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Apprenticeships vs Training: What’s the Difference?

Andrew Llewellyn - Last Update: 12 May 2021


What is an apprenticeship?

What is a training course?

Who can take an apprenticeship?

9 apprenticeship business benefits

Business benefits of a training course



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Andrew Llewellyn

Employer Engagement Advisor 

Read about the author


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Apprenticeships and training courses are both forms of professional learning and development. They boast similar benefits, but the timelines and demands are very different.

Let's compare apprenticeships and training courses so you can pick the right learning avenue for your teams.

Key points:

  • An apprenticeship involves long-term learning, whereas training can be completed much quicker
  • An apprenticeship is government funded, whereas training tends to be paid for privately by the employer
  • An apprenticeship is a blend of vocational and essential skills qualifications, whereas a training course is usually one qualification. Both ask learners to complete assessments, tests and exams, but they take different forms

What is an apprenticeship?

what is an apprentice

The apprenticeship model is a hands-on route to gaining skills.

Apprenticeships are made up of multiple qualifications, and within those, multiple units. They are available in a spectrum of specialisms, at every ability level. They are a blend of practical work and studying. You must pass assessments and tests to gain the apprenticeship.

The apprenticeships are delivered by colleges and training providers, locally to where you live or work. But they are awarded by nationally-recognised bodies, like City and Guilds, and ILM.

Apprenticeships are work-based. Apprentices learn alongside experienced professionals, experiencing the day-to-day activities of their desired career path.

One of their defining features is that they are long-term education. Level 2 apprenticeships last approximately 12 months, for example, whereas diplomas at Level 5 can be achieved in 18 months.

The other appealing feature is that apprenticeships are funded by the government, so you can recruit more people for less money.

Apprenticeships have a broad learning focus. There are vocational modules, but also literacy, numeracy and digital skills to learn too. 


What is a training course?

what is a training courseA training course is an organised program of lectures, practical work and seminars designed to teach your people the skills needed for a particular job.

A training course is one qualification, made up of different units. The type of course you can take is never-ending. If you have an interest in something, from hot-air ballooning to health and safety, there will be a course showing you how to improve your skills.

The best professional development courses awarded by recognised awarding bodies, like NEBOSH, IOSH or ILM, but sometimes it's the reputation of the trainer which offers the appeal.

Professional development courses are delivered by training providers, or individual subject matter experts.

They are much shorter durations than apprenticeships. They can be done and dusted in a day, in some cases. But like apprenticeships, professional development courses contain assessments and exams, which you must pass in order to gain the qualification.

You can sign up individuals, or groups to courses delivered at a training centre, or in a specific venue away from your place of work, or online.

You pay for them privately, but you can get loyalty discounts, or voucher codes to bring the cost down

Who can take an apprenticeship?

who can take an apprenticeship

  • Apprentices can be new recruits or employed staff
  • They can be fresh from school, or older and more experienced professionals
  • Their role is directly relevant to the apprenticeship

Apprenticeships are highly specific and vocational, so the apprentice sees parallels between their job and the training materials.

For example, if you have a creche assistant, their apprenticeship could be in childcare or playwork, or management, but not a subject they have a passing interest in.

There's an eligibility criteria for people who want to sign up to an apprenticeship. But, training providers can help to guide your choice of candidate, to make sure you get the right person into the role, and secure the funding.

Unlike interns, apprentices are always paid. They must be paid at least minimum wage while they learn, and they must be employed for the term of their apprenticeship.

Who can take a training course?

Anyone can take a training course. They can be working in a relative field or role, or not.

There is rarely an eligibility criteria, unless the course is advanced. If you want to sign up to further your understanding and knowledge, there are no barriers.

For example, if a creche assistant wanted to create a website for their nursery, they could sign up and pay for a coding course without needing to meet an eligibility criteria.

Training courses are accessible to everyone and usually entail quick delivery.

 9 apprenticeship business benefits

  1. An apprenticeship develops skills relevant to your organisation
  2. An apprenticeship improves productivity, because the learning is easily transferred into real tasks and duties
  3. The quality of your products and services improve because there is continuous professional development
  4. Apprenticeships are tailored to the needs of your business
  5. Your people are motivated to learn because their work goals have a connection to their personal aspirations
  6. They're cost effective because they're government funded. Your recruitment budget goes a lot further, supporting sustainable workforce growth.
  7. Attract committed talent. Because they must be employed the duration of the apprenticeship, you're securing the right person for the long-term
  8. It brings industry standard approval and recognition to your organisation, giving your sales teams extra sway - you've got high and trustworthy standards.
  9. It gives you time to identify if they're a rising star in your company. Should they be promoted? Are they leader? The apprenticeship give you time to identify their outstanding characteristics and nurture them

Employers are awarded up to £4,000 for each apprentice they recruit*

*The Welsh Government employer incentive promises £4,000 for every apprentice recruited who are between 16-24 years old and up to £2,000 for every apprentice over the age of 25.

If you'd like to know more about the employer incentive scheme, download our flyer, or send us your details and we'll get in touch.


Business benefits of a training course

The benefits of a training course are very similar. In addition to the above, a training course:

  • Demonstrates professional competence in your workforce, which gives you competitive leverage
  • Commitment to learning and development helps to retain staff, reducing turnover
  • An accredited course gets your people working to a specified national standard very quickly
  • You can sign up whole teams who need the same skills. That's particularly beneficial if your staff are experiencing a time of change, or there's an overarching business goal you need to achieve