Apprenticeships in Wales
Apprenticeships offer the chance to train while earning money at the same time – and gain valuable experience and develop job-related skills with an employer. Successful apprentices will leave with a reference, a qualification, job-related skills and experience in the industry – and some inside contacts with the employer.
Who can be an apprentice in Wales?
To take up a Welsh apprenticeship, you need to be:
- over 16 years old
- not in full-time education or employment.
You will need to apply for apprenticeships, just like you would apply for regular jobs.
What is an apprenticeship?
An apprenticeship is a job that comes with training. Your qualification will be funded by your employer and you will be given time to learn. You will receive a regular wage with paid holidays and the same benefits as other employees.
How long do apprenticeships last for?
Apprenticeships in Wales generally last between one and three years. The length of an apprenticeship should be specified when you apply.
What are employers are looking for in an apprentice?
Employers won’t expect you to have a lot of experience already. However, applying for apprenticeships can be competitive so it’s important to have an interest in the work and to show that you could work hard and do well.
You need to show that you have general work skills that will help you to succeed, such as being self-motivated, enthusiastic, organised and able to communicate well with people. Some employers also ask for specific qualifications, such as a particular subject at GCSE or A level.
Each apprenticeship is different, so employers look for specific qualities or aptitudes. For example, an engineering apprenticeship might require strong numeracy skills while an apprenticeship in the media may require creativity.
What types of apprenticeships are there in Wales and what qualifications would I get?
As an apprentice you’re likely to work towards a widely recognised qualification such as an NVQ, HND, BTEC or even a degree.
There are four main kinds of apprenticeship in Wales. The main difference is the level of qualification you undertake, though the higher the qualification, the longer the apprenticeship is likely to last. They correspond to the different levels of the Credits and Qualifications Framework for Wales (CQFW) and are as follows:
- Foundation apprenticeships (level 2). Broadly equivalent to the Welsh Bacc National or GCSEs above grade C.
- Apprenticeships (also known as ‘standard’ apprenticeships) (level 3). Broadly equivalent to the Welsh Bacc Advanced, A levels, or Access to HE courses.
- Higher apprenticeships (levels 4–7). Broadly equivalent to a wide range of higher qualifications, including HNCs, HNDs, foundation degrees, honours degrees and masters degrees.
- Degree apprenticeships (levels 6–7). These are apprenticeships that lead to a degree-level qualification – usually an honours degree but occasionally a masters degree. Technically, degree apprenticeships are a type of higher apprenticeship.
The bulk of apprenticeships in Wales are at levels 2 or 3 (foundation or standard apprenticeships). Only around a quarter of all Welsh apprenticeships are higher apprenticeships (including degree apprenticeships). However, this percentage has been increasing over recent years.
Higher apprenticeships and degree apprenticeships tend to have higher entry requirements – for example, good grades at Welsh Bacc Advanced or A levels in relevant subjects.
What wages can I expect as an apprentice?
Apprentices are paid both for working hours and for the time spent in training – usually one day a week.
The salary for an apprenticeship varies depending on the employer and industry. A recent survey of apprentices carried out by the government in 2016 found that the average (median) basic hourly wage for apprentices in Wales was £6.63.
Currently, the minimum wage rate for an apprentice is £3.90 per hour. This rate applies to apprentices under 19 as well as those aged 19 or over who are in their first year – if you are an apprentice aged over 19 and have completed your first year, you are paid at least the minimum wage rate for your age – see the UK government website for the exact rates.
Some employers offer significantly higher wages than this, especially for higher or degree apprenticeships. Recent job ads for apprenticeships in Wales have featured salaries of up to £24,000 per year.
What could I do as an apprentice?
The types of apprenticeships on offer are likely reflect the local industries in your area. Around a third of apprenticeships in Wales are in health and social care, with another quarter in business and management. Other major industries offering apprenticeships in Wales include construction, engineering, retail, hospitality and leisure, and manufacturing. There are also apprenticeships in ICT, the media and other areas.
How are apprenticeships in Wales different from elsewhere?
Apprenticeships are very similar across the UK. In Wales there are some opportunities to take an apprenticeship in a Welsh-speaking workplace and to train in Welsh. A survey in 2016 showed that 3% of apprenticeships in Wales offered bilingual or Welsh-only training.
Can I apply for apprenticeships elsewhere in the UK?
Welsh residents can apply for apprenticeships elsewhere in the UK if they’re happy to move. However, a few apprenticeships specify that they are for people living in a particular city, county or region.
What will my job prospects be like as an apprentice in Wales?
After successfully finishing an apprenticeship, you will have a relevant qualification, hands-on experience, a reference from your employer and contacts with the organisation that employed you. This will put you in a good position to apply for permanent roles with that organisation or others in the same industry.
When should I apply for apprenticeships in Wales?
‘Start early,’ recommends Jane Johns, assistant regional director for Wales at the careers guidance organisation Inspiring Futures. ‘Ideally you should be making a start on identifying options before Christmas in your final year. Apprenticeships may be advertised at any time. Be persistent and carry out wide-ranging research to look for apprenticeships that may be a good fit. And don’t give up when you don’t find something immediately, because you never know what will come up next week.’
Where can I find apprenticeships advertised?
Like jobs, apprenticeships may be advertised anywhere – including on jobs boards and employers’ websites. Good places to look include:
- The TARGETcareers Futurewise job search
- Careers Wales
- If you are specifically interested in degree apprenticeships, these may be advertised directly on university websites.
‘Remember that you don’t have to wait for a job advertisement,’ advises Jane. ‘If you know you want to do an apprenticeship and like a particular company, then approach it and see if it is willing to take you on.’