Apprenticeships are not just for young people or for those learning a trade. They cover most, if not all, industry sectors and are available to employees of all ages. In many cases, the Government will pay for some or all of the cost of the training. Apprenticeships are available at different levels, from entry level right through to management positions. Some of our advanced and higher level apprenticeships are recognised by professional bodies such as the Association of Accounting Technicians and the Chartered Institute of Legal Executives.
Apprentices may start an apprenticeship after they have been in work for some time or may start a new job with the intention of joining an apprenticeship programme.
An apprentice's salary is paid by their employer. Although most apprentices have permanent contracts, some are employed on an initial fixed term of, say, 18 months.
"An apprenticeship is a valuable qualification. It shows that you have achieved a nationally recognised standard for your area of work. It also shows your employer that you are committed to your job and that you want to develop your skills."
Apprenticeships are not an easy option – they require commitment both in work and outside work. This is why they are so well regarded by employers and, increasingly, by universities. This is also why apprentices have been proven, over time, to earn more than people who do not have apprenticeships or other similar qualifications.
As well as doing their job, an apprentice is supported by their employer and Damar to achieve the level of competence agreed by employers and the Government as being right for their job - the apprenticeship “standard”. Most apprenticeship standards are set out in an easy to read two page document. Apprenticeships standards are gradually replacing old apprenticeship “frameworks”.
Apprenticeship standards always take at least a year to complete and have three distinct stages:
A period of teaching and learning
During this part of the apprenticeship the apprentice will work with their Damar tutor and their employer to develop their knowledge and skills and put these into practice. Some apprenticeships have qualifications embedded within them (accountancy and law for example) and so the apprentice may need to take exams. Towards the end of this part of the apprenticeship the apprentice will assemble a portfolio of work showing how they are applying their skills and knowledge. They will also prepare for the interview and/or exam that usually forms part of the end-point assessment (see below)
When the apprentice is able to show they are meeting the standard, there is a formal review meeting with the employer and Damar. This “gateway” meeting is the point at which the employer, Damar and the apprentice come together to agree that the apprentice is ready for the external end-point assessment that is the final stage of all apprenticeship standards
This is the apprentice’s chance to demonstrate their skills and knowledge to an external assessor. Appointed by the Institute of Apprenticeships, the end-point assessment organisation will carry out a final, independent review of the apprentice’s competence. Each apprenticeship has a slightly different end-point assessment but, in many cases, it includes:
- A test (often online)
- A review of the portfolio
- An interview
These ensure that the apprentice has the standard of English and maths required for the role. This element is assessed by way of a series of exams (plus a verbal test for English). Students with good GCSEs in maths and English may be exempt.
At the start of the programme, we plan the apprenticeship with the apprentice and their supervisor. We tailor the qualification by choosing content that closely matches the apprentice’s job. We also agree the likely timescale and consider any particular requirements.
The delivery method varies according to the needs of the apprentice, the employer and the qualification. Increasingly, we use a blended delivery model which combines 1:1 tutorial and review visits from the Damar trainer with online learning, webinars and e-tutorials delivered via our virtual learning environment, Damar Open Learning. This gives apprentices access to more specialist teaching content and the flexibility to access content when at times that suit them and the employer. Most apprentices need to spend around 20% of their time on their studies.
For many apprentices, the apprenticeship is a stepping stone towards additional responsibility at work or, for some, further qualifications including university. As well as celebrating achievement, we always discuss progression with apprentices and their employers to ensure that the benefits of the apprenticeship are maximised.