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Apprenticeship guidance for supporting adults 

This guidance is aimed at teachers, personal advisors, social workers and carers, who are supporting care-experienced young people to plan their futures.

Apprenticeships vs. Higher Education

Apprenticeships have long been considered the ‘back-up’ option next to going to university. In fact, most Further Education colleges still push all young people on a Level 3 qualification to apply for university, whether it’s the best option for them or not.  

The apprenticeship landscape has changed incredibly over the last 10 and even 5 years, with more and more employers seeing the value in offering vocational pathways, to share the wisdom of experienced staff with a new generation of workers. Employers are also waking up to the wildly untapped potential of under-represented groups like care leavers, who, through their life experiences, build incredible resilience, empathy and independence – skills which are an asset to any workforce.  

To give young people the maximum opportunity to thrive, we need to inspire them to consider all potential progression routes and equip them with the tools and information they need to make informed choices about their future, including apprenticeships.  

Debunking common misconceptions about apprenticeships:

An apprenticeship is having a real job AND studying alongside it. Yes, there is study time incorporated into the qualification, but it is a challenging undertaking that requires focus and dedication from the young person and is by no means the easy road. 

Apprenticeships come in a range of levels from intermediate (level 2) all the way up to master’s (level 7), meaning that some will only require level 1 qualifications to start them and will be equivalent to 5 GCSEs once completed. Most apprenticeships above ‘Intermediate’ level will require GCSE level English Language and Maths (or equivalent level 2 qualifications) at grade 4 (C) or above, to be eligible, or may accept candidates on the understanding that they will achieve level 2 qualifications within a certain timeframe during the apprenticeship.  

It is important to explore the eligibility criteria for certain career pathways carefully when a young person is considering their next steps, before or during study for a level 1 qualification. 

The graphic below shows how each apprenticeship level relates to other forms of study and qualifications in school, college and university. For example, ‘Advanced’ apprenticeships are equivalent to Level 3 qualifications like A Levels, T Levels and BTEC Nationals. 

There are more than 1500 different job roles available today in over 170 industries, some incredibly niche like ‘Martial Arts Apprentice’. These include bus and train-driving, customer service, childcare, sales, engineering, nursing, cyber security, law, hospitality, tv, social media and journalism. No matter what the young person is interested in, there will be multiple apprenticeship opportunities worth exploring together.  

A good initial exercise might be to browse the government’s ‘find an apprenticeship’ page, together, filtering to the appropriate level, to get a sense of what is out there. Please note that not all apprenticeship opportunities are posted on this page and so it’s worth exploring our signposting page and the ‘careers’ page of organisations that the young person values.

The National Minimum Wage for apprentices aged under 19 or aged 19 or over and in the first year of their apprenticeship is currently £6.40 per hour. Apprentices are entitled to the minimum wage for their age if they both: are aged 19 or over and have completed the first year of their apprenticeship. For example, an apprentice aged 22, who has completed the first year of their apprenticeship, is entitled to a minimum hourly rate of £11.44 per hour. The rates change on 1 April every year. However, lots of apprenticeships pay higher than the National Minimum Wage, no matter your age, so make sure to pay attention to each individual vacancy to check the salary. 

Apprentices who are in care or are care leavers under the age of 25 could be entitled to a tax-free £3,000 Care Leaver’s bursary once they have been on their apprenticeship for more than 60 days. The bursary is payable in instalments across the first year of the apprenticeship. Please note, there are eligibility requirements, including that the apprentice must have been in local authority care for a period of at least 13 weeks since their 14th birthday. The apprentice’s training provider will claim the bursary for them from the Education and Skills Funding Agency (ESFA) and will require written confirmation from the local authority to access the bursary. This does not have to be paid back and aims to help to remove financial barriers to accessing and completing apprenticeships. The training provider can also claim £1000 to spend on supporting a young person in their role, for things like uniform and essential equipment.  

Not sure if the young person is eligible? Empower the young person to do this quiz on Coram Voice to check their eligibility.

There is no upper age limit to qualify for most apprenticeships, although some are targeted at specific age ranges. They are available for people aged 16+, depending on the sector (type of career) and level of the apprenticeship. They can do an apprenticeship at any age; however, some opportunities are targeted at specific cohorts e.g. graduate opportunities, which might be ringfenced for people who are finishing up their undergraduate degrees.  

Eligibility Criteria: 

  • They must be aged 16+ (there is no upper age limit to qualify for most apprenticeships, although some are targeted at specific age ranges) 
  • They must have a right to work in the UK (as you’ll be paid a salary by your employer) 

What next?

Ensure that the young person has a Pathway Plan in place.

Working on a Pathway plan with a young person is the perfect opportunity to broaden thoughts and ideas about their options. Often our imaginations are limited to what we’ve seen other people do, so encourage young people towards inspiring content like this, to help them expand their awareness of what is possible. Talk about your own career path with the young person, connect them with other people you know who work in a range of sectors, encourage them to attend job and apprenticeship fairs and browse websites like the Care Leaver Covenant, to link with supportive employers, who might offer work experience placements to build their CV.  

If the young person in your care is planning to stay in education, this must be written into their Pathway Pan because it forms an agreement between the care leaver and their local authority about what kind of support they will receive (financial, books, equipment etc.). Having this written in the pathway plan is evidence of the support the Local Authority have agreed to provide.  

The Pathway Plan is a collaborative document that should be created with the young person and reviewed and updated at least every six months. A young person can request a review at any time. Pathway Plans should be written before a young person leaves care, so that the right support is in place before they turn 18 and and transition from education.

When a young person you support wants to apply for a job or apprenticeship

Direct them to these Propel into Work webpages created by Become, specifically for care-experienced young people:

Lots of employers are looking to diversify their workforce so that the organisation better reflects the variety of people in our society. Some applications will have a box you they can tick to share that they’re care-experienced. Sharing they’re care experience in a job application is completely they’re decision, there is no obligation to tell anyone. However, there can be advantages to disclosing their care experience to employers (who should keep the information confidential): 

  • There may be additional support and funding for them to access, for example, the Care Leaver Bursary for apprentices 
  • Some employers and local authorities ringfence opportunities for care-experienced young people or guarantee an interview, this will be clear on the job advert 
  • You can help them frame their care background as a positive attribute to support their application, for example: “As someone with lived experience of the care system, I am very independent, resilient and empathetic and can quickly adapt to new and changing circumstances; qualities which I know are essential for all professional roles but will be especially valuable in this position.” 

Additionally, if they feel comfortable, they could talk about it in their interview, so that the employer/training provider can ensure that they receive all the support and resources available to them throughout the application process and once they start their role. You could help them to practice how to talk about their care experience in a way they feel comfortable with, and they feel in control of. 

Become X Amazing Apprenticeships downloadable guide

A guide for teachers and careers advisers supporting care-experienced young people who are considering apprenticeships. 

Become partnered with Amazing Apprenticeships, a leading organisation in the education sector promoting the benefits of apprenticeships and technical education, to create a guide for teachers and careers advisers supporting care-experienced students to access apprenticeships. 

The guide sets out 10 themes with useful links and activity ideas for educators to use within their settings to provide additional support and understanding around the apprenticeship application process, and some of the wraparound support services available through local authorities and government.

Free workshops for young people, coming soon!

Become’s Propel into Work service is developing free employability workshops with young people, for young people, which professionals will be able to book for groups of care-experienced young people aiming for apprenticeships, vocational opportunities and jobs.

Please email [email protected] if you’d like to be notified of when the workshops launch.