The growing popularity and availability of business apprenticeships shows that these schemes are a viable alternative to university for those with leadership and management aspirations

What business apprenticeships are available?

Business apprenticeships focus on helping an organisation to run effectively and profitably and can encompass a range of functions. Available schemes include business administration, business development, consultancy and management and leadership apprenticeships.

Some business apprenticeships can touch upon other job sectors such as accountancy, banking and finance (banking and accounting apprenticeships), IT (business technology apprenticeships) and HR (human resource management apprenticeships).

Schemes typically start at intermediate level (level 2 - comparable to GCSEs) and progress through advanced (level 3 - equivalent to A-levels) and higher (levels 4,5,6 and 7 - comparable to a foundation degree or above) before reaching degree apprenticeship level (levels 6 and 7 - equivalent to a Bachelors or Masters degree).

As an apprentice you'll earn while you learn. You'll work for a company and receive on-the-job training and study in order to achieve industry-recognised qualifications. You'll be paid a full-time wage and will complete the programme totally debt free as all study and training costs are covered by your employer and the government. To find out more about how apprenticeships work, see what is an apprenticeship?

Which firms offer apprenticeships?

  • Aon
  • Arup
  • Atos
  • Barclays
  • BBC
  • Boots
  • BPP
  • British Airways
  • Capgemini
  • Chartered Management Institute
  • EDF Energy
  • EY
  • Fujitsu
  • GSK
  • IBM
  • ITV
  • KPMG
  • McDonalds
  • Microsoft
  • Nestle
  • NHS
  • PwC
  • Seetec
  • Tesco
  • Unilever

This is by no means a complete list. Business administrators, advisers, developers, managers and consultants are needed in almost all sectors and companies, so to make sure that you don't miss out on opportunities research organisations of interest to you to see if they offer business or management apprenticeships.

What do business apprenticeships involve?

The kind of work that you'll do depends on the type and level of apprenticeship taken. For example, an intermediate business administration apprenticeship differs considerably from a management degree apprenticeship.

However, in general business administration apprenticeships train you to play an important support role within an organisation. Duties may include typing up meeting documents, faxing and photocopying confidential files, compiling financial data in spreadsheets and sending the post. With an intermediate business administration apprenticeship you can train as a receptionist, office junior or business support officer. An advanced apprenticeship equips you for roles as a personal assistant, secretary or legal secretary. Higher apprenticeships lead to roles such as office manager or business development executive.

Business development schemes teach you how to think of creative ways to improve the success of an organisation. Responsibilities can include helping a team to implement their ideas, research into new products and marketing. With these higher apprenticeships you could train as a business development executive or project manager.

Management apprenticeships equip you with a range of transferable skills. On a day-to-day basis you may brief teams, resolve problems, source supplies, monitor work, agree budgets, manage conflict and plan and implement change. At intermediate level you could train to become a team leader, floor manager or trainee supervisor. With an advanced management apprenticeship you could become an assistant manager, section manager or first line manager. Higher apprenticeships can lead to careers as a senior manager, head of department or director.

Apprenticeships usually take between one and four years to complete. The duration will depend largely on the type and level of the programme, with degree apprenticeships unsurprisingly lasting the longest.

Day-to-day working hours will also vary as these are set by your employer, but on average you can expect to work 30 hours a week. To complete the training or study element of your apprenticeship you may be allocated one day per week to attend college or university or you could study in scheduled blocks of one week or more.

In order to pass industry qualifications assessment methods may include essays, coursework, presentations and written exams.

Who are they aimed at?

Apprenticeships are presented as an alternative to university so are traditionally for school leavers or career changers, but almost anyone can apply as long as they meet the required entry criteria.

Intermediate and advanced (level 2 and 3) apprenticeships are aimed at school leavers. For a level 2 apprenticeship you need to be 16 or over, eligible to work in England and not in full time education to apply. At level 3 some employers may ask for at least three GCSE passes, while others don't specify any formal qualifications for entry.

Higher and degree apprenticeships (levels 4,5,6 and 7) are targeted towards those with A-levels or those who have already completed an intermediate or advanced apprenticeship.

How much will I be paid?

All apprentices are entitled to, and should be paid, the National Minimum Wage (NMW). For apprentices under 19 and those aged 19 or over who are in their first year, the NMW rate stands at £3.50 per hour.

If you are over 19 and have completed your first year you must be paid at least the minimum wage rate for your age.

You will be paid for your normal working hours and any training that is part of your apprenticeship.

Salaries are set by individual employers and in the majority of cases you'll be paid significantly more than the NMW, especially if undertaking a higher or degree apprenticeship. For example, the BBC pays an annual salary of £17,015 to apprentices on its business management higher apprenticeship, while Capgemini and Nestlé pay an annual salary between £16-17,000 for their business degree and management degree apprenticeships respectively.

As well as additional employee benefits such as discounted travel you'll also get at least 20 days of paid holiday per year, plus bank holidays.

How do I become a business apprentice?

Most applications are made online by completing an application form, although some methods may vary so check with the organisation first.

Apply for apprenticeships as you would for a job. Thoroughly research the company that you're interested in and ensure that your CV is up to date. You'll need to tailor your application to fit the role by including evidence of relevant experience and examples of when you've demonstrated required competencies. For business roles you could provide examples of when you've led a group - perhaps as the captain of a sports team or worked in an office environment or dealt with members of the public through a part-time job.

Some organisations may ask you to sit situational judgement, numerical and psychometric tests as part of their initial recruitment process. You may then need to attend an assessment centre or undergo telephone or video interviews before reaching the final interview stage.

Learn more about how to apply for an apprenticeship.

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