An alternative route into this quickly evolving sector, discover how an IT apprenticeship can give you the practical experience and qualifications you need to progress your career
What IT apprenticeships are available?
From small and medium sized businesses to large corporates IT apprenticeships are popular in a range of organisations. They can also be found in a variety of sectors, not only those for which IT and digital is their core business. While they are prevalent in large tech companies such as Google, Microsoft and IBM, they are also found in engineering giants such as Roll Royce and the banking sector.
There are many exciting digital IT roles in every sector including security, sports, the NHS, retail, artificial intelligence, aviation, gaming and music. Technology underpins everything we do and is required in every business sector.
Digital apprenticeships are offered at these levels:
- Advanced - Level 3, equivalent to A-level
- Higher - Levels 4 and 6 equivalent to a foundation degree or above
- Degree - Level 6 equivalent to a Bachelors degree
Who are they aimed at?
Despite the perception that apprenticeships are for young people, there is no upper age limit. Apprenticeships are relevant to anyone that has a genuine need for at least one year's training and can demonstrate competence in line with an apprenticeship standard.
Individuals that want to start an apprenticeship should not already hold qualifications that are equivalent to the apprenticeship being undertaken. However, they can start an apprenticeship at the same or lower level if they need to acquire substantive new skills and the content of the training is different from any prior funded training.
Apprentices must be new to the job role or have additional responsibilities, so they are relevant to individuals who are looking to progress internally, and employers can therefore start existing staff on an apprenticeship.
What's involved in an IT apprenticeship?
An apprentice should be employed for at least 30 hours per week during which time they will complete a minimum of 12 months training. Most IT and digital apprenticeships are longer and can last for up to 24 months.
Apprentices undertake training both on and off the job, but all apprentices must be given a minimum of 20% off-the-job training to meet the requirements of the programme. This training must be structured, reviewed and importantly help the apprentice achieve the knowledge, skills and behaviours included in the apprenticeship standard. Off-the-job training must be 'away' from the workplace but does not have to be 'outside' the workplace - so it can include a range of methods such as: role-play, online learning, shadowing, industry visits - it doesn’t have to be block day release.
At the end of the training period, the apprentice takes an end-point assessment managed by and independent assessor. The IT and digital end-point assessments include - the collection of key pieces of work in a portfolio, an employer's reference, a project and finally an interview with the assessor. At the end of the process the apprentice is graded.
The BCS Digital IT Apprenticeship Standards provide more information and cover key IT and digital roles such as: digital marketing, infrastructure technician, cyber security technologist, network engineer, software developer and business analyst.
How much will I be paid?
All apprentices are paid the National Minimum Wage (NMW), which currently stands at £3.70 per hour for apprentices under 19, and those aged over 19 who are in their first year.
If you are over 19 and have completed the first year of your apprenticeship you must be paid the minimum wage rate for your age. To check that you're being paid enough see the National Minimum Wage and Living Wage calculator for workers.
As an apprentice you'll be paid for your normal working hours, as well as for any training that is part of your scheme. You're entitled to 20 days paid holiday per year, plus bank holidays. Salaries are determined by individual employers.
For detailed information about how apprenticeships work, pay rates, entry requirements and the difference between an apprenticeship and an internship, see what is an apprenticeship?
How do I apply?
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 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 the required competencies. For IT and digital roles you could provide examples of any programming that you’ve done or systems you’ve built either in your spare time or as part of a university project.
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.