A website maintained for the Sheffield City Region by the HEPP

Helping apprentices progress into Higher Education

Information about Apprenticeships

What’s an Apprenticeship?

Apprenticeships are nationally designed training programmes for 16 - 24 year-olds who have left full-time education or are already in employment.

They offer young people the opportunity to learn on the job with an employer, building up knowledge and skills, gaining qualifications and earning money at the same time.

There are two levels of Apprenticeship: Apprenticeships (Also called Intermediate Apprenticeships) and Advanced Apprenticeships.

There are over 200 Apprenticeships and Advanced Apprenticeships to choose from, although not all skill areas are offered in all regions.

Apprenticeships last at least 15 months, while Advanced Apprenticeships last at least 2 years.

Some Apprenticeships, for example in engineering or construction, take much longer to complete because of the depth of knowledge to be demonstrated.

“I would recommend this way of gaining a degree to anybody - I’ve got no student debt and have a great job.”
Asaf Mahmood

Do I need qualifications?
If you want to become an Apprentice you will need to show that you have the ability to complete the programme.

Normal entry to the Advanced Apprenticeship level is via 5 GCSEs with grades A* to C with, ideally, English and Maths being two of those subjects. Entry to the Apprenticeship level can be gained with lower grades. You will also be assessed for general ability in your chosen area of study by your training provider.

If you are not yet ready to go on to an Apprenticeship programme, you can now gain those qualifications by going into a Traineeship.

“The Mid Yorkshire Chamber of Commerce found me an engineering Apprenticeship with Linpac Plastics in Featherstone and I attended Wakefield College on day-release.”

Faye Banks

Higher Apprenticeships & Degree Apprenticeships

What are higher apprenticeships?

Like intermediate and advanced apprenticeships, higher apprenticeships combine on the job training while studying towards a high level qualification.

Higher apprenticeships are available at a range of levels, from the equivalent of a foundation degree to a bachelor’s degree and soon at master’s degree level in some sectors.

On a ‘Higher apprenticeship’ you will study to achieve qualifications from level 4 up to bachelor’s degrees at level 6, and master’s degrees at level 7. All levels of Higher Apprenticeship can include vocational qualifications and academic qualifications.

What are degree apprenticeships?

Degree apprenticeships are the latest model to be developed as part of higher apprenticeship standard.

A degree apprenticeship will give the opportunity to achieve a full bachelor’s or master’s degree as a core component of the apprenticeship.

Degree apprenticeships combine both higher and vocational education and fully test both the wider occupational competence and academic learning, either using a fully-integrated degree co-designed by employers and HEIs, or using a degree plus separate end-test of professional competence.

What about Higher Apprenticeships in the future?

The Government is actively supporting the development of Higher Apprenticeships, as it is keen to reshape the UK economy.

Its aim is to produce high value and high skill activities to allow us as a nation to compete in an intensely competitive global market. The globalisation of production means that employment now, and in the future, requires more highly skilled people.

What are the key advantages for employers hiring Higher Level Apprentices (HLAs)?

HLAs have the potential to meet the unique needs of your business. With higher apprentices learning at work, they’re able to develop the knowledge and occupational competencies demanded by specific job roles, and meet the unique needs of your business.

Higher apprenticeships enable businesses to attract and retain employees with potential, expanding workplace diversity and benefiting the local community and wider economy.

HLAs can Increase business productivity and help businesses keep up-to-date with the latest techniques and technology, promising further productivity growth for the future.

You can tailor learning to your workplace and thus HLAs can help you fill higher level skills gaps efficiently and effectively whilst enhancing your business performance and assisting economic growth.

HLAs provide clear, progression routes with work-based pathways, from craft to technician to professional and managerial skills. These progression routes are mapped out by the progression through intermediate, advanced and higher apprenticeships.

Employing HLA’s give you opportunity to develop existing staff. Your existing staff can work with your higher apprentice, and benefit themselves from providing mentoring support and working through projects together.

Higher apprenticeships allow young people and adults to earn while they learn at the highest level and progress into higher skilled occupations, and employers to recruit from a larger talent pool.

Higher and Degree Apprenticeships - Make them your Plan A

Higher and Degree Apprenticeships - Make them your Plan A

Video from Amazing Apprenticeships

Meet four inspirational higher and degree apprentices who are working in marketing, law, construction and pharmaceutical research.

What are Trailblazers?

The Trailblazers scheme sets up a framework where industries and employers take responsibility for designing their own apprenticeships. Trailblazers are groups of employers in common sectors rewriting the Apprenticeship standards for one or more job roles in their sector.

The scheme has developed in a number of phases over the past three years. The latest recruits to the trailblazers scheme means it now involves more than 1,000 employers and 120 apprenticeships.

In order for a job role to be considered an Apprenticeship it has achieve a set learning outcomes and these need to be measurable, hence each job role has set standards and consistent ways for them to be assessed.

New apprenticeship standards are being developed by groups of employers working together to design the job occupations within their sectors and developing examples of the new system working in practice.

The standards they create will gradually replace the existing frameworks that current Apprenticeships are based on.

All the new apprenticeships will be delivered from 2017. The current apprenticeship framework will remain until 2017 when the new apprenticeship standards designed by the employer groups will be fully implemented.

What do all standards have in common?

Employers can create Apprenticeships standards that are job specific but they can’t deviate from the minimum requirements for an Apprenticeship, these are:

  • The training must be at least one year
  • Off-the-job training must be at least 20%, and,

It must have transferable skills between businesses, i.e. not skills specific to one business.

Each standard has the following three elements:

  • Core standard – the knowledge, skills and behaviours required for that job role
  • Options – elements of the job role which may be optional depending on the requirements of the business, skillset and interests of the apprentice, or future career path.
  • Assessment – the method of assessing whether the individual has achieved the required standard.
Who are developing the new apprenticeship standards (Trailblazers)?

New Apprenticeship Standards are being developed by the following groups/organisations:

  • Employers - who lead on standards. It is important that they ensure the standards developed work for both large and small organisations.
  • Professional Bodies who play an important role to ensure that the learner completing a new apprenticeship allows them to achieve professional registration, in occupations where this is available.
  • Training Providers may be involved with employers to ensure they are ready to deliver the new apprenticeship standards.
  • Awarding Organisations – Assessment experts will need to engage with employer groups so they can develop appropriate assessments for Apprentices to prove their skills and capabilities on the new programmes

How will Trailblazers change things for Apprentices?
Currently every apprentice that joins a business completes a qualification relevant for their job role based on national Apprenticeship frameworks.

The newly developed Trailblazer standards will gradually replace existing Apprenticeship frameworks.

When will Apprentices start on the new (trailblazer) standards ?
All the new apprenticeships will be delivered from 2017. The current Apprenticeship framework will remain until 2017 when the new apprenticeship standards designed by the employer groups will be fully implemented.


National Qualifications Framework

The National Qualifications Framework chart shows the different routes that can be taken to gain a degree - work-based learning (Apprenticeships and NVQs), vocationally related (e.g. BTEC qualifications) and academic (GCEs and GCSEs).

Qualifications & Credit Framework

The NQF is being replaced by the QCF (Qualifications and Credit Framework). This is a new framework containing vocational (or work-related) qualifications that are available in England, Wales and Northern Ireland.

The qualifications are made up of units that are worth credits, which can be built up to full qualifications of different sizes over time. Units and qualifications also range in difficulty, from entry level to level 8 (similar to the levels in the NQF).

The NVQs in an Apprenticeship framework are gradually being assigned values in the QCF. Some Sector Skills Councils, such as Skills for Health, are choosing to replace their NVQs with a new Diploma qualification, while other SSCs will maintain the NVQ within the framework structure.

To find out more about the QCF click here

Foundation Degrees

As a student you may also experience economic benefits from studying at the College. Our full and part-time fees are lower than most universities. Furthermore, students local to Wakefield can make a real saving by not having to relocate or travel long distances for their study.

Studying at the College is a great way to gain a recognised higher education qualification in your chosen occupation that will prepare you for employment, or for the next stage of your career. It also gives you an excellent academic and practical basis for further study.

Adult Apprenticeships

Adult Apprenticeships were introduced in 2004 for those aged over 25.

An initial £1 million of funding allowed 7 regions to participate in pilot programmes, which commenced in January 2005 working with three Sector Skills Councils - SEMTA, CITB-Construction Skills and Skills for Health.

The initial cohorts amounted to 450 learners. Since then, the number of Adult Apprenticeship places has steadily increased, with £16.7 million of funding allocated for 2006/07, £25 million in 2007/8 and £30 million in 2008/9.

In June 2010 the coalition Government showed its commitment to Apprenticeship training with Vince Cable announcing that funding would be provided for an additional 50,000 apprentice places.

The Government also announced an additional £150 million of funding for Adult Apprenticeships, which would be made available to small and medium-sized enterprises. This money was being transferred from the Train to Gain budget, which was being axed.

Provisional data showed that there were a total of 257,000 Adult Apprenticeship starts that had been delivered between April 2010 and March 2011. There has been a huge growth in the number of those over the age of 19 undertaking an Apprenticeship.

Between 2009/10 and 2012/13 the number of those aged up to 19 is expected to grow by about 30% (from 186,000 to 240,000) but in the same period, Adult Apprenticeships were expected to more than double (from 305,000 to 650,000).


Initially, Adult Apprenticeships were funded in a similar way to post 18 Apprenticeships at up to 50% of the cost of the training, the employer paying the difference. However, following a review, in 2012, the coalition Government decided to replace the funding with a system of loans, similar to those for higher education. They were called the 24+ Advanced Learner Loan and the apprentices had to draw down this finding themselves. Bursaries were also available to help to pay for child care and travel for those with proven needs.

This turned out to be an abject failure with the system costing more to deliver, because of the low take-up, than expected. The BBC reported that, in the 2013 just 77 people had taken out a loan compared to the 25,000 expected. From 2014 the funding has reverted back to partial funding by the Government with the remainder subsidised by the employer.

In the BIS publication Further Education – Future Development of Loans, Expanding and Simplifying the Programme, June 2014, Matthew Hancock, Minister of State for Skills and Enterprise, said:

“It is clear that Advanced Learning Loans are not the preferred funding route for employers or prospective Apprentices. In readiness for the reformed Apprenticeships, Apprentices aged 24 and over are no longer eligible to take out an Advanced Learning Loan. We are planning to route funding for Apprenticeships training through employers in the future, to give them greater control and purchasing power over Apprenticeship training. We believe this approach has the potential to lead to a transformational change in the way employers engage with the Apprenticeship system.”

The 24+ Advanced Learner Loan does still remain for those want to study for a Level 3 or Level 4 qualification, including NVQs, outside an Apprenticeship framework.

So, funding for adult apprentices now comes out of the ‘same pot’ as for all other apprentices, but, because the emphasis is on getting young people into an Apprenticeship, there is less money allocated to those over 18. The contribution is still up to 50% of full cost and the total amount available depends on the skill area and the location of the Apprenticeship. If there is no funding available, the employer can still establish an Adult Apprenticeship but would have to contribute up to 100% for the trainee.

About this Site

This site has been extensively updated (2014) to take into account the many changes to funding, the careers service and higher-level courses. It is maintained and updated by the Higher Education Progression Partnership (HEPP Sheffield City Region)

The HEPP is a partnership supported by the University of Sheffield, Sheffield Hallam University and other partners across South Yorkshire, North Derbyshire, Chesterfield, Bolsover, Bassetlaw and Derbyshire Dales, who are committed to widening participation and progression to Higher Education.

This website has evolved from a number of previous websites. These were the Apprenticesgohigher website, originally funded by the Aimhigher Yorkshire and Humber Regional Partnership, and a development of two previous Aimhigher South Yorkshire-funded sites.

The site contains information and case studies relating to both Apprenticeships and the opportunities for apprentices to progress to higher education. To support this, there is a fully searchable database of the higher-level courses that apprentices and vocational learners can access across the Region.

The co-authors are David Fisher, DAVICI Consulting, and David Berry, Partnership Co-ordinator for the HEPP. The website was produced by Pixel Play.