Apprenticeships: guide for learners
- Skills Funding Agency
- Part of:
- Apprenticeships: resources for teachers and advisers
- First published:
- 14 October 2015
- Applies to:
Information on the support available to those who are in an apprenticeship or are thinking about starting an apprenticeship.
Are you thinking about starting an apprenticeship but have lots of questions about what you are entitled to and what support is available? Have you just started your apprenticeship, or been on your programme for a while but don’t know where to find the information you need?
Find out all the apprenticeship essentials you need to know in this accessible guide where you can follow the links for further details.
What is my employment status as an apprentice?
An apprenticeship is a real job and under all circumstances you should be legally employed. On starting your apprenticeship you should sign an apprenticeship agreement. In most instances this will be directly with your employer but in some cases if you have started an apprenticeship with an Apprenticeship Training Agency (ATA), your training provider then acts as your legal employer and the contract of employment will be with them. If you are employed by an ATA you can check that they are on the national register.
What role does my training provider/ college play?
Your training provider or college has a key role to play in providing off-the-job training, assessing your progress towards achieving your qualifications and supporting you generally during your apprenticeship. They work very closely with your employer to ensure that you receive:
- an induction programme on starting
- a detailed training plan
- regular progress reviews
- opportunities to put into practice off-the-job learning so that you can achieve your qualifications
- mentoring and general support throughout your apprenticeship
Where do I look for an apprenticeship?
You can ‘get in and go far’ with an apprenticeship at some of Britain’s biggest and brightest companies. With so many opportunities on offer you can find the apprenticeship that’s right for you. There are up to 27,000 apprenticeship vacancies on Find an Apprenticeship at any one time.
Contact the Helpdesk for further support on 0800 0150400.
What sort of apprenticeship should I do?
Confused about what kind of apprenticeship to apply for? Why not check out our YouTube channel where you can watch apprenticeship case studies videos.
Currently you can start an apprenticeship at intermediate, advanced, higher or degree level. Usually the level you start at depends on your existing levels of qualifications and your work experience. If you are not quite ready for an apprenticeship and need some additional support you could also consider a traineeship. A traineeship is a course with work experience that gets you ready for work or an apprenticeship. It can last up to 6 months. You can look for a traineeship on Find a traineeship.
If you want to consider other options the course directory contains information on courses offered by learning providers who are funded by the Skills Funding Agency.
The Skills Funding Agency funds skills training for further education (FE) in England, supporting over 1,000 colleges, private training organisations, and employers with £3.2 billion of funding each year.
What support can I expect from my employer?
Your employer has an essential part to play in developing and delivering your apprenticeship programme. As well as off the job training, you will receive on the job training from your manager and other work colleagues. This should link as much as possible to what you are covering with your training provider or college.
Where it is possible, in addition to your line manager, you should also have a workplace mentor. This should be a colleague who you can talk to in confidence about your apprenticeship and who should support you to raise concerns or make suggestions to improve your experience. In very small organisations it is sometimes not possible to do this. In these circumstances you should raise any worries, ideas, issues etc. with your training provider. Employers will be involved in all aspects of your programme.
If you work for a large employer where there is a union you may be able to get some additional support from your union representative or your union learning representative.
What should I get paid?
Levels of starting salaries for apprentices are variable and are dependent on many factors such as:
- the level of job/apprenticeship you apply for
- the sector you are working in e.g. engineering, retail, health care, sciences etc
- the type of employer you are working for eg small business, large corporation, public or private sector
- your age, experience and existing qualifications
However, there is a National Minimum Wage set for apprentices and this is £3.40 from October 2016. This rate applies to apprentices aged 16 to 18 and those aged 19 or over who are in their first year. You must be paid at least the minimum wage rate for your age if you’re an apprentice aged 19 or over and have completed your first year. Some apprentices may start at the minimum level but can quickly increase their salary as they become more competent in their job role.
What holidays am I entitled to?
Your holiday entitlement should be clearly written into your Contract of Employment. As a minimum you should get at least 20 days paid holiday per year plus bank holidays
Holiday calculator - calculate statutory holiday entitlement in days or hours for a full leave year or work out holiday someone is entitled to when they start or leave a job part way through a leave year.
How many hours per week should I be working?
Minimum Working Hours
Apprentices should work for at least 30 hours per week and the time spent on off the job training at a college or training provider should be included as part of these hours. In exceptional circumstances where apprentices have caring responsibilities for example part time apprenticeships can be agreed for a minimum of 16 hours per week. In this case it would be expected that the duration of the apprenticeship would also be extended to ensure that apprentices can complete their programme and achieve the necessary standard and qualifications.
Apprentices working for more than 33 hours per week are also entitled to statutory sick pay, statutory maternity and statutory paternity leave and pay.
Maximum Working Hours
The European working time directive states that young people aged up to 18 can work for maximum of 40 hours per week and not more than 8 hours per day. Those aged over 18 have maximum working hours of 48 hours per week but they can sign an agreement with their employer, should they wish to opt out of the protection provided by the working time directive.
An apprenticeship takes between 1 and 5 years to complete. The duration of an apprenticeship depends on age, prior skills, frameworks and sector.
Can I get help with travel costs, clothing and other expenses associated with working?
There are a number of different schemes available to support you financially while you are looking for an apprenticeship and when you have found one. Jobcentre Plus provides assistance for the unemployed, towards travel costs to interviews and for the first 3 months of their apprenticeships.
In some local authority areas you may be entitled to a travel discount, such as the apprentice Oyster photocard in London. There are also schemes available in the West Midlands, Manchester and Liverpool. Check to see if there are similar schemes available in your local area.
Apprentices are also entitled to an NUS card through the National Union of Students.
Your training provider can also access funding to support you with work expenses if your circumstances are difficult.
What support can I get if I have learning difficulty or a disability?
Learning support is provided to help you to work flexibly and provide support activity to meet your learning needs. This will enable you to achieve your learning goal and make the most of your potential. Learning support funding will also provide funding for you to meet the costs of reasonable adjustments as set out in the Equality Act 2010. Your training provider will be able to access this support for you if needed.
Disability Employment Adviser
A Disability Employment Adviser (DEA) at your local Jobcentre can help you find a job or gain new skills and tell you about disability friendly employers in your area. They can also refer you to a specialist work psychologist, if appropriate, or carry out an ‘employment assessment’, asking you about:
- your skills and experience
- what kind of roles you’re interested in
Ask to speak to a DEA at your local Jobcentre.
Can I get any help with childcare expenses?
If you’re aged 19 or over, on a further education course and facing financial hardship, you could get Discretionary Learner Support (DLS).
Who can I complain to if I am unhappy with any aspect of my apprenticeship?
In the first instance you should always raise any complaint you have with your training provider. They should have a written complaints procedure which you should follow. Once you have been through this process and you feel that your complaint is still not resolved you can than escalate the issue further by contacting the Skills Funding Agency.
What can I do if I want to change direction/ find an apprenticeship in a different sector?
Visit the National Careers Service website for information, advice and guidance to help make decisions on learning, training and work opportunities.
Contact the National Careers Service
Call 0800 100 900 as this service offers confidential and impartial advice by qualified careers advisers.
Published: 14 October 2015