A Complete Guide to Apprenticeships and Traineeships


FE Choices | A Complete Guide to Apprenticeships and Traineeships


If you're starting to think about what comes next after your GCSEs, we've got you covered with our complete guide to Apprenticeships and Traineeships.

We’ve produced a series of FE Choices Guides to help you understand the options available when you leave school for post-16 study. Whether you’re still choosing your GCSE options or are already applying for places – it’s really important that you know what choices are available to you and that you’ve considered from a range of different pathways. That way you know you’ve made an informed decision but you also know what the alternatives are if things don’t go according to plan.

There are so many different training and further education pathways available and lots of different routes to achieving the same end career goal. Start researching, asking questions and having conversations now – with friends, family, teachers and careers advisors. Access our resources – from PPT slides to use at home or at school to career planners, pathway evaluation tools and skills builders - to support your research, prompt conversations and help you think about the right next steps for you.



Classroom Learning Video - An Introduction to Apprenticeships and Traineeships


Want to understand the benefits of an apprenticeship? What types of apprenticeship you can do or how much you'll get paid? Not sure if you're eligible for a traineeship or how long it lasts?

Start with our Classroom Learning Video below. We cover what Apprenticeships and Traineeships are, study methods, course delivery, work placements, pay, qualifications, the benefits of each, plus what happens next after completing Apprenticeships and Traineeships.




Get talking about A-Levels and T-Levels at School or at Home


It's never too early to start talking about what you want to do after you've finished your GCSEs. It's common to follow in the footsteps of parents, carers, relatives, siblings or simply to choose your next steps based on what your friends may be doing. But, with so many different options available, why not explore what's out there to make sure it's the right choice for you? Apprenticeships for example may still involve studying part of the time at the same college or campus as friends studying A-Levels. They also equate to UCAS points and can still lead on to University if you wish.

Ask questions and some research to make sure you understand the post-16 pathways and providers that can offer you the right next step for you. Our Presentation below is a good way to start having conversations about your career choices and the benefits of different pathways. Whether you use it in school as part of your careers sessions, as part of your own research to learn more about A-Levels and T-Levels, or to open up chats at home with parents, carers, relatives or friends, it's a great tool to get you talking.




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Studying for an Apprenticeship

An apprenticeship is a work based programme. The definition of an apprentice is “a person who is learning a trade from a skilled employer, having agreed to work for a fixed period at low wages”.

Apprenticeships have been around for centuries. In the Middle Ages parents of upper class families would send their children away to live with a host family, this tradition transitioned into the Tudor period when essentially apprenticeships were a “servant/master” arrangement with the young apprentice being taught skills as well as being looked after in terms of welfare by the instructor. There were no exams or national standards, and apprentices could study under a master for many years.

The modern apprenticeships which you can apply to today are the result of reforms in the early 1990s. The ancient tradition of learning a trade from a skilled employer is still alive and if you choose to pursue this pathway you will be following in the footsteps of centuries of young people, who like you have wanted to earn a wage whilst learning a skilled trade.

To apply for an apprenticeship, you'll need to have completed a Level 2 qualification. Employers usually ask for 4 or 5 GCSE passes (Grades 9-4 or A*C), including Maths and English.

If you have studied BTECs at school you can ask your teachers to explain how they equate to a GCSE. A GCSE is a level 2 qualification, but there are equivalents which may include Functional Skills or BTECs and they will count towards those 4 or 5 GCSE pass requirements. Remember that these are guidelines and that it may still be possible for you to successfully apply even if you don’t meet all of the entry requirements.

The most popular sectors for today’s modern apprenticeships include Business, Administration and Law, Health, Public Services and Care, Retail and Commercial Enterprise, Engineering and Manufacturing Technologies, and Construction, Planning and the Built Environment. The length of an apprenticeship depends on the level of the qualification you will be completing – so you can expect a degree level apprenticeship (5+) to be a longer commitment than a level 2/GCSE equivalent. If you are aged between 16-18 then any apprenticeship you undertake needs to be a minimum of 12 months long.

80% of your weekly hours will be with the employer learning on the job, and 20% will be “off the job” studying towards the vocational/technical qualification which your employer has selected to support your career progression. This 20% might be one day a week, or a block of intensive hours, or split over the week as hours during your working day.


Studying for a Traineeship


Traineeships are government funded work experience programmes.

Traineeships were introduced in 2013 and are a relatively new pathway when compared to the longevity of apprenticeships and academic routes such as A-levels and their predecessors. They are free to all young people who are eligible, and aimed at 16-24 year olds who are looking to enter the workforce on either an apprenticeship or job within 6 months of starting a traineeship.

A traineeship is primarily a work preparation programme, as such the core element is your work experience. You will spend most of your time in the workplace, your hours and days will be agreed with your employer at interview stage. These are flexible and they can be changed at any time as long as all three parties agree. Unlike an apprenticeship, you aren’t an employee and you won’t be entitled to a wage for the hours you complete. You might be entitled to a bursary to help with your costs, and may be able to claim some benefits at the same time.

The minimum requirement is for you to complete 6 weeks and 70 hours of work experience.

This may change as again it is a change to the traineeship delivery as a result of Covid-19 (previous minimum requirement was 12 weeks). Alongside your work experience you will be provided with work preparation sessions or employability lessons to increase your chances of successfully progressing on to employment or an apprenticeship immediately following completion. If required you will also have Maths, English or ICT lessons and will have the opportunity to sit exams for a recognised qualification.

Traineeships might be a good option for you if you know that you want to progress into employment or an apprenticeship but want to build your confidence and skills first. It enables you to try a role before making the commitment of an apprenticeship or job and will give your CV and application the advantage of having real-life experience and an employer reference that you can use.


Use our Free Resources to help you make the right choice


Not sure whether Apprenticeships and Traineeships are the right choice for you? Deciding what comes next starts with knowing yourself - what you're good at, what you enjoy doing, how you like to learn, whether you prefer structure or flexibility, whether you are organised or need support, whether you have an end career goal in mind or you're completely undecided. 

Our Next Step Planning tools start with the basics. Our Skills Builder helps you understand your strengths, our Career Roadmap helps you understand different routes to achieving your goals, and our Pathway Evaluation tools help you compare one study option against another.




Learn more




Apprenticeships or Traineeships - which should I choose?


Choose an Apprenticeship if:

  • You think you'll perform better in a workplace environment rather than a classroom one
  • You're looking for an opportunity to learn skills on the job
  • You've got a good idea of what you want to do for a career and are ready to try it out
  • You still want to gain recognised qualifications that could help you go on to University, further study or employment
  • You want to receive a wage, paid holidays and other benefits


Choose a Traineeship if:

  • You want to build your CV with real life skills and experience
  • You want to build your confidence so that you're in a better position for applications and interviews
  • You want to have a guaranteed interview and work placement so you can get feedback and a reference
  • You're not quite sure what career you'd like to do and would like to try it out first
  • You think you'd like to start an apprenticeship or go on to further study, but you're not quite ready 
  • You'd like dedicated help with your CV, applications and progression support

Still not sure? Take a look at our other FE Choices Guides before making up your mind.

You can search for the very latest jobs in the Stockport area here. We have a wide range of part time, temporary, volunteer and permanent positions in  Administration, Cleaning, Customer Service, Driving, Financial, IT & Tech, Social Care/Healthcare and Warehouse jobs in Stockport.

Please visit our training section, our comprehensive careers advice section and you can also register your CV here.