Higher Apprenticeships the third level of apprenticeship. The programmes are a step above Advanced Apprenticeships, and are designed to help apprentices develop advanced skills at qualification Levels 4 and 5. Above these levels are 6 and 7 – apprenticeships at bachelor’s and master’s degrees – which also sit within the Higher Apprenticeship category but are often treated as their own separate variety of programme.
Higher Apprenticeships at qualification Level 4 and 5 are equivalent to a higher education certificate, higher education diploma or a foundation degree. All levels can include vocational qualifications and academic qualifications.
Higher Apprenticeships are a great option for school and college leavers who are looking for an alternative to university. As a guide, Higher Apprenticeships take at least 12 months, but many programmes last up to 18 months or two years. Some Higher Apprenticeships even last as long as five years.
On these programmes, apprentices spend most of the time working for an employer and learning on-the-job, but they will also spend some time at a training institution, college or university. They will study towards vocational or academic qualifications that are relevant to their job.
For example, an apprentice completing a Higher Apprenticeship with a tax and accountancy firm might complete the ATT (Association of Tax Technicians) or the CTA (Chartered Tax Adviser) qualifications. In practice, this might mean apprentices spend two days a week at college and three days in the office or workplace. Alternatively, they might only go to college once a fortnight (or maybe even less). Some employers use a ‘block training’ approach, concentrating the required off-the-job training into weekly or fortnightly slots across the year.
Higher Apprenticeships have not been available for as long as Intermediate and Advanced Apprenticeships, so there are currently slightly fewer positions on offer when compared with the other levels. However, programmes are still available in a wide range of industries and roles, from tax and accountancy, to construction management, mechanical engineering, web development and even space engineering.
A Higher Apprenticeship can be a great choice for ambitious school leavers, especially for those who have done relatively well in their GCSEs and/or A-levels. Usually applicants are required to have a minimum of two A-levels or equivalent, or an Advanced Apprenticeship, and competition for places can be quite tough, as the qualifications and subsequent jobs associated with Higher Apprenticeships are so attractive to school leavers.
Often, at the end of a Higher Apprenticeship, apprentices will be at the same level as employees who took the university route and then a graduate scheme; it is likely they will be offered a job with their apprentice employer. If they choose to move on they will have professional and/or academic qualifications tailored to the industry they have trained in, making them extremely employable.
Higher apprentices will also be paid at the absolute least the Apprentice National Minimum Wage, but many employers pay their apprentices more than that. The Apprentice National Minimum Wage applies to all 16-18-year-old apprentices and those aged 19 and over in the first year of their apprenticeship.
After the first year of the apprenticeship, people who are aged 19 and over must be paid the full National Minimum Wage for their age group, but those on Higher Apprenticeships could earn salaries as high as £23,000.