National Apprenticeship Week

Young people might be starting out in their careers during uncertain and challenging economic times; apprenticeships will play a key role in creating new jobs and boosting the skills that employers need.

In the months ahead, we will see the Government place more emphasis on workplace learning with a commitment to rapidly expand the number of apprenticeships currently on offer. Also, expect to see more technical qualifications available in the space between A-levels (and other Level 3 qualifications) and degree-level studies (Level 6).

Modern apprenticeships are an alternative to staying in full-time education at age 16 or age 18 and offer much more than simply learning a trade. Apprenticeships are paid jobs with the typical apprentice spending 80% of their time working with the remaining 20% spent on off-the-job training. There are over 1,500 different apprenticeship roles and these are opportunities for people of all ages.

In recent years, apprenticeship standards have improved as these have been designed by employers. A modern apprenticeship is designed explicitly to increase the likelihood that the apprentice will obtain the skills, knowledge, and experience that they need to pursue a career.

Whatever the starting point, there is an apprenticeship route available.

Intermediate apprenticeships (Level 2) provide a lifeline for those who do not have pass grades in either GCSE English or Maths. Advanced apprenticeships (Level 3) are equivalent to x 2 A-level passes. The average length of these apprenticeships has increased from 498 days (2015-16) to 611 days (2018-19).

While the number of intermediate starts has fallen in recent years, we are currently seeing year-on-year growth in the number of higher and degree level apprenticeships. Increasingly, these are seen as an alternative to university as, although very competitive, there are no tuition fees involved.

The number of apprenticeships starts in England actually fell from 521,000 in 2011/12 to 393,000 in 2018/19 and, as with all walks of life, the COVID pandemic has proven disruptive with some apprentices being made redundant prior to completing their training.

But as we look ahead to life after the pandemic, apprenticeships will be crucial in providing the skills to aid the nation’s economic recovery.

In the past, many choices were made on the basis of whether you were considered to be an academic or practical learner. It’s always been possible to be both.

For those of you with children who have these choices on the horizon, it pays to look a little deeper at modern apprenticeships.

The Greater Manchester Apprenticeship and Careers Service (GMACS) is great for anybody still in school or college who wants to make more sense of their options (

Greater Manchester Higher’s friendly team of advisors are also on hand to help. You can speak to them:


Written by Ian McGarry, GM Higher Information, Advice and Guidance Manager

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