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Higher apprenticeships, degree apprenticeships and school leaver programmes are the new big thing in UK education; all three allow you to earn a qualification and workplace experience, with no tuition fees. This guide will help you navigate the main differences between them - from entry requirements to wages.
- Qualification: Level 4 or 5 (equivalent to a higher education certificate, higher education diploma or foundation degree), as well as workplace experience
- Duration: between one and five years
- Entry requirements: Most employers will ask for at least five GCSE passes (including Maths and English) and some will also ask for Level 3 qualifications (such as A Levels, NVQs or BTEC). Some employers will also expect applicants to have studied subjects relevant to the apprenticeship.
- Finances: The cost of tuition is shared between the government and employer, meaning that you can earn your qualification without paying any fees. You’ll also earn a salary - the current minimum apprenticeship rate is £4.15 per hour for the first year, increasing to national minimum wage after that if you are over the age of 19. However, many employers pay more than that. According to a report from the UK’s Department for Business, the average hourly wage for higher apprentices in 2016 was £10.80, and the top jobs can pay up to £25,000 a year from the start.
- Popular employers offering these schemes: PwC, National Grid, Mercedes-Benz, Deloitte and CGI
- Qualification: Level 6 or 7 (equivalent to a full bachelor’s or master’s degree), as well as workplace experience
- Duration: between 3 and 5 years
- Entry requirements: Most employers will ask for at least five GCSE passes (including Maths and English) and Level 3 qualifications (such as A Levels, NVQs or BTEC). Some employers will also expect applicants to have studied subjects relevant to the apprenticeship.
- Finances: As with higher apprenticeships, the cost of course fees are shared between the government and employer, meaning that you can earn a full degree without paying any fees. You’ll also earn a minimum of £4.15 per hour for the first year. However, as this is a higher level of qualification, in reality you can expect to earn much more than that.
- Popular employers offering these schemes: John Lewis, Jaguar and Rover, Goldman Sachs and BT
School leaver programmes
- Qualification: Level 5 or 6 (equivalent to a foundation degree, bachelor’s degree or professional qualification, such as a Level 6 Professional Higher Diploma in Law).
- Duration: These schemes tend to be longer than most apprenticeships, lasting between 3 and 7 years. You might, for example, spend one year at university then four years working full-time for the company. Alternatively, you might work at the company and study for a degree on a part-time basis.
- Entry requirements: Most companies will specify minimum grades for GCSE and A Level or equivalent qualifications (predicted grades for A Level are also often accepted). Others will specify a minimum number of UCAS points.
- Finances: Most companies will sponsor or part-sponsor your education in return for you working full-time or part-time for them. You won’t need to pay any tuition fees and you will earn a salary whilst you work. The majority of school leaver programmes don’t fit into the apprenticeship framework, so you will earn the national minimum wage, rather than the apprenticeship rate. However, most pay more than this, for example the Marks & Spencer Trainee Management Programme pays £18,000 per year, and the National Audit Office’s school leaver programme pays £22,497 per year.
- Popular employers offering these schemes:
- BDO School Leaver Programme
- Deloitte BrightStart Scheme
- National Audit Office School Leaver Programme
- National Grid Engineer Training Programme