Here's what you need to know in National Apprenticeship Week

File photo dated 06/10/11 of a trainee bricklayer as careers advice for school-leavers is in a state

National Apprenticeship Week starts today (February 8). - Credit: PA Wire/Press Association Images

A college's head of business development has shared his top tips at the start of National Apprenticeship Week.

Although now in its 14th year, many feel that this year the role of apprenticeships has never been so important. So, what is an apprenticeship?

To become an apprentice, you must be over 16, not already in full-time education and live in England.

Being an apprentice means you are in a job where you learn, gain experience and get paid at the same time.

You are either an employee or become an employee at a company, with the benefits that come with that.

Typically, an apprentice studies for at least 20 per cent of their working hours with a college, university or training provider.

By the end of the apprenticeship - which can last between one and six years - you should have the skills, knowledge and qualifications that you need for your chosen career.

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An apprenticeship is funded from contributions made by the government and your employer.

For the apprentice that means no student loans or tuition fees.

Neel Valand

Neel Valand is group head of business development at Barking and Dagenham College. - Credit: Barking and Dagenham College

Neel Valand, group head of business development at Barking and Dagenham College said: “This is one of the reasons many people are choosing an apprenticeship as an alternative to university, especially in the current climate.”

Mohammed Shaikh is a rail engineering apprentice at Telent, a technology company and specialist in the design, build, operation, and maintenance of the UK’s critical digital infrastructure.

He said: “I am glad I’ve been given the opportunity to progress and develop my skills given the current circumstances and restrictions.”

You can also become an apprentice whether you are starting your career, want to upskill in your current role or need a change of careers completely.

This could be particularly of interest in the current economic climate.

Neel said: “Covid has hit many industries, and this is just as true in our boroughs, so an apprenticeship might be the perfect option for not only school leavers setting out, but also those who now want or need to look at a totally different career path.

“Having recognised their importance, the government has already put in place incentives to help businesses hire apprentices.

"Apprentices can help businesses grow and provide them with the skilled workforce that they need. That could be vital for businesses to survive post-Covid.”

Employers already receive £1,000 for hiring an apprentice and the government has now extended extra financial incentives to help too.

Employers will receive £2,000 for apprentices aged 16 to 24 and £1,500 for apprentices aged 25 and over.

Neel said: “These incentives could be a life-line for businesses to help them not just survive but thrive.”

Top tips for apprentices include thinking about what industry you want to get into. You can find information about apprenticeships at

Apprenticeships range from those in construction and business to IT support and accountancy.

There are different types of apprenticeship available – intermediate, advanced and higher apprenticeships.

You can choose depending on your current skills and qualifications. Speak to your college or the National Apprenticeship Service to get help in deciding.

If you are already working in a job you love but you are interested in becoming an apprentice, speak to your employer to see if they would be interested in taking you on as an apprentice.

Sign up to the National Apprenticeship Service website and start looking at the apprenticeship vacancies on the site. There are thousands online at any one time.

There are perks for employers interested in taking on an apprentice. Employing apprentices can help grow a business. It doesn’t matter what size the business is, or what industry, apprenticeships are available for all.

It’s worth noting that apprenticeships are built around your business needs, which means you are training staff with the skills you need.

The National Apprenticeship Service has support for any sized company. Alternatively, it is worth speaking to a local college.

In the borough, Barking and Dagenham College works with employers looking to take on apprentices.