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Apprenticeships(1)can be a great opportunity for school leavers looking to gain on-the-job skills and qualifications. They’re also a good deal for employers keen to train youngsters to the best standards, at the same time acquiring a part-funded addition to the workforce.

Anyone over the age of 16 and not in full-time education can seek an apprenticeship. This tried-and-tested work-based training programme is designed to offer young people practical, hands-on experience, together with day-release sessions in colleges or other training establishments that will ultimately lead to a nationally recognised qualification – and hopefully a rewarding career.

Apprenticeships usually take between one and four years to complete, during which time employers are eligible for funding from the National Apprenticeship Service, depending on the sector and age of the apprentice.

Rights and restrictions

Apprentices would normally be expected to work for at least 30 hours per week(2). Younger apprentices (under 19 years old – or 19 years and over for the first year of the apprenticeship) are currently paid £3.40 per hour, though many employers choose to pay a higher rate. As soon as the apprentice turns 19 and has completed the first year of training, the employer is required to pay the National Minimum Wage (NMW) or National Living Wage (NLW(3)) as appropriate.

Young apprentices – under 18(4)- have special protections in place, including not exceeding the 8-hour working day or putting in more than 40 hours per week. Paid holidays should also be factored in and half-hour rest breaks for shifts of more than four-and-a-half hours.

Climbing the ladder

Apprentices can work towards a qualification(5)that best suits their abilities and ambitions, from Intermediate (Level 2), Advanced (Level 3) or Higher (Level 4). Those opting for a Higher Apprenticeship could gain a vocational Foundation degree qualification.


1. Further education and skills: Apprenticeships - GOV.UK [Internet]. [cited 2018 Feb 1]. Available from:

2. The Cube 123 Albion Street. Apprentices, Apprenticeships Advice & Guidance. 2017 Feb 28 [cited 2018 Feb 1]; Available from:

3. National Minimum Wage and National Living Wage rates - GOV.UK [Internet]. [cited 2018 Feb 1]. Available from:

4. Employing an apprentice - GOV.UK [Internet]. [cited 2018 Feb 1]. Available from:

5. Become an apprentice - GOV.UK [Internet]. [cited 2018 Feb 1]. Available from:

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