An apprenticeship is not a qualification, but a job with nationally recognised training. 

By doing an apprenticeship you will be taking a number of qualifications and developing skills.

There are 3 levels of apprenticeship:

  • Intermediate apprenticeship (Level 2) - equivalent to GCSE at A*-C (9-4)
  • Advanced apprenticeship (level 3) - equivalent to A-levels
  • Higher apprenticeship (level 4/5) -  equivalent at Level 4 to the first year of a degree and at Level 5 for a foundation degree.
  • Degree apprenticeship – equivalent to a higher education degree.

The apprenticeship is made up of three parts:

  • An academic qualification to develop your underpinning knowledge for the job.
  • A competence-based NVQ to assess your work skills.
  • Functional skills or GCSE in maths and English.

There may be additional elements for specific roles such as coaching qualifications for apprentices in sport or a CSCS site safety course for apprentices in construction.

This is an example of an apprenticeship in bricklaying:

  1. A technical certificate at Level 2, 3 or 4 e.g. BTEC in construction
  2. A competence-based NVQ e.g. construction Level 2 or 3
  3. GCSE/functional skills e.g. communication Level 2

After an apprenticeship, most people stay on in the job they have been doing or move on to a job for which they have achieved the qualification. They may also start the next level of the qualification.

Apprenticeships are available to anyone over the age of 16, living in England. There are different entry requirements depending on the sector and job. These may be set by the employer in conjunction with the provider of training and may vary depending on the level and responsibility of the job. For example, entry to Level 2 apprenticeships may require some GCSEs at grade C (new grade 4) or above to be able to manage the academic aspects of the training. Apprenticeships at higher levels will consider achievement of the previous apprenticeship, experience gained in the workplace and other qualifications.

As an apprenticeship is a different way to learn and involves learning new skills and ways to work, even if you passed your GCSEs and have level 2 qualifications, you might be expected to start on an apprenticeship at level 2 as you are learning a completely new role.

Some apprenticeships have industry-standard entrance tests as part of the application process; this is usually for very technical roles where proficiency in mathematics, science or the ability to think logically is required. Other roles such as business administration or customer service might have an extended entrance interview which includes typing tests, telephone tests, etc.

Some apprenticeship vacancies may display the `Disability Confident` logo meaning the employer would offer an interview to disabled applicants who meet the minimum criteria for a job vacancy and consider them on their abilities.

Once you have completed your apprenticeship you have a number of options:

  • Continue in the same job doing a role which requires a Level 2 qualification
  • Start a Level 3 advanced apprenticeship in the workplace
  • Go to a different employer into a job which requires a Level 2 in business administration


There may be additional elements required:
For example, for construction you may need a CSCS site card or City and Guilds Health and Safety

Apprenticeships involve 80% work and 20% ‘off the job’ training or study. This does not have to be one day per week but should equate to that across the life of the apprenticeship. For example, if an apprentice is contracted to do 35 hours per week that would be 28 hours of work and seven hours of ‘off the job’ training. This could be as:

  • day release: where you will spend one day per week in a college or training centre
  • block release: where you are predominantly in the workplace but go for extended periods to a college or training centre to do intensive training
  • flexible study: where you may have some learning time in your workplace and others outed training centre, headquarters or college

Apprenticeships at Level 2 must last a minimum of one full year. Other levels of apprenticeship may take longer due to the demands of the workplace and the complexity of the learning.

Minimum wage for an apprentice is £3.50 an hour. This is the minimum that an apprentice aged 16-18 (or aged 19 in the first year of their apprenticeship) can be paid.

Apprentices are employed and have rights to both holiday and sickness leave. There are minimum standards for this, but some employers would ensure that their apprentice has the same employee rights and responsibilities as their colleagues.

At any one time, there are up to 28,000 apprenticeship vacancies available online in a variety of careers and industries across England. Most apprenticeships in England are advertised by the National Apprenticeship Service (NAS). You can search by keyword (job role, occupation type or apprenticeship level) and by location. Once the right job comes up, you can simply register on the website and follow the step by step instructions to apply for the role.

Some large employers provide their own in-house apprenticeships and may advertise by their own website rather than the NAS website. Sector organisations such as the Construction Industry Training Board (CITB) do much of their recruitment themselves and have a website which has specialist information about careers in construction, information on employers and the ability to apply directly from their site www.bconstructive.com

Apprenticeships relate directly to job roles rather than subjects. There are more than 200 different types of apprenticeships available - offering over 1,200 job roles. However, it is not possible to do an apprenticeship for some professional roles such as a doctor, midwife, dentist, etc. as they require a degree and professional study at university.

Download a complete list of Types of Apprenticeships.pdf.

County Durham does not have apprenticeships in every job role as we do not have employers in every work sector. For example, you cannot do an apprenticeship in fish farming in County Durham but this may be available in other places.

The main types of apprenticeship available locally include business administration, customer service, accountancy, animal care, hairdressing, bricklaying, joinery, plumbing, engineering, etc.

The apprenticeship levy is a way to fund apprenticeships to ensure that there are enough high-quality opportunities for everyone who wants them. Apprenticeships combine work with high-quality study to ensure that the apprentice is able to develop the skills needed for the job.

From April 2017 employers who have a wage bill of over £3 million will contribute 0.5% of their wages bill annually towards the cost of funding apprenticeships. This will be paid into an account and will be available to draw upon for 24 months; so new money is added each year and existing funds are drawn down to meet the cost of apprenticeship training as required. All employers (whether they pay into the levy or not) will still be able to take on an apprentice as all employers will have an annual allowance towards the cost of apprentices.

Employers who pay the levy will be able to use the money to fund training and assessment but not salary costs. If they wish to have more apprentices they can pay for these using a co-funding arrangement.

All public sector organisations with more than 250 employees are also required to have 2.3% of their total workforce as apprentices so there may be additional opportunities created.

If you are an apprentice on a levy-funded apprenticeship you will spend 80% of your time doing the job and 20% in ‘off the job’ training such as attending college, undertaking organisational training, undertaking specific self-directed learning, etc.

See for more information on the gov.uk webpage.

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