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What are apprenticeships and how do I choose a good one?

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Going to school, college or university five days a week is not your only option if you want to earn a qualification.
Tens of thousands of young people start apprenticeships every year – getting a wage and on-the-job experience, as well as time to train and study.
But, with dropout rates at about 50% and concern about low pay, there is a lot to consider when weighing up whether or not it is for you.

Being an apprentice means you usually spend four days a week working, and one day studying for a qualification – which can be at work, college, university, or online.
You get paid a wage and the qualification you will get is free – it is paid for by the government and your employer.
Any employer can hire apprentices, and they usually tell you what qualification they will give you when they list the vacancy.
They have to offer you a role that will help give you the knowledge and skills you need to complete the apprenticeship.
They are responsible for making sure you work with experienced staff and receive time off for studying.
Swipe right on the picture gallery above to see the different apprenticeship levels available across the UK
People often do apprenticeships if they know the career they want, or if they are already working in their chosen career but want more skills.
The most popular apprenticeships, external in England last year were in healthcare and public services – which includes things like ambulance and fire and rescue services – followed by business, administration and law, then engineering and manufacturing.
Some of the biggest employers of apprentices, external in England last year were the British military, BT and Amazon.
There are no UK-wide figures for the number of apprentices, but there were 740,400 in England last year, external – that is higher than years with a lot of Covid disruption, but lower than it was in the mid-2010s.
Advanced apprenticeships – A-level standard – are the most popular., external
The government says it wants more young people, external to start apprenticeships. Last year, 20% of new apprentices were under 19, while almost half were 25 or older.
If you know where you want to work, you can head straight to the employer's website and apply.
You can search for apprenticeship opportunities through different official websites in England, external, Scotland, external, Wales, external or Northern Ireland., external If you are in England, you can make an account and apply to several apprenticeships in one place.
The Universities and Colleges Admissions Service (Ucas) allows you to search for vacancies, but you will not be able to use it to apply until 2024.
You will interview for the apprenticeship before you start, and you will need to pass an assessment showing what you have learnt before you can finish.
If you are under 19, or if you are 19 or older but in the first year of your apprenticeship, you are entitled to the apprentice rate – £5.28 per hour.
Otherwise, you will get at least minimum wage.
Applies to apprentices who are 19 or older and have finished their first year
Apprentices in England earned £9.98 per hour on average in 2021,, external according to a government report, and worked 37 hours a week – which includes time spent learning or training.
Average pay ranged from £8.23 per hour for Level 2 apprentices, to £15.11 per hour for non-degree apprentices at Level 6 and above.
The National Union of Students is campaigning for all apprentices to be paid at least the National Living Wage – the £10.42 per hour rate.
Often apprenticeships are advertised with an annual wage.
On average, people in England who completed Advanced apprenticeships in 2014-15 earned £17,560 one year later, , externaland £22,880 five years on.
In England, 53.4% of apprentices completed and passed, external a final assessment last year – well below the government's 67% target by the end of 2024-25.
A Department for Education report last year, external suggested that four in 10 people who did not complete their apprenticeship cited personal reasons, including career changes, mental health issues, and caring responsibilities.
However, about four in 10 also said they were not given enough time for training, that the training did not meet their expectations, or that the apprenticeship was badly run.
Ucas, external has warned that young people are interested in apprenticeships, but are being put off by a range of barriers, including:
low pay
a lack of availability – both in terms of location, and industry
having to apply for apprenticeships individually, rather than sending off one application to several employers
According to Ucas, 430,000 students said they were interested in apprenticeship opportunities in 2023 .
However, only 189,430 apprenticeships were published on the official site in England in the last academic year. The government says this is "nowhere near enough" and is urging businesses to offer more.
It has launched an online apprentice support centre , externalto give apprentices more information, and says it is investing more, external in the professional development of people who train apprentices.
More money was allocated for apprenticeships in the 2021 Spending Review, but the Institute for Fiscal Studies says this will only "partially" make up for "significant cuts to public spending on adult education" over the past decade.
Think hard about what the apprenticeship offers – will the qualification help you progress in the career you want? Can you picture yourself in a job in the industry? What opportunities are there to progress at the organisation itself?
You will want to consider where the apprenticeship is, how much you will get paid, and how long it lasts. If you have any questions, ask the employer.
It is important to do your research, and ask employers for details about training in your interview. You can also read reviews of apprenticeships on sites like RateMyApprenticeship.co.uk., external
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