If you live in the UK and you want to undertake a course of further education or vocational training while working at the same time, you might consider doing an apprenticeship. Alternatively, your employer might sponsor your further education study or training. Here’s an overview with links to more details.
What is an apprenticeship?
When you take an apprenticeship you work alongside experienced staff to gain job-specific skills, and also get training to work towards a nationally recognised qualification. You must be 16 years old or older to apply. There’s no upper age limit.
Apprenticeships can take between one and four years to complete, depending on its level, your ability and the industry sector. You get paid at least the national minimum wage for apprentices (eg a minimum salary of £2.65 per hour if you’re between 16 and 18 years old) but many apprentices earn significantly more. If you’re 19 years old or older and you’ve completed the first year of your apprenticeship, you’re paid at least the national minimum wage rate for your age (these figures are for 2013).
For more information, see:
Here’s the UK government’s information about apprenticeships and the national minimum wage. Also, take a look at What’s the national minimum wage for students?
Northern Ireland: if you live in Northern Ireland, the sort of apprenticeship described above is called an ‘employer-led’ apprenticeship, because you work for and are paid by an employer. If you’re 25 years old or older, you can only choose from a limited number of these apprenticeships. For more information about employer-led apprenticeships, see ApprenticeshipsNI explained.
Alternatively, if you’re 16 or 17 years old and you’ve just left school (or you’re up to 24 years old and need additional support) you could take a ‘programme-led’ apprenticeship. Instead of getting paid by an employer, you train for a full apprenticeship qualification through a combination of directed training and work-based learning placements with an employer. You don’t get a salary, but until you’re 20 years old you can get an Education Maintenance Allowance (EMA) from the government to help with your costs. You get £40 per week, and additional costs (eg travel, lodging and childcare allowances) are paid for you. The amount you get doesn’t depend on your household income, and you don’t need to pay the money back (this figure is for 2013). For more information, see Programme-Led Apprenticeships.
I want to study to become an apprentice – what support can I get?
Wales: if you live in Wales, you’re between 16 and 25 years old and you’re taking a Pathways to Apprenticeships course in order to become an apprentice, you can get a grant of money to help with your costs.
If you’re eligible you get £30 a week during term time, paid every two weeks. You don’t need to pay the money back (this figure is for 2013).
To get a Pathways to Apprenticeships grant you must live in Wales and be studying full-time at a college in Wales. Your course must be a year long, with a minimum of 21 guided hours per week. Check with your college to confirm whether your course is eligible.
To apply for the grant, get an application form at your college. Here’s some more information about Pathways to Apprenticeships.
Northern Ireland: if you live in Northern Ireland, you’re between 16 and 19 years old and you’re taking a course as part of the Training for Success programme in order to become an apprentice, you automatically qualify for an Education Maintenance Allowance (EMA) to help with your costs.
You get £40 per week, which doesn’t depend on your household income. You don’t need to pay the money back (this figure is for 2013). As well as this, your additional costs (eg travel, lodging and childcare allowances) may be paid for you, depending on your circumstances. Any benefits that you or your parents get aren’t affected.
For more information, see Training for Success.
Can I get support while I’m working?
Instead of an apprenticeship, some employers and other organisations may sponsor you to take a course of further education, either full- or part-time. For more information, see Can I get someone to sponsor my studies?
Northern Ireland: if you live in Northern Ireland, you’re 16 or 17 years old and you’ve got a job that doesn’t provide any training, you may qualify for the Time Off for Study or Training scheme. This gives you paid time off during working hours to study for an approved qualification.
You qualify for the scheme if you didn’t get any Level 2 qualifications at school (eg GCSE at grades A* to C, National Vocational Qualification (NVQ) Level 2, BTEC First Diploma). If you're 18 years old, you qualify if you need to finish any qualifications you’ve already started.
For more information, see Time Off for Study or Training.
Scotland: if you live in Scotland and you work for a company that has up to 100 employees, you may be able to get training (eg in industry recognised qualifications) from your employer, partly funded by the government. For more information, see Flexible Training Opportunities.
What further education funding is available in England?
What further education funding is available in Wales?
What further education funding is available in Northern Ireland?
What further education funding is available in Scotland?
This information was updated in March 2013. NUS provides this information in good faith and has taken care to make sure it’s accurate. However, student finance issues can be complicated, and rules change frequently. You should contact the advice centre in your students' union, college or university for support if you’re uncertain or need more help.