Why an apprenticeship could be the next step in your career

With fierce competition for jobs, an apprenticeship service is urging people to take a different approach to learning by gaining an apprenticeship.

The National Apprenticeship Service (NAS) is asking both potential employees and businesses to sign up to the service to prove that you do not need to sit in a classroom all day to get qualified.

Teresa Logan, employer services director for the NAS explains what the benefits of completing an apprenticeship are: 'You will earn a salary while learning.

'You will learn on the job, building knowledge, skills and experience and gaining nationally recognised qualifications.

'It's a great, debt- free way of starting work and getting qualifications in the career of your choice.

'It can be a career, not just a job, because an apprenticeship delivers the skills that employers want, and it can lead to many future opportunities, such as university.

'Some apprenticeships already attract UCAS points and we are improving the system to ensure that qualifications gained during an apprenticeship can count towards university applications.'

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As employees, apprentices earn a wage while working alongside experienced staff to gain job-specific skills.

Off the job, usually on a day-release basis, apprentices receive training to work towards nationally recognised qualifications.

Anyone living in England, who is over 16 and not in full time education can apply and there is a range of different types to suit most.

Apprenticeships can take between one and four years to complete depending on the level of apprenticeship, the apprentice's ability and the industry sector and although the minimum salary is �2.50 per hour, many apprentices earn significantly more.

Employers all over the country recognise and value apprenticeships and they have been developed by a wide range of industry sectors from large national companies to small, independent businesses.

Tom Parkhurst, 22, is one of the youngest landlords in Britain and gained his licence at the age of 19.

Now a young ambassador for NAS, he believes that there is an apprenticeship for everyone.

'Basically, you can do anything, including hospitality, construction, even admin,' he said. 'It's the opportunity to get proper, on-the-job training, so you are learning in real life.'

There are now nearly 200 types of apprenticeships available, at three levels: Intermediate Level Apprenticeships, Advanced Level Apprenticeships and Higher Apprenticeships.

Intermeidate apprentices work towards work-based learning qualifications such as an NVQ Level 2, Key Skills and, in some cases, a relevant knowledge-based qualification such as a BTEC.

Advanced level apprentices work towards work-based learning qualifications such as NVQ Level 3, Key Skills and, in most cases, a relevant knowledge-based certificate such as a BTEC.

Higher Apprenticeships work towards work-based learning qualifications such as NVQ Level 4 and, in some cases, a knowledge-based qualification such as a Foundation degree.