Earn and learn as an apprentice

Published on: 08 Jun 2015

Mention the word apprentice and most of us think of a young carpenter, plumber or chef learning skills from an expert.
But these days  apprenticeships are on offer in more than 170  industries and professions to people of all ages – and although they start as an introduction they can continue up to higher education level.
More than two million people have begun apprenticeships in the last five years in areas including aerospace, fashion, broadcast media, the law, accountancy, IT and finance.
The great advantage is the structured programme in which participants receive support to build up their skills in literacy, numeracy and IT and their key skills for working life as well as gaining the relevant qualifications. Ninety per cent  of apprentices stay in employment after finishing their apprenticeship, 71 per cent with the same employer. Nineteen per cent of advanced apprentices progress to university.
Apprenticeships have the slogan Get In. Go Far – emphasising that they can be a stepping stone to a great career. The managing director of BAE Systems started out as an apprentice as did 30 per cent of senior management at Rolls-Royce.
Positions with both these major employers are highly sought-after. Higher level apprentices at BAE Systems start on about £18,000 and can expect to earn about £34,000 on completion, while Rolls-Royce says successful apprentices can expect to move on to roles earning £24,000 and above.
Two young South Gloucestershire apprentices have been leading the way in promoting the benefits of the programme, in which participants spend most of their time at work, “earning while they learn”, and typically a day a week at college.
Jasmine Manning, from Downend, says being an apprentice has opened doors to the future for her.
She lived in Spain from the age of four and was educated there. Returning to England with her family at the age of 17, she took a four-hour contract job in a shop but soon found “retail was not for me”.
She discovered apprenticeships at a jobs fair at Kingswood Library and secured a position with South Gloucestershire library service, which will earn her a Level 2 qualification in customer service.
Through getting involved with the National Society of Apprentices, Jasmine, 18,  has developed her  skills in communication and leadership, meeting other young people from around the country and visiting the Houses of Parliament.
The society is campaigning with the National Union of Students for a better deal for apprentices on pay, transport costs, quality control and training.
The minimum rate for teenagers is £2.73 an hour (rising to £3.30 in October). Some employers pay the national minimum wage  of £3.79 for an under-18, £5.13 for age 18-20 and £6.50 for those aged 21 and over.
However, employers are encouraged to pay more. South Gloucestershire Council pays its apprentices the national minimum wage and Jasmine has her sights set on an administrative job with a large and reliable organisation after she completes her contract, although she might also consider an advanced apprenticeship.
She said: “An apprenticeship is a good stepping stone to work. It gives you an insight into working Monday to Friday, nine to five, and it gives you a qualification.”
Andrew Cambridge, 20, also from Downend, spent two years as a business administration apprentice with the council and now has a full-time job in its the print department in Kingswood.
He and Jasmine and others now give presentations to teenagers, parents and employers, many of whom do not know much about the apprenticeship programme.
“A lot of my friends think it is a cop out when you have not got good enough grades at school. They just think it means working for less money. They don’t know about the NVQ side – going to college to get qualifications,”  said Jasmine.
Another enthusiastic supporter is Mark King, South Gloucestershire’s head of Streetcare, who started out as an apprentice toolmaker in a factory in the West Midlands.
Elaine Eldridge, the council’s apprenticeships manager, said 31 apprentices had been taken on since the programme began in 2012 and satisfaction levels among apprentices and managers was extremely high.
Of the first 12 to complete their apprenticeships, seven secured permanent jobs and five progressed to a higher level.
All apprenticeships across the country are advertised on the national website www.apprenticeships.org.uk which carries up to 25,000 vacancies at any one time. There’s lots of advice and information there too.
For details of the council’s apprenticeships programme, call  Elaine on 01454 865884 or email elaine.eldridge@southglos.gov.uk

Most common apprenticeships a century ago

Dressmaking
Engineering
Carpentry
Drapery
Millinery
Fitting
Joinery
Tailoring
Plumbing
Printing

Source: 1911 census data

Most common apprenticeships today

Health and social care
Business administration
Management
Hospitality and catering
Customer service
Retail
Children’s care learning and development
Construction skills
Engineering
Hairdressing

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