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Apprenticeship Levels Demystified - Apprenticeships

Posted by on 13 February 2020

Working out apprenticeship levels can be quite confusing. Employers, Apprentices and Parents may have preconceived ideas about what is the right level for the job or the individual.

So I thought I would attempt to explain the levels and what they all mean.

Firstly the duration of the apprenticeship training for each level varies depending on the course, the training provider and any recognition for prior learning (RPL).  In general the durations are:

  • Level 2 (Intermediate level) typically 12-18 months.
  • Level 3 (Advanced level) typically 18-24 months.
  • Level 4 and 5 (Higher level) typically 24-36 months.
  • Level 6 and 7 (Degree level) usually between 4-6 years.

There are a vast array of qualifications available within an Apprenticeship. The typical equivalent qualifications gained at each level are:

  • Level 2 (Intermediate level) GCSE, NVQ, BTEC, Certificate and Diploma (QCF)
  • Level 3 (Advanced level) A-Level, NVQ, BTEC, Certificate or Diploma (QCF)
  • Level 4 and 5 (Higher level) HNC/HND, Foundation Degree.
  • Level 6 and 7 (Degree level) Degree and masters level.  BSc, Ba, BEng, CILEx, CFA etc

Having said that, you should not look at the levels in the same way as traditional academic qualifications as apprenticeships are occupation based.

An example of what I mean is that someone may have a maths degree but no experience in accounting, so they would still need to do their AAT level 2 or 3 as the starting point for their career in finance.

Another example might be someone who has lots of experience and qualifications in one occupation, but is changing their career.

The Apprenticeship job role, together with the off-the-job training, must provide opportunities to cover the full occupational profile and learning all of the skills, knowledge and behaviours needed to achieve the apprenticeship.  As apprenticeships are aligned with occupations, and not previously gained qualifications the level will be aligned for the job role they are currently doing.

It is also worth mentioning that the apprenticeship may be at the same level as, or at a lower level than, a qualification the applicant already holds.  It should allow the apprentice to acquire substantive new skills and the content must be materially different from any prior qualification or a previous apprenticeship.

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