Apprenticeships for School Leavers

If you’re coming up to the final few months at school, you're probably wondering what to do next. If you’re leaving school at 16 and weighing up your options, we’re here to help make things easier by offering some advice around your next steps.

You might be glad to leave the academic world and start earning, or you might be overwhelmed by the choices out there. Is an apprenticeship better than university? Is an apprenticeship right for you? Below is an introduction to the world of apprenticeships, and some tips on how to go about choosing the best programme for you.

What is an apprenticeship?

An apprenticeship provides an ideal bridge between school and the world of work, allowing you to learn and earn a wage at the same time. You’ll train for a specific job role, build up specialist skills in the workplace and work towards a formal qualification. Apprenticeships normally take a minimum of 12 months to complete and typically involve a split of working and studying towards your final qualification.

How much support is there on an apprenticeship?

During an apprenticeship programme, you’re guided through your learning by a dedicated manager at work and a 1-1 coach from a training provider, like Lifetime. You can apply what you’ve studied directly to your job, which means learning is always relevant and knowledge isn’t forgotten.

An apprenticeship is a stepping-stone into the professional world but is by no means a fixed path. You can use it to find out what you enjoy and move into other industries and roles; a fantastic opportunity if you’re just leaving school.

Is an apprenticeship right for me?

You might be wondering exactly what you’ll learn on an apprenticeship and why it’s such a worthwhile step on your career path. Apprenticeships offer a fantastic start in a constantly evolving workplace, allowing you to stay one step ahead with transferable skills.

No cost to you
Apprenticeships cost you, the apprentice, nothing (it’s your employer and government who cover the fees). Instead, you’ll earn money while you study and after completion, you’ll have a nationally recognised qualification and the skills and knowledge to excel in your role.
Structured for success
An apprenticeship structure means that you are constantly required to reflect on your progress, abilities and new skills. It will keep you focused and motivated, while building your confidence and resilience in your chosen industry.
Hands-on learning
They might be better suited to your learning style, too. With a directly applied, practical learning structure, you can see exactly what you’ve learnt reflected in your everyday work (which often differs from a more traditional learning environment).
Transferable skills
The importance of apprenticeships cannot be overstated. Not only are they incredibly varied and versatile (and available in many different sectors and businesses) but they also offer you extremely valuable transferable skills to use in future roles as you shape your career.
Unlocking key skills that drive career progression

Apprenticeships build and develop a wide range of key skills that are vital to most jobs. Being equipped with such skills will support you in changing environments, teams and help you manage different priorities, so you can move up the career ladder.

  • Communication skills
  • Organisation development
  • Time management
  • Problem-solving skills
  • Teamwork and adaptability
  • Leadership
  • Resilience

“I never would have thought that in 18 months I could go from sales assistant to store manager. I have my dream job.”

Marie Husthwaite, Level 3 Retail Team Leader at Spar
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Advice on choosing an apprenticeship

Now you know why apprenticeships can be a great career choice. So, with thousands of vacancies across diverse sectors and roles, how do you go about choosing the one that’s right for you?

Understanding the different apprenticeship sectors, levels and employers is important in reaching your decision. Think about the type of company you might want to work for, consider your own strengths and interests and explore the different industries that offer apprenticeships in the UK and in your area too.

Intermediate level apprenticeships
The first level is intermediate. This can be done without any previous qualifications, and you’ll gain functional skills on the apprenticeship (which includes qualifications in maths and English).

Advanced apprenticeships
If you already have or are expecting to get GSCEs (including five between level 4-9) you can start at the ‘advanced level’. If you have A-level qualifications then you could start with a higher apprenticeship, also known as a degree apprenticeship

What are the steps to becoming an apprentice?

With years of experience in placing school leavers in apprenticeship programmes, Lifetime’s expert recruitment team can support and guide you through every stage of becoming an apprentice.

1. The first step is to look at your CV. Make sure it covers your strengths, skills and interests. We’ve provided some tips here on how to write the perfect CV for an apprenticeship.

2. Once you’re happy with your CV, you can apply via our vacancies section. We’ll be in touch with you to discuss your application and help make it as compelling as possible.

3. We will liaise with the employers directly, so you just need to focus on preparing for your first apprenticeship interview. We’ll update you at each step of your application.