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Apprenticeships (current system)

Apprenticeships offer opportunities to young people of all abilities and attainments to prepare for the world of work or progression to further learning, building their skills and developing career progression opportunities.

Current system of apprenticeships - details may be found at:  NI Direct

Traineeships and Apprenticeships (new system 2017+)

From September 2017 a new system of traineeships and apprenticeships will be on offer across NI.  This will mean that Traineeships will be offered at Level 2 and Apprenticeships will start at Level 3+.   In the interim period up to September 2017 there are a number of pilot initiatives underway to test new models of delivery, curriculum etc.  

The details below - set out a high level overview of how the system will look from September 2017 onwards. 


Traineeship (Level 2)

Traineeships will be provided in a wide range of professional and technical areas.  As part of a Traineeship trainees will undertake a new Level 2 award equivalent to five GCSEs at Grades A*-C.  It includes both a professional and technical qualification equivalent to three GCSEs at Grades A*-C and Level 2 qualifications in English and Mathematics.  On completion of the programme, trainees will have the skills and qualifications needed to succeed in Level 3 Apprenticeships or in employment.  A summary of a traineeship is as follows:

  • Age - Traineeships are designed for young people aged 16-24 who have 4 GCSEs at Grades D-G, including English and Mathematics at Grades D-F, or equivalent qualifications.  Those who do not have these qualifications may be considered, depending on aptitude and experience. Entry requirements may be higher for certain traineeships.

  • Timescale - Traineeships will normally take two years to complete.  Those with more GCSEs at higher grades may wish to complete a Level 2 Traineeship in preparation for a Level 3 Apprenticeship, and may be able to do so in a shorter time.

  • Work experience - All Traineeships have a structured work placement component. 

  • Project based learning - Traineeships employ project-based learning and work-based learning to develop good professional and technical skills in their subject area; and enhance work-ready skills needed for success in the workplace, such as confidence, leadership, teamwork, creativity and good communications.

  • Additional support - Trainees will receive good pastoral care, and effective career information and guidance.  Additional support is provided for those with a learning difficulty or disability.

  • Routes - There are two routes for traineeships  (1) Traineeship Non-employed Route  - the non-employed route is open to young people who have not yet secured employment, including those who are as yet undecided about their preferred occupation and career. Those who join the Traineeship non-employed route will be able to avail of a range of financial support, including a training allowance, assistance with travel costs and childcare assistance. (2) Traineeship Employed Route - young people who are already employed are also able to access Traineeships, provided their employer supports them to do so and enables them to attend training at agreed times. Those who join the Traineeship employed route will avail of the following - paid experience in their chosen occupation; the possibility of continued employment with their employer once they have completed their training; and at least the age-appropriate national minimum wage from their employer.

  • Progression - On successful completion of a Level 2 Traineeship, young people can progress to an Apprenticeship at Level 3 or to other Level 3 Further Education courses.  Alternatively, they may go into employment or continue in employment.

Apprenticeships (Level 3)

An Apprenticeship will be awarded at Level 3 and above.  It encompasses specific skills training relevant to the apprentice’s chosen occupation and include a broader knowledge component equivalent to two A-levels, as well as other requirements as agreed by employers.  Apprenticeships are provided in a wide range of professional and technical occupational areas. Apprenticeships are for employed people and all the training provided is relevant to the workplace.    A summary of Apprenticeships at Level 3 is as follows:

  • Age - Apprenticeships are designed for anyone over the age of 16 who has 5 GCSEs at Grades A*-C, including qualifications in English and Mathematics, or equivalent qualifications. Entry requirements may be higher for certain Apprenticeships. Apprenticeships take a minimum of two years to complete. 

  • Work based learning - Apprenticeships employ work-based learning as the main way in which young people are qualified for work and for progression to higher levels.  They are designed to ensure that students develop strong professional and technical skills in their chosen career, and also the work-ready skills needed for success in the workplace, such as confidence, leadership, teamwork, creativity and good communications.  These skills are developed through project-based and workplace activities.Apprentices will receive good pastoral care, and effective career information and guidance.  Additional support is provided for those with a learning difficulty or disability. 

  • Benefits of Apprenticeships - paid employment in their chosen occupation; possibility of continued employment with their employer once they have completed their Apprenticeship; and practical experience and wider employability skills that are valued by employers and relevant to their chosen occupation.
  • ProgressionApprenticeships have the breadth and depth of knowledge and skills to ensure that those who complete the Apprenticeship at a good standard are able to progress onto Higher Level Apprenticeships, into Higher education, or to continue in employment. On successful completion of a Level 3 Apprenticeship, participants can continue in employment.  Apprentices may also progress to a Higher Level Apprenticeship while employed or to Higher Education (while employed or otherwise).


Higher Level Apprenticeships (Level 4+)

See - HLAs

College Contacts

Click on any of the 6 Colleges links to find out more information about Traineeships and Apprenticeships in each College.


Contact the helpline

If you are unsure about which apprenticeship you want to follow or just need more information on what the Apprenticeships programme can do for you, contact the helpline:

  • Apprenticeships helpline - available via NI Direct - 300 200 7876
  • Textphone: 0800 3280 824