Women and Apprenticeships – Your Questions Answered

Here’s a quick guide to apprenticeships for women in the UK.

Is there an age limit?

Originally Apprenticeships in England were only open to people aged 16-24, but there are now Youth Apprenticeships available for people aged 14-16. There is also a commitment to developing Apprenticeships for people over 25 and some pilot schemes are already running. There is no upper age limit for Apprenticeships in Scotland and Wales.

How much will it cost me?

This depends on your personal circumstances and whether you enter work experience or paid employment to do your training. Taster courses that introduce you to a career can be very useful, and many of these are free.

In Scotland, the money to pay for your training may come from the Skillseekers Initiative, or through your local enterprise company, so don’t worry, neither you nor your family will have to pay training fees.

Where is my nearest training centre?

Go to your nearest Careers Guidance Centre, contact Learndirect or visit the Learning and Skills Council website. For more information on women-only courses or training particularly tailored to women’s needs visit the Women’s Training Network or The UK Resource Centre for Women in SET (science, engineering and technology) website, or call our telephone helpline. Places for courses in these industries are in demand, and finding a place can be competitive, so get in early!

Can I train part-time if I need to carry on working?

Many taster and introductory courses are part-time, and further education colleges may also run part-time courses. Apprenticeships are all done part-time.

Will I receive a salary?

If you’re on a work placement you will receive a training allowance. The minimum you will receive is £40 per week and you may also be entitled to apply for a loan or grant to support your course. Most apprentices are employed by business and paid a salary that reflects their skills, experience, age and ability. Currently, 75% of employers pay £70 or more a week, in some cases considerably more. Apprentices are not covered by the National Minimum Wage although the Government has recently set out its expectation that, over time, all employed apprentices should be paid a minimum weekly income of £70-£80.

Will transport be provided?

This depends on the type of training you enter. Some introductory courses may offer transport costs, and there may be schemes close to where you live.

What qualification will I receive?

With an Apprenticeship, you’ll get a package of qualifications – a National Vocational Qualification, a technical certificate like a BTEC National Diploma or a City & Guilds Progression Award, and Key Skills qualifications. The Apprenticeship leads to an NVQ Level 2 and the Advanced Apprenticeship leads to an NVQ Level 3. In Scotland the package of qualifications results in SVQ Level 3 and above, also including Core Skills, which are comparable to the Key Skills gained in England and Wales. The qualifications you gain with an Advanced Apprenticeship can help you enter higher education. Other courses offer qualifications specific to the subject.

What are the job opportunities after training?

There is a skill shortage in construction, engineering, information technology, and plumbing in many parts of the UK. The Government and employers are keen to attract more people into these careers. Plus, once you’re fully trained and qualified, you could start thinking about being self-employed. Contact one of the support organisations or employers in your area to find out what is available.

 What are my chances of finding a job locally?

Depending on where you live, there are organisations that can help you to find somewhere locally – employers in many areas of the country are keen to find trainees.

Will I have to move home?

Due to the nationwide skills shortage, there are jobs in most areas. However, some jobs that are highly paid and specialised may be in particular parts of the country or abroad. For example, in engineering construction you could be working on a power station. Or if you wanted to work for a large motor vehicle manufacturer, you would need to work where they are based.

 What will it be like?

Opportunities in these careers are huge. The work can be so varied that it is impossible to describe all the possibilities. But they are all careers in which you solve problems, see the results of your work, help people, are part of a team, have creative input, and earn a good wage. So if this sounds like the sort of career that would suit you, give it some serious consideration.

Can I speak to someone who has already done this sort of training?

The organisations listed in the ‘Where can I get more advice?’ section can help put you into contact with women who have these jobs. Also, if you decide to work in these areas, you can speak to a mentor who will support you through your training. For example, CITB-ConstructionSkills has a network of careers and education teams across the UK that help women with information on careers in the industry.

How long will it take to be qualified?

This depends on the sector you go into, but it usually takes 18 months for an Apprenticeship and two years for an Advanced Apprenticeship. If you decide to go on further, you can carry on and become professionally qualified – or you may decide to be self-employed.

Will I be the only woman and what will this be like?

There aren’t many women in these fields at the moment, but the number is steadily increasing. Those who are find it rewarding and enjoyable. As before, there are organisations that will put you in touch with other women in these fields. Sometimes it can be lonely if you are the only woman, but networks are available to find suitable employers that are welcoming and supportive, and who already have women working for them.

Am I capable of doing this type of work and will I be strong enough?

Like any career, you will not be able to do everything when you start. The training will teach you how to carry out the tasks involved in all sorts of work, including how things should be lifted and how heavy items should be moved. Remember jobs like nursing and care roles include lifting too and you’ll receive the health and safety training as you would in those roles – regardless of gender.

 I’m not sure I’m any good at technical things.

It’s probably because you’re not conscious of how much technology you use all the time, without even thinking about it. Sometimes a bad experience can put people off a type of work, but when you return to it at another point it makes sense. A taster course will introduce you to these careers and give you a chance to see what they are really like in a friendly environment. The skills involved are also about managing tasks and solving problems, which is experience you probably have from previous, totally unrelated jobs.

Do I need any particular skills/qualifications before I apply?

It depends on the job. GCSE English and Maths may be useful, or in Scotland the equivalent Standard Grade, but there are sometimes alternative ways of getting onto courses.

 What sort of support is available if I had any problems being a woman in a male environment?

You have a legal right not to be treated unfairly because of your sex. The Equal Opportunities Commission (EOC) has a confidential helpline which you can ring for advice.

Where can I find out about work experience?

Many courses now offer work experience as part of their training. Ask your local Further Education College for details.

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