Can You Be Too Old for an Apprenticeship?

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One of the biggest myths about apprenticeships is that they are only available to young people leaving school. The reality is very different. Around three quarters of apprentices in England are aged 19 and over, and the latest government statistics show that 47% of people starting an apprenticeship were over 25.

In this blog, we’ll guide you through everything a mature apprentice needs to know, including apprenticeship age limits, funding, wages, and how to find an apprenticeship as an older candidate.

Is There an Age Limit for Apprenticeships?

Anyone aged 16 and over could be eligible for an apprenticeship, including school leavers, graduates, career changers, and people looking to grow and develop within their current job.

At Baltic Apprenticeships we work with apprentices of all ages, from school leavers to career changers in their 30s, 40s, 50s and beyond.

Changing Career With an Apprenticeship

Apprenticeships are a brilliant way to retrain for a new career while earning a wage and building all-important experience and contacts in your chosen industry. Apprenticeships are available in any sector and job role you can imagine, from floristry to IT.

Apprenticeships can be a fantastic route into emerging industries such as data science, digital marketing, and software development where demand is high and specialists are in short supply.

Apprenticeships for Career Development

After the introduction the Apprenticeship Levy, the professional development apprenticeship began to take off. Many people now choose to use apprenticeships as a way to develop new skills alongside their existing roles.

Level 4 apprenticeships are brilliant for this. The equivalent of a foundation degree, a Level 4 professional development apprenticeship offers a comprehensive training plan for people who already have some experience in their industry and who want to build relevant skills and gain a recognised qualification.

What Should You Consider Before Starting an Adult Apprenticeship?

Choosing to start an apprenticeship is one of the biggest decisions you can make about your career – at any age. For mature candidates, there can be a lot to think about before coming to a decision, including financial considerations, long term career prospects, and managing the application process itself.

Apprenticeship Funding for Over 19s

Unlike other professional development routes, including university, professional membership societies, or commercial training, apprenticeships are fully funded, with no fees for learners.

Training costs are usually paid by your employer. For large organisations, this is pre-paid through a ring-fenced apprenticeship levy budget. For smaller businesses, the government can contribute 95% of training fees. This arrangement means that apprenticeships are just as great value for employers as they are for learners.

Mature Apprentice Wages

On paper, the minimum wage for apprentices is £4.81 per hour. This applies for apprentices of any age during the first year of your apprenticeship. After a year, apprentices aged over 19 are entitled to the minimum wage rate for their age group.

It’s important to remember that this rate is a minimum. Many apprentice employers can and do pay much higher wages for apprentices. At Baltic Apprenticeships, we are part of the Apprentice Decent Wage Pledge, and actively encourage our employers to offer living wages in line with salaries for other junior roles within their organisation.

This being said, if you’re looking to change careers through an apprenticeship, it is important to consider the implications of a potential cut in pay while you train. It can be helpful to know what you’re working with: consider your financial obligations and potential support, then evaluate an apprenticeship starting salary against potential future earnings in your chosen field.

Some apprentices may be eligible for Universal Credit income support. However, this would depend on your personal finances and living situation. Turn2Us has a very useful calculator tool to check your eligibility for in-work benefits.

Potential Barriers for Adult Apprentices

While searching for the right opportunity, you may encounter companies who have a different vision for their apprenticeship scheme. For example, some businesses are committed to creating career opportunities for local school leavers and picture themselves offering young people their first role, mentoring them to match their company culture.

In practical terms, the apprenticeship system is designed to incentivise employers to invest in 16-18 year olds. Employment costs are typically lower for this age group, and government grants are available for employers who take on apprentice within this age range.

When applying for apprenticeship opportunities as a mature candidate, it’s important to remember that you’ll bring different advantages to a team, and many organisations will value your previous experience, transferrable skills and passion for learning.

Alternatives to Apprenticeships for a Career Change

Doing an apprenticeship is a big commitment which takes between 12-18 months to complete. Although apprenticeships are open to a diverse range of people, they aren’t always suited to individual needs – just like any other training opportunity.

If you weigh up the advantages of doing an apprenticeship against your personal circumstances and decide it’s not for you, there are other options for developing skills and taking your career to new heights.

These include part-time college courses, conversion courses, commercial training, or professional certifications. You can find further advice from the National Careers Service.

How to Start an Apprenticeship as a Mature Candidate

If you have considered your options and think that an apprenticeship could be the right move for your career, it’s time to start exploring courses and looking for the right opportunities.

The key to finding a great apprenticeship as a career changer is to create a compelling narrative through your CV and cover letter. Try to align your existing experience and skills to your chosen sector, and boost your application through short courses and self-directed learning to develop your industry knowledge.

Our blog on how to find an apprenticeship is a great resource to take you through your search step by step. And, as long as you are 16 or over, you can search and apply for our apprenticeships over on our vacancies page.