Sinead Kay, Apprenticeship Manager at Kendal College, explains the value of apprenticeships and some of the opportunities to study for an apprenticeship at Cumbrian Further Education Colleges

Apprenticeships are a great option for starting your career and they are an increasingly popular study option, allowing you to get out into the world, start working and earn a living, while gaining an internationally recognised qualification at the same time.

Apprenticeships are suitable for anybody over the age of 16.

What a lot of people don’t realise is that an apprenticeship is a real job! It is certainly not an easy option, but it can be a very rewarding way to start your career.

You’ll work at least 30 hours a week and earn a wage and be entitled to holiday pay.

You will work alongside other employees, who will support you in your role and you will be allocated a workplace mentor, who will help you to develop the professional skills and behaviours necessary to do the job.

Earlier this year Kieran Attrill, an engineering apprentice who works for Exc@v8, won an award from Kendal College for Outstanding Contribution to Engineering. The award recognised the transformation in Kieran’s approach and commitment over the last two years, demonstrating his confidence and skill in the engineering sector.

You will be given time to study for the qualification related to your job role, which may involve attending one of the five Cumbrian Further Education Colleges: Kendal College, The Lakes College, Furness College, Carlisle College and Newton Rigg.

There are a variety of different types of apprenticeships at a different levels.

Intermediate (level 2) apprenticeships are equivalent to getting 5 GCSEs A*-C.

Advanced apprenticeships (level 3) are equivalent to A levels and other level 3 college courses.

Higher apprenticeships (levels 4, 5 and 6) are equivalent to studying for a three-year degree at university and level 7 Professional apprenticeships are equivalent to a Master’s degree.

Some apprentices start at level 2 and work their way up, whereas others may start at a higher level.

The right apprenticeship level for you will depend on your job role and your previous qualifications. The length of an apprenticeship varies, but the minimum period is 12 months, whereas a level 6 degree apprenticeship make take up to five years.

School leavers considering their options may be trying to decide between studying A levels at sixth form, enrolling on a vocational course at college or finding an intermediate or advanced apprenticeship in a career that is of interest.

An apprenticeship is a very practical alternative to A levels, that allows people to experience the world of work straight away.

Jenson Moon, who is studying for a Business Administration Apprenticeship with Kendal College and working for the NHS, stated: “Doing the apprenticeship has meant I have been given more responsibility, and I manage my own workload. Working in the NHS is fun. I learn so many different things daily and enjoy being able to network with different people. Every day is different, and there is still so much to learn”.

Potential apprentices need to be ready to join the workforce and be prepared to develop excellent workplace behaviours. The Sutton Trust has reported that the earning potential of an advanced apprenticeship at level 3 is better than that of someone whose highest qualification is at A-level.

Apprentices suit people who are keen to get started on their career early. A higher level apprenticeship is a really good alternative to university. The opportunity to earn while you learn means that apprentices not only gain three years' work experience compared to university graduates, but apprentices also avoid getting into the debt that university students often experience.

The competition for the best higher level apprenticeships is as fierce as it is to get into the top university courses. In 2015 The Sutton Trust reported that higher apprenticeships at level 5 result in greater lifetime earnings than undergraduate degrees from non-Russell Group universities.

While on the apprenticeship you will also receive support to improve your Maths and English skills, which are vital for employment and everyday life. Gaining additional English and Maths qualifications can also enhance your future career prospects.

Whatever your future career ambitions, there is probably an apprenticeship route that will suit you.

The five Cumbrian Colleges work closely with the region's universities and local and national employers to offer apprenticeships in a wide variety of industries, including engineering, education, hairdressing, hospitality and catering and health and social care.

When people think of apprenticeships, jobs in the trades such as joinery, construction, motor vehicles or brickwork may come to mind; and many people do indeed follow these paths.

However, did you know that apprenticeships are also available in diverse areas such as animal care, science and computing?

Maggi Raisbeck recently completed the level 3 apprenticeship in animal care and is working in the Animal Rescue Centre (ARC) at Kendal College. Maggi chose the apprenticeship as it meant she could get hands-on experience, carry on learning as well as being paid.

If you are interested in pursuing a career in business, you may wish to consider apprenticeships offered in the areas of business support, including business administration, accountancy, customer care, team leading or leadership and management. These apprenticeships offer a broad range of knowledge, skills and behaviours, which are applicable across a wide range of industries.

An apprenticeship is a great way to enjoy a successful start in work and life. Every apprenticeship is different, but each one is varied, stimulating and challenging.

Ashley Crellin is an apprentice commis chef at The Midland Hotel in Morecambe and comes to Kendal College one day a week. All successful apprenticeships are a partnership between the employer, the college and the apprentice themselves.

You will need to find a job in order to be an apprentice, but the colleges can help you with that.

If you have been inspired to consider an apprenticeship, make contact with your local college, look for information on their website, or attend an open day; all of which will help you to discover the apprenticeship that’s right for you and kick-start your new and exciting career!