Can you be too old for an apprenticeship?

Written on: 17 July 2018
Written by:Freya King

One of the biggest misconceptions surrounding apprenticeships is that they are only available to school leavers. However, in recent years, reforms to government funding has changed the face (and age) of apprenticeships.

How apprenticeship funding works

Funding is drawn down by the training provider to pay for the apprenticeship training. This covers the trainer’s time, equipment, learning materials and various other costs. The government funding available for this depends on the age of the apprentice, and the size of the business.

Funding rules: 16-18 year olds

While anyone over the age of 16 can apply to be an apprentice, the 16-18 age group is arguably the best position to be in. Employers don’t have to contribute anything towards the training costs, and they will also receive an incentive of £1000 for taking on an apprentice aged between 16 and 18.

If you fall into this category, becoming an apprentice can be an ideal way to begin your career in your chosen field, and your age will likely work out in your favour.

Funding rules: 19+

For slightly older people, an apprenticeship can still be a great way to take on a new challenge or start out in a different field. However, the funding rules work a little differently for apprentices aged 19+, depending on the size of the business.

The apprenticeship levy, which came into effect in April 2017, has completely changed the way that apprenticeships are funded for larger businesses. Where previously, the amount of government funding available differed by age group, the levy means that apprenticeship training in these larger companies is now funded in the same way regardless of age.

Apprenticeships are now accessible to a broader age range, as larger companies can spend levy funds on their existing staff. This funding has opened up plenty of opportunities for apprenticeships to be incorporated into existing roles. Because of this, age demographics of apprentices are changing, with an increasing number of people improving their skills through apprenticeships later on in their careers.

For smaller businesses, the employer may need to contribute to the training costs for apprentices aged 19+. For this age group, the government will cover 90% of the costs, with the employer covering the remaining 10%.

Are apprenticeships right for older candidates?

Before deciding whether an apprenticeship is the right next step in your career, there are a few things that are worth considering:

The first is the minimum wage for apprentices, which currently stands at £3.70 per hour. If you are aged 19+, this will go up to the minimum wage for your age group once you have completed the first year of your apprenticeship. We do actively encourage our employers to pay more than the apprentice minimum, but the lower wage can be off-putting for slightly older candidates, as getting paid less than national minimum wage isn’t always an option for someone with financial responsibilities.

The second is the fact that some employers may prefer to take on an apprentice aged 16-18, because they will receive an incentive of £1000 for doing so. This can mean that candidates aged 19 and over have less of a chance of being successful in their apprenticeship applications.

Taking on a 16-18 year old apprentice also has other benefits from an employer’s point of view. Any apprentice under 25 will not be subject to national insurance, and an employer can mould a younger apprentice to suit their company culture, without having to worry about bad habits from previous roles.

This doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t apply for an apprenticeship if you are aged 19+, as plenty of people have found success with apprenticeships later on in life, and some employers may even prefer someone with a bit more maturity and experience.

What next?

As long as you are 16 or over, you can search and apply for our current vacancies here.

If you decide that apprenticeships are not for you, you can find further careers advice from the National Careers Service.

Written on: 17 July 2018
Written by:Freya King