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Higher apprenticeships, degree apprenticeships and school leaver programmes are the new big thing in education, and it’s little wonder why - all three allow you to earn an impressive qualification and invaluable workplace experience, with absolutely no tuition fees. However, there are slight differences between them, so which one’s the best fit for you? Read on to find out…
- You’ll gain a Level 4 or 5 qualification (equivalent to a higher education certificate, higher education diploma or foundation degree), together with work-based experience. Typical qualifications achieved include a Level 4 or 5 Competence Qualification, Functional Skills or, in some cases, a knowledge-based qualification, such as a foundation degree or Higher National Diploma (HND).
- Tend to last between 1 and 5 years
- Entry requirements: most employers will ask for at least 5 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.
- No fees: the cost of course fees are shared between the government and employer, meaning that you can earn a Level 4 or 5 qualification without paying any fees. You’ll also earn a salary – the current minimum apprenticeship rate is £3.70 per hour for the first year, increasing to National Minimum Wage after that if you reach the age of 19. However, because higher apprenticeships are working towards more advanced qualifications, you can expect to earn much more than that. According to a government report, the average hourly wage for higher apprentices in 2016 was £10.80, and the top jobs can pay up to £25,000 a year at the start.
- Popular employers who offer higher apprenticeships: PwC, National Grid, Mercedes-Benz, Deloitte and CGI
- You’ll gain a Level 6 or 7 qualification (equivalent to a full bachelor’s or master’s degree), together with work-based experience. The degree will be included as an integral part of the apprenticeship, co-designed by employers to make sure it’s relevant for the skills your chosen industry is looking for.
- Tend to last between 3 and 5 years
- Entry requirements: most employers will ask for at least 5 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.
- No fees: 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 £3.70 per hour for the first year; however, as with higher apprenticeships, in reality you can expect to earn much more than that.
- Popular employers who offer degree apprenticeships: John Lewis, Jaguar Land Rover, Goldman Sachs and BT.
School leaver programmes
- Most programmes will allow you to gain a Level 5 or 6 qualification (equivalent to a foundation degree, bachelor’s degree or professional qualification, such as a Level 6 Professional Higher Diploma in Law).
- Tend to be longer than most apprenticeships, lasting between 3 and 7 years. You might, for example, spend 1 year at university then 4 years working full-time for the company, or you might work at the company and study for a degree on a part-time basis.
- Entry requirements: most companies will outline minimum grades for GCSE and A-Level (predicted grades for A-Level are also often accepted). Others will specify a minimum number of UCAS points.
- No fees: 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. Salaries for school leaver programmes tend to be quite high – according to All About School Leavers, a salary between £18,000 and £24,000 is not uncommon.
- School leaver programmes are typically offered by quite large companies. Here are a few examples: