The history of apprenticeships in this country is a long one, dating back to the 12th Century and ensuring that tradesmen and craftsmen could pass on their skills. So valuable was the system that in 1563, the Statute of Artificers and Apprentices decreed that nobody could practise a trade unless they had served a seven-year apprenticeship first.

The first modern apprenticeships appeared in the 1960s, with the Industrial Training Boards laying down syllabus and standards for vocational learning. In the 1990s, learning frameworks were devised and implemented by Skills Councils for each sector. Those frameworks contained knowledge-based and skill-based elements.


Apprenticeships – the figures

  • In the 2021/22 academic year, there were 740,400 people in an apprenticeship in England. 349,200 started an apprenticeship that year and 137,200 finished one.

  • The percentage of apprenticeship starts in SMEs in 2020/21 was 41%, an increase on the 2019/2020 figure of 38%

  • In 2020/21 the number of apprenticeship starts in small businesses (with fewer than 50 employees) increased for the first time in five years. The figure was 12% (9,770) higher than in 2019/20. Medium-sized businesses had 1,700 starts and large employers (250+ employees) had 5,740 starts.

  • In 2020/21, the number of employers with an apprenticeship start increased by 2% (1,350) on 2019/20 levels, to reach 68,270. This is still 14% lower than pre-pandemic levels (79,500 in 2018/19)

  • The average salary of an apprentice in England in 2021/22 is £19,319.

  • 76,500 people started a Level 2 apprenticeship in 2021/2022.

  • The average number of months it takes to complete a Level 2 apprenticeship (full-time) is 12 to 18.

What do apprenticeships cover?

Rather than just industrial areas, apprenticeships now cover a wide range of sectors including:



·Animal Care









·Built Environment

·Education and Training


·Public Services


·Information and Communication Technology

·Leisure, Travel and Tourism


·Commercial Enterprise


How do young people benefit from apprenticeships?

1. An employee from day one

A person who starts an apprenticeship is doing a real job for a real employer. As well as getting paid while they learn, they will also get the same benefits as other employees, such as pension contributions and annual leave.


2. No debts

Whilst university students could graduate with tens of thousands of pounds of debt, apprentices do not have to worry about that. Their tuition fees are met by the government and they start earning from day one of their apprenticeship.


3. Experience and training

Apprenticeships are run on a structured programme that ensures the apprentice acquires the skills they need to do their job as well as they can. Much of their training takes place on the job and they have a placement (often a day a week but it can vary) with a training provider where they can study further in an academic environment.


4. Support

The apprentice’s training provider works closely with the employer to ensure that all learning goals are met and that any concerns the apprentice has are dealt with.


5. A recognised and relevant qualification

When an apprenticeship finishes, the apprentice will have a good clutch of qualifications to their name and can use them to move on to the next level.


What levels of apprenticeship are there?

Apprenticeships have equivalent educational levels. An intermediate apprenticeship is classed as Level 2 and is equivalent to GCSE. An advanced apprenticeship is classed as Level 3 and is equivalent to A Levels. Higher apprenticeships fall into Levels 4 to 7 and are the equivalent of a Foundation degree or above. A degree apprenticeship is classed as levels 6 or 7 and is the equivalent of a Bachelor’s or Master’s degree.

Some apprenticeships may also give an additional qualification, such as a diploma.


What can apprenticeships offer employers?

Thousands of businesses across the UK currently offer Apprenticeship places. They have recognised how effective they are at increasing productivity, improving business performance and giving organisations a committed and competent workforce.

Research from companies that have used apprenticeships reveals some very interesting facts and figures about the benefits that they can bring.

·92% of employers who employ apprentices believe that Apprenticeships lead to a more motivated and satisfied workforce.

·Eight out of ten employers who use apprenticeships say that they rely on their apprentices to provide the skilled workers they will need for future development.

·Nearly 60% say that training apprentices is more cost-effective than taking on skilled staff, with lower training costs and reduced recruitment spend being two benefits.

·Many companies say that the apprentices they recruit make a valuable contribution to the business during the period of their training. A third of employers find that apprentices start adding value within the first few weeks.

·Over half of companies say that a high proportion of their apprentices are moving up into management positions.

·More than 75% of employers feel confident that they will use apprenticeships more often in their future recruitment plans.

·80% of companies who invest in apprentices have reported that they are significantly more likely to retain their employees.

·77% of employers are of the opinion that their competitiveness has been increased by using Apprenticeships


The apprenticeship levy

This was introduced by the UK government in April 2017 and is paid by employers with a pay bill of over £3 million. Only 2% of employers fall into this category and the levy is set at 0.5% of their total annual pay bill.

Employers who pay the levy have a digital account where they can access their levy funds to spend on apprenticeship training.

The money generated by the levy also funds apprenticeship training for other employers who want to take on apprentices. Employers whose annual pay bill is less than £3 million pay just 5% of the cost of their apprenticeship training and the Government pays the rest.