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How do apprenticeships work?

Richard Hywood - Last Update: 16 Jun 2021


What is an apprenticeship?

Who can do an apprenticeship?

What sectors and industries can you do an apprenticeship in?

What qualifications will they need?

What qualifications can they earn?

Career opportunities

How much is an apprentice paid?

Skills and training involved

What are apprentices entitled to?

What is the apprenticeship process?

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Richard Hywood

Employer and Community Engagement Manager

Read about the author


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> How do apprenticeships work?

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Further reading on Apprenticeships:

Are apprenticeships worth the time and investment?

How to recruit an apprentice



If you're hiring new staff, apprenticeships are a gift for HR managers. They're often incentivised and offer long-term benefits to your people and organisation.

Key points:

  • An apprenticeship is a paid, full time or part-time job
  • Apprenticeships are open to any candidates over the age of 16. They are available in 23 sectors at four levels in Wales, so they are accessible for many abilities and specialisms
  • A good quality apprenticeship provider will guide you through the process, helping you to hire the right people

What is an apprenticeship?

An apprenticeship is a job. An apprentice has a contract, salary, annual leave and holiday pay, plus access to the benefits your other workers have.

However, it's a job with mandatory qualifications and frameworks weaved through it. Unlike ad-hoc training, apprenticeships are mapped out over a longer duration.

Who can do an apprenticeship?

Anyone over the age of 16, regardless of their experience or situation:

  • It can be their first job
  • They're unemployed
  • They're switching between companies and similar positions
  • They're changing careers 
  • They have experience of the subject or they're a complete beginner

How long do they work each week?

Apprentices can be full time or part-time workers. They'll largely study outside of working hours towards their qualifications, but the qualifications are vocational - so they learn on the job.

They'll need your support inside work to get the most out of the course and pass their assessments. How much time they spend studying in work is up to the employer, and the needs of the business.

In the apprenticeship agreement, which the learner, employer, Welsh Government and training provider opts into, the employer agrees to offer support and time to fulfill learning and assessment needs. 

However, it's not time specific.

For an example, engineering apprentices have one day a week at college. But that's just engineering - every qualification is different.

Some employers do block release for a month, or full year in college. But the others are more flexible. But, largely the work is expected to be done in their own time. 

Training providers set expectations early doors, planning in assessment and study time with both the employer and apprentice so there are no surprises.

What sectors and industries can you do an apprenticeship in?

Apprenticeships are available in 23 sectors in Wales, which means there are options for recruiting or developing people in almost every department:

  • Advanced Manufacture & Materials
  • Agriculture and Environment
  • Automotive, Transport and Logistics
  • Business and Management
  • Catering and Hospitality
  • Childcare Services 
  • Construction and Building Services
  • Creative & Design
  • Digital Technology
  • Education and Information Services
  • Energy
  • Engineering
  • Food and Drink
  • Hair and Beauty
  • Healthcare Services
  • Health & Social Care Services
  • Legal and Financial Services
  • Life Sciences
  • Property Services
  • Protective Services
  • Public Services
  • Retail
  • Travel, Tourism and Leisure

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.


What qualifications will they need?

The entry requirements depend on the level of apprenticeship. But often GCSEs and A-Levels in English, Maths and alike, can be swapped out for workplace relevant experience. 

If a candidate has a strong track record, excellent CV, or just seems like a great fit, a lack of qualifications isn't a barrier.

What qualifications can they earn?

There are four different levels of apprenticeships:

  • Level 2, foundation level apprenticeships 
  • Level 3, advanced level apprenticeships 
  • Level 4, higher-level apprenticeships
  • Level 5-7, degree-level apprenticeships 

Your candidate can start at Level 2 and work up to Level 7. Progressing through the Levels is a great way to improve service and quality, reduce staff turnover, and evidence your people's expertise.

However, if you have a senior member of staff with years of experience, they could start at Level 4. 

In 2020, Conservative MP, Gillian Keegan, revealed the Strategic guidance to the Institute for Apprenticeships and Technical Education 2020 to 2021. It outlined a plan to give apprentices post-nominal letters, linked to the achievement of the qualification. 

In Wales, no apprenticeship route awards post-nominal letters, yet. But it would be another step towards recognising experience, knowledge and competence.

Career opportunities

A qualified apprentice is highly employable. They have proven hands-on experience, where they have demonstrated knowledge and competence.

Hosting apprentices in your workplace means you have to plan beyond the initial hire and look for career paths. When they complete the apprenticeship, what next? 

At the end of the qualification, they'll be ready for the next step - whether that's a promotion, a pay rise, or both. Their advanced skillset has been assessed and proven, giving them footing to progress into a new role. 

How much is an apprentice paid?

In Wales, it depends on the age of the apprentice:

  • If they're a young apprentice, between 16-18 years old, they must be paid National Minimum Wage, which is £4.30 per hour
  • Likewise, if they're 19 and in their first year, they must be paid National Minimum Wage, which is £4.30 per hour

If they're 19 or older and completed year one, how much they're paid depends on their age. They must be paid the National Minimum Wage or National Living Wage rate for their age:

  • 18 to 20: £6.56
  • 21 to 22: £8.36
  • 23 and over: £8.91

They need to be paid for the hours they work, which includes the qualification hours (which is 20% of their working hours).

Skills and training involved 

Every apprenticeship in Wales is a blend of vocational qualifications and Essential Skills Wales qualifications. All the qualifications are mandatory in order to complete the apprenticeship. 

What are apprentices entitled to?

Apprentices are entitled to:

  • A contract, which is at least the duration of their apprenticeship
  • Salary, which must pay the appropriate level of minimum wage of minimum living age for their age
  • Annual leave and holiday pay
  • Plus access to the benefits your other workers have

It's easy to confuse apprentices and interns, who tend not to have contracts, salary, annual leave or worker rights.

What is the apprenticeship process?

When you sign up with TSW Apprenticeships, we follow a six step process to make sure you get the right people taking the right apprenticeships to support your business growth. 

  • We ensure the apprenticeship is relevant to and will enhance the roles within your organisation
  • We're committed to stretch and challenge your people to be high achievers
  • We're passionate about employer engagement and we're on the learning journey with you for the duration of their qualifications 

Apprenticeship consultation

When you enquire, we'll visit you to discuss your needs, the apprenticeship process and introduce you to our service. We'll help you build a learning roadmap to enhance your business performance via further education. We'll supply supporting literature so you can think carefully about what bringing apprenticeships into your organisation entails. 

Recruitment support

We can help you to identify the people within your organisation who would benefit from the apprenticeship and inject skills into parts of your business you want to improve. 

It's a completely free apprenticeship consultation, so you can identify the opportunities, shortlist the candidates and learn about the work-based apprenticeship programme offered by the Welsh Government. 

Awareness session

This is the springboard for the apprenticeship where we set expectations with your candidates. You have an allocated Training Advisor, who will work with your candidate to:

  • Lay out the educational roadmap ahead
  • Learn how they'll be measured
  • Understand what support they'll receive from their assessors, you and the business

It's a great opportunity to ask questions and set expectations about the time and energy demanded by the apprenticeship.

Health and safety appraisal

We'll visit your place of work and conduct a health and safety appraisal document. It's a mandatory exercise to prove your organisation is a safe environment for Welsh Government apprentices. We conduct and manage the paperwork entirely, so all you need to do is show us around and supply some information and documents. Once complete, it's valid for four years, so you can easily take on more apprentices, or bring other qualifications into your organisation.

On-call assessors 

Learning doesn't just happen during business hours, that's why our assessors are on hand via email, text and WhatsApp to support your candidates.

Employer Engagement Visits

Feedback and evaluation helps us to see how successfully the learning is transferring into your organisation, so we can help you measure the returns. 

That's why we book in a six-month Employer Engagement Visit health check with you and your apprentice.

We walk the candidate through a quick survey, where we discuss their learning experience so far and the quality of the programme. The questions are standardised, so we can collate and compare data between organisations to apply real adjustments.

Then we review with you to see if the programme is meeting your expectations, whether you're able to engage with the apprentices and their work, and if you've noticed the candidate demonstrate knowledge and competence. 

We're on hand to support you with any queries as the apprenticeship progresses.

Ready to get started?

If you're recruiting and you want to think about the long-term performance of your organisation and people, apprenticeships help you to do that. Contact us and discover the possibilities.