Apprenticeships in Wales

Daniel Higginbotham, Editor
January, 2023

With the Welsh government hitting its target of providing 100,000 apprenticeships by 2021, it's now looking to create 125,000 by 2026 - so there should be plenty of opportunities to kick-start your career by earning as you learn

According to the latest quarterly statistics from the Welsh government, 4,195 apprentices started their learning programmes in the second quarter of 2021/22 (November 2021 to January 2022).

While these were down on the previous year, mainly due to the coronavirus pandemic, the Welsh government is hopeful of meeting its new apprenticeship target, especially as its two most popular sectors - healthcare and public services - are still continuing to take on apprentices in Wales.

Combining work and study, apprenticeships give you the opportunity to gain valuable, on-the-job experience while studying towards an industry-recognised qualification.

On top of any course-specific entry criteria, to be eligible for an apprenticeship in Wales you'll need to be:

  • over the age of 16
  • living in Wales
  • not in full-time education.

There are four types of apprenticeship on offer in Wales corresponding to different levels of the Credit and Qualifications Framework for Wales (CQFW):

  • Foundation (Level 2)
  • Apprenticeship/Standard (Level 3)
  • Higher (Levels 4-7)
  • Degree (Levels 6-7).

If you're between the ages of 16 and 18, or over 19 and in the first year of your apprenticeship, you'll be paid £5.28 per hour - the current minimum hourly rate for apprentices in Wales. Otherwise, you can expect the National Minimum Wage (NMW) rate for your age.

See GOV.WALES - Apprenticeships for more information on Welsh apprenticeships and what you're entitled to.

Foundation and standard apprenticeships

An increasingly popular entry into a career, foundation and standard apprenticeships in Wales offer on-the-job training and the chance to obtain an industry-recognised qualification equivalent to five GCSEs/Level 2 NVQ or two A-levels/Level 3 NVQ respectively.

From both the foundation and standard levels, apprentices can either enter the world of work or complete higher-level qualifications. For the latter, you'll get a deeper understanding of your field, gain the knowledge and skills required to enter a profession or you may choose to apply for university.

A foundation apprenticeship in Wales is the equivalent of an intermediate apprenticeship in England, a Level 2 in Northern Ireland and a foundation apprenticeship in Scotland.

On the other hand, the standard apprenticeship relates to the advanced (England), Level 3 (Northern Ireland) and modern (Scotland) apprenticeship.

You'll need to be between 16 and 24 years of age, a Welsh resident and already working 16 hours per week to apply for a foundation apprenticeship. Unlike most courses, there are no fixed entry requirements, and each employer will have different criteria.

For the standard apprenticeship, you'll typically require previous industry experience and possibly a related foundation apprenticeship, diploma or BTEC, or to hold three to five GCSEs (at grades 4-9).

Higher apprenticeships

Higher apprenticeships can be studied up to Masters level (CQFW Level 7), and are most commonly found in industries that require high levels of academia as well as practical capability, such as digital and technology solutions, laboratory-based roles or software development.

They can be studied from CQFW Level 4, meaning you'll only need a relevant Level 3 qualification to apply. This could be two or more AS-levels, subject-relevant NVQs or diplomas alongside good GCSE grades (or equivalent). Higher apprenticeships are the equivalent of the first stages of higher education, such as a foundation degree.

Degree apprenticeships

The highest level of qualification, degree apprenticeships combine full-time work with studying towards the equivalent of a full Bachelors or Masters degree. Degree apprenticeships are studied at CQFW Levels 6-7 and can take anywhere from one to six years to complete.

Degree apprenticeships are formed in collaboration between employers and universities or colleges. To enrol on a degree apprenticeship, you'll need to hold a relevant Level 5 qualification. This includes at least two A-levels (or equivalent) in role-specific subjects, although the exact entry requirements will be at the discretion of your employer.

For more information, see degree apprenticeships.

How to apply

You can apply for apprenticeships of all levels in Wales in a number of ways:

Unlike applying for university through UCAS, where applications can be submitted up to a fixed deadline, it's best to apply for an apprenticeship as soon as possible. Some employers close their application window early if they've received a sufficient number or quality of applicants.

Discover how to apply for an apprenticeship.

Find out more

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