A Parent's Guide to Apprenticeships

Written on: 13 February 2021

Written by: Frances Hardcastle


[Apprentices, Parents & Guardians]

Every parent wants their child to get the best possible start in their career. Further Education, University and Apprenticeships have all changed a great deal in recent years. With so many different routes available to young people, it can be hard for school-leavers to know which path to take. And for parents, it's even harder to give the right advice and support!

In this blog, we'll take you through everything you and your child need to know about apprenticeships, including how apprenticeship training works, what the benefits are, what career progression options are available, and how to apply for the right apprenticeship.

Common misconceptions about apprenticeships

First up, let's talk about the elephant in the room. Apprenticeships haven't always had the best of reputations. Although things are very different now, some preconceptions are hard to shake. Be honest, how many of the myths below are on your apprenticeship opinion bingo card?

Myth: Apprenticeships are only for people who didn't do well in school.

Reality: Apprenticeships can be a great way to train while working. Apprenticeship programmes are available at lots of different levels, from learning the ropes at Level 3 to becoming an industry expert at Levels 5, 6 and 7. This means that apprenticeships are just as much an option for someone finishing their GCSEs as they are for people working in senior positions. Anyone can be an apprentice, whether they're 16 or 76 years old. If someone has a passion for their subject, and wants to learn more, an apprenticeship is right for them.

Doing well at school isn't everything, but good grades can be a great way for a young person to demonstrate their commitment to learning. At Baltic, we look for bright, passionate people to place into our digital and tech apprenticeships - and will generally ask for a GCSE Grade 4/C in English, Maths and a specialist subject. 

Myth: Apprenticeship are only for manual jobs

Reality: There are over 682 Apprenticeship Standards, either approved for delivery or in development right now. Some apprenticeships are rooted in traditional industries such as plumbing, butchery or hairdressing, but there are many more programmes out there. 

From accounting to engineering, journalism to healthcare - if you can think of an industry, there's an apprenticeship route for your child. At Baltic, we offer apprenticeships in Cyber Security, Data, Digital Marketing, IT Infrastructure, and Software Development.

Learn more: See all of our Apprenticeship Programmes

Myth: Apprentices just make the tea and coffee

Reality: As an apprentice, I do occasionally make the tea and coffee; but then again so does my boss - and her boss makes a great cuppa too. Making tea isn't an apprentice thing, it's a being a nice person thing (or at least it was before Covid-19). 

Apprentices are treated in exactly the same way as any other employee. They have their own responsibilities, make decisions, and work towards common goals alongside the rest of their team. And yes, sometimes that common goal revolves around a cup of coffee and a chocolate hobnob. 

See our apprentices in action: read our case studies

What do apprenticeships offer young people?

Now that we've spent a bit of time recapping what apprenticeships are not, it's time to think about what they are.

Put simply, apprenticeships offer a tried and tested route to launching a career in a specific field.

Apprenticeships give young people the unique opportunity to build practical skills alongside the latest industry knowledge, receive a nationally recognised qualification, bring home a real wage, and get a headstart on their career. Who wouldn't want that for someone about to leave school?

How does apprenticeship training work?

A Level 3 apprenticeship can last between 12-15 months, while a Level 4 programme takes around 15-18 months. During this time, apprentices take part in training courses, exams, practical assignments, and collect a portfolio of evidence while they work. 

To pass the apprenticeship, candidates will need to pass their End Point Assessment (EPA). The EPA is an independent assessment which maps the capabilities of an apprentice to the specific Apprenticeship Standard. The format of the EPA varies depending on the apprenticeship programme, but can include an interview, a work-based project, a presentation, and an employer reference. The portfolio of evidence is also an important element of the EPA. 

An apprenticeship blends 80% work with 20% training. Some providers offer training for one day every week, others schedule training time in larger blocks. At Baltic, we use the block training method to really dive into the skills and knowledge for each module and allow our learners to experience the rhythms of full-time work. Our training is also fully remote via our SMART Classroom, which means that apprentices can learn from anywhere with an internet connection. 

What qualifications will an apprentice get?

Someone who successfully completes an apprenticeship programme will get a qualification in the particular level and subject they studied. A Level 3 apprenticeship is equivalent to A Levels, while a Level 4 is equivalent to a foundation degree.

During their apprenticeship, your child might also gain additional industry qualifications and certifications, such as a Microsoft Technology Associate (MTA) certification. These extra qualifications can demonstrate specific competencies and look great on a CV. 

Apprenticeship can also generate UCAS points for applying to university, so can be an excellent way for your child to explore a career that interests them, while keeping their options open for further study.

How does an apprenticeship compare to university?

When it comes to apprenticeships and university, it doesn't have to be a stark either/or decision. Many apprentices go on to study at university, many more have chosen to start an apprenticeship after graduating. Some apprenticeship programmes can even lead to a degree by themselves.

Unlike a university course, apprenticeship training is fully funded for the learner by the government and by employers. This means that apprentices do not have to contend with tuition fees or student debt, whilst benefiting from training worth up to £18,000.

How can apprenticeships support a long-term career in tech?

Apprenticeships offer many opportunities for career progression. The knowledge, skills and experience an apprentice accumulates during their training - along with their qualifications - puts former apprentices at a distinct advantage when taking their career to the next level. 95% of Baltic apprentices who completed their programme in 2019/20 are employed or undertaking their next level of apprenticeship training. 

Apprenticeships can be used as part of training and professional development at any stage of your child's career. As their career develops, there may be higher level apprenticeship routes that can help guide them through the next phase.

In short, apprenticeships help develop specialist, in-demand skills to set your child up for a successful career in their chosen industry.

What support is available for apprentices?

Throughout an apprenticeship, young people are supported by their workplace mentor and by their apprenticeship training provider. There is always someone on hand to help out with any questions or issues.

At Baltic Apprenticeships, we take mental health and wellbeing very seriously. Each learner is given their own dedicated Learning Mentor to guide them through both the academic and pastoral care aspects of their apprenticeship. Our learners also get access to a free, confidential helpline via Mindful Employer.

How can I help my child apply for apprenticeships?

Applying for an apprenticeship follows a similar process to any other job application. Usually, an apprentice-to-be will fill in an application form, send a CV and/or covering letter, and may be shortlisted for interview. Sometimes a candidate will be invited to complete a work trial to confirm that the placement is a good fit for both parties before an offer is made.

New apprenticeship opportunities are created throughout the year, so there is no "right time" to apply. If your child is dedicated to working for a particular organisation, it is always worth checking to see if they run an annual recruitment scheme - but in many cases, young people find their apprenticeship through advertised vacancies or through an apprenticeship training provider.

There are dedicated apprenticeship jobs boards out there, including our Vacancy Search tool, and the National Apprenticeship Service.

If your child is thinking about an apprenticeship, we would encourage them to browse these vacancies to get an idea of what kind of role and working environment might suit them best.

Next Steps and Further Reading

We hope that this article has helped answer some of the questions you might have had about apprenticeships for your child. An apprenticeship is an exciting journey, and yours could be about to begin!

So, where do you go next?

For further information, reading and support, you might be interested in Amazing Apprenticeships' Parent Packs. These are a free monthly resource, full of information, activities and guidance that can help support your child on their journey.

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