We’re right in the middle of National Apprenticeships Week. But what is it?

National Apprenticeship Week 2016 runs until this Friday 18th March. It is a celebration of apprenticeships and the positive impact they are having on apprentices, businesses and the economy. The week is co-ordinated by the National Apprenticeship Service, which is the government agency responsible for coordinating apprenticeships in England.

Some of the country’s top employers are offering work experience, traineeships and apprenticeships, as well as local and regional companies. So — what is an apprenticeship?

An apprenticeship is a combination of practical on-the-job training and study. An apprentice works alongside experienced staff to gain job-specific skills, whilst studying towards a related qualification (usually one day a week). It can take one to four years to complete depending on the level of the qualification.

Understanding levels is important when deciding to do an apprenticeship.

A young person can start an apprenticeship from the age of 16, must be living in England and not in full time education. This means a young person can leave school to start and apprenticeship rather than going onto a sixth form. Sometimes a young person learns better outside the classroom environment.

The biggest issue often facing young people is deciding what kind of an apprenticeship to do and in what industry. There is plenty of information on-line, but this can be daunting! I have compiled a list of what I think are some of the best places to learn more:

http://www.apprenticeships.gov.uk — The National Apprenticeship Service’s website has plenty of inspirational information and live apprenticeship vacancies. It also has practical information and resources for teachers and parents.

http://www.notgoingtouni.co.uk — Not Going to Uni has a constant stream of live vacancies for all types of opportunities, as well as apprenticeships, there are vacancies traineeships, sponsored degrees, volunteering, gap year activities and much more. There is a live forum for young people to discuss with other their experiences. A career adviser is on-line to answer specific queries: http://www.notgoingtouni.co.uk/advice-centre

http://icould.com hosts a wide range of video case studies showing what an apprenticeship is really like with interviews of young people on the job.

http://movingonmagazine.co.uk has online magazines filled with stories about different types of jobs and different industries. There is also a Careerometer, a tool that compares the average wages and working hours of jobs in England.

http://worldskillsuk.org website links to WorldSkills UK Competitions that follow the competitions of UK’s high achieving apprenticeships. It also runs The Skills Show, the nation’s largest skills and careers event. It is an inspirational hand-on day.

Career paths today are no longer linear. One thing does not necessarily lead to another. And making a choice does not mean shutting a door. It is more like a spider’s web with many connecting threads. Those threads are skills. Understanding that skills are not a piece of paper, but an ability that can be applied in multiple situations.

Face-to-face career advice can be lacking in schools, although this is changing. Apprenticeships can be run by businesses themselves or through a training provider on behalf of an employer. It is important to get under the bonnet of the offering to vet it for quality. Although it can be daunting, doing research online is key.