticeships.org.uk/be-an-apprentice.aspx]
Who can apply?
The beauty of apprenticeships is that they’re open to all and offer such a huge range of career and industry options. If your child lives in England, is over 16 and not attending full time education they can apply for an apprenticeship.
Applicants can apply for as many apprenticeships as they like, from advertising to animal care to agriculture, from education to environmentalism to engineering.
How to find and apply for apprenticeships
Talk with your child about what they want – what industry are they interested in, what career do they want, what are their long-term goals? Do some research into opportunities available in your local area and contact local businesses to ask them about apprenticeship programmes that they may offer and be recruiting for.
A good place to start spreading your net wider is apprenticeships.org.uk. You can search and apply for apprenticeship vacancies here – there’s up to 15,000 jobs available in a wide range of industries and careers. There’s bound to be something in there to capture the interest of your child, no matter how diverse or obscure their career aspirations.
Using social media to find apprenticeship programmes
Social media is an excellent tool for finding apprenticeship opportunities – teenagers spend most of their lives connected to it and it’s a fantastic way to connect with potential employers.
A useful tip for using social media to find an apprenticeship is for your child to research the companies that they’re interested in, then follow/like/connect with them on Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn and find out more about the companies and what they’re looking for. Contacting companies directly using the social media route can be an effective and proactive way of grasping apprenticeship opportunities.
Recruitment agencies, government organisations, and big corporations all use social media, including Twitter, to alert people to their vacancies. Some useful feeds to follow are:
- @apprenticeships (there’s also an app for that)
There are lots of Facebook groups dedicated to helping young people find apprenticeships in their local areas. The government’s National Apprenticeship Service Facebook page is a good place to start to find and connect to local and national opportunities. http://www.facebook.com/apprenticeships
LinkedIn is the professional face of social media and is dedicated to professional social networking. There’s no embarrassing drunken photos or pictures of fluffy kittens on here. Set up an account and help your child to research and connect with the companies that they are interested in that may be offering apprenticeship programmes. Employers of all sizes appreciate a proactive, professional approach and an opportunity may arise if the right contact is made at the right time.
Make sure that your child has a social media profile that’s fit for purpose! Employers may well look at any potential employees’ social media profiles, so removing some of the more embarrassing/unsavoury stuff in there is a very good idea…
Making the most of an apprenticeship
Being a successful apprentice takes motivation, commitment and enthusiasm. Employers are looking for candidates who are fast learners, problem solvers, efficient and reliable workers, who know how to listen and not just talk, people able to take their training on board and use the skills they learn to develop professionally and personally over time.
Strong communication and relationship-building skills are essential in any career. Employers want people who not only have the skills and tenacity to succeed, but the ability to get on with people at all levels.
Add punctuality, reliability and focus to the mix and you’ve got the ideal candidate for an apprenticeship. An apprenticeship is the first step in the world of work, and honing and developing these essential skills will make your son or daughter an extremely appealing prospect to any employer.
What can I do to help?
Being a sounding board is a great first step. Listen to your child, work with them to identify their interests, passions and aspirations and offer them practical help in matching those to the right company and apprenticeship.
Let them do most of the work themselves though – researching companies, connecting with potential employees, finding vacancies and applying for them are all valuable skills to learn that will equip them for the world of work.
Sort their CV out
A concise and professional CV which highlights your son’s or daughter’s strengths is essential when making a good first impression with a potential employer. It’s unlikely that your child has much employment experience but this doesn’t matter – the main thing is to emphasise the skills and experience they do have, rather than filling the document with a load of waffle. This free website can create a CV template for you. [online CV builder]. Make sure that your child includes these details:
Name and address
A personal statement [say what he or she is good at or passionate about]
Education [school history and dates]
Work and interests [what have they done? Did they get some work experience?
Have they helped you with your work? If you can just get them to shadow a friend of yours at work, it’s worth noting on a CV.
Help them to write a brilliant cover letter – when faced with a massive pile of similar CVs, a compelling, well written cover letter will make their application stand out.
Hone interview skills
If your son or daughter is invited for an interview, help them to prepare. They’ll probably be nervous and unsure of what they need to do – help them to make the very best impression they can by dressing smartly, giving a firm handshake, making the right amount of eye contact.
It can be a good idea to conduct a practice interview at home first using typical interview questions (if they can do it without laughing or sloping off to check on Reddit), but don’t be too soft/hard on them. The idea is to give them the confidence to tackle the real thing by preparing with a realistic practice run, not to inflate their ego/make them an anxious bag of nerves!
Encourage your child to research the company and prepare some good questions to ask at the end of the interview. Preparing something more in-depth and professional than “How much holiday do I get?” or “Can I finish early on Fridays?” is a very good idea, as having good questions to ask shows that your child is interested in the company and the working environment and how they will fit in with it.
Protecting your son or daughter
You can also do some work behind the scenes to ensure that your child is entering an apprenticeship programme at a company that will value and develop them, not exploit them.
- Do your own research into the company/companies that your child has applied to to make sure that they are legitimate.
- Check that the apprenticeship is properly paid. Unpaid apprenticeships are illegal.
- Check that the company provides proper training. If your child could be working in an environment that might require them to work with machinery for example, make sure that the company’s health and safety policy will protect your child as an employee by providing the proper training.
- If your son or daughter is offered an apprenticeship, check the contract to ensure that it is fair and legitimate.
An apprenticeship is the ideal route into a rewarding career for young people who want to pursue a career but don’t want the expense of going to university with no guarantee of a job at the end of it. They can achieve the future that they want with a little helping hand from you and this guide.
Useful websites and further information
- National Apprenticeship Service
- National Careers Service (young people)
Don’t forget – the Beteenus chat room [http://www.beteenus.com/forum] is a great place to meet other parents and seek advice, share your thoughts, spill your worries, or vent your spleen. No matter what you might be facing with your teenager someone else is sure to be going through it too. So come and join us to chat, follow us on Twitter @Silver_Vic, or like us on Facebook.