Adult Enrichment

Apprenticeships, T Levels and Higher Technical Qualifications: Which one is right for you?

28 November 2023

If you’re looking at your options for after you leave school, and you already know what industry you want to work in, then you might be weighing up whether to do an apprenticeship or T level course.

As an alternative to A Levels or BTEC vocational courses, apprenticeships and T Levels are two options available to post-16 students who have completed their GCSEs.

They’re both designed with the help of employers to develop students’ workplace skills and give you a head start in your career. But the contrast in how they’re delivered will suit different learning styles.

Here at RNN Group, we aim to provide skills for everyone. We offer a range of apprenticeships and T Levels in high-demand industries like construction and digital. We also provide higher technical qualifications for students aged 19 and above.

Which option you choose will depend on what you want to get out of your education and where you see your future career.

So, what’s the difference?

What are Apprenticeships?

If you’re on an apprenticeship, you’ll be working in a real job while studying at the same time. The majority of the week (around 80%) will be spent in the workplace doing practical, hands-on tasks like any other employee would be.

You’ll also do a day-release at college each week for the theory side of your course. Course content is usually refined and focussed on the specific occupation.

One major benefit of doing an apprenticeship is that you’ll get paid while you learn. The starting wage is £4.30/hour for under 19s, which then increases to the National Minimum Wage. Apprentices are also legally entitled to other employee benefits like annual leave and sick pay.

You must be 16 to start an apprenticeship but there is no upper age limit. You can also begin an apprenticeship at any point throughout the academic year, rather than just in September. Depending on the level of course and a student’s ability, it can take between one and five years to complete an apprenticeship.

They’re a good option for students who feel they are ready for the world of work. Apprenticeships often appeal to students who struggle with written exams; there’s still an end-point assessment but this is a practical demo of your skills and a verbal discussion.

Here at RNN Group, we offer apprenticeships in industries like business, childcare and education, construction, engineering, and health and social care.

Our apprenticeships start at level 2, which is the equivalent of GCSE level, and advance right up to degree levels 6 and 7. Students on an apprenticeship can work towards a higher education qualification without acquiring student debt.

If you’re interested in starting an apprenticeship, you’ll usually have to apply to an employer with a CV and covering letter. You may also be invited for an interview with a prospective employer to see how much you know about your chosen industry. Our careers coaches hold regular workshops for students interested in an apprenticeship that cover topics like CV writing and interview tips.

See our current apprenticeship vacancies here

What are T Levels?

T Levels are the newbie on the post-16 options block. Introduced in 2020, T Levels, short for Technical Levels, are two-year courses taken after GCSEs. One T Level course is the equivalent of doing three A Levels.

As they’re still so new, T Levels are currently only available to students aged between 16 and 19.

Like apprenticeships, T Levels include a mix of classroom-based learning and work placement. However, the split is the opposite of apprenticeships: you’ll spend 80% of your time at college and 20% doing on-the-job training. T Level students must complete 315 hours (or 45 days) of unpaid work experience with a relevant employer.

Course content is usually broader than that of an apprenticeship, with the chance to specialise in your second year. They are assessed using a mix of practical tasks, projects and exams.

T Levels are a good option if you’re unsure whether you’d like to remain in education in the future as the mix of theory and practical work can prepare you for either university or the workplace. Your final grade will be allocated UCAS points if you do decide to go on to higher education.

Here at RNN Group, we started offering T Levels in September 2023 at both Rotherham College and North Notts College. You could study T Levels in construction, digital, education and childcare, or health and science.

After T Levels, you could progress to a skilled job, higher or degree level apprenticeship, higher technical qualification, or degree.

And what about Higher Technical Qualifications?

Also developed with employers, Higher Technical Qualifications are for adult learners aged 19 and above. You’ll gain a level 4 or 5 qualification, with the opportunity to advance to further study like a degree or higher-level apprenticeship.

HTQs focus on the skills, knowledge and behaviours most in demand by employers. They take one or two years to complete if you’re studying full time, but they can also be done part time or online. There is no work placement when studying HTQs.

They’re a great option if you’re an adult learner looking to take the next step in your chosen career or want to retrain in a new industry.

At RNN Group, we started delivering HTQs to our students in September 2023 at Rotherham College, Dearne Valley College and University Centre Rotherham.

Our current HTQs cover industries like digital, construction and health science. As with any further or higher education course, HTQs are subject to tuition fees. On finishing your course, you’ll gain either a HNC, HND, or foundation degree in your chosen subject.

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