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Help needed. Very confused about appenticeship for my son



New Member
Hi, please could someone help me understand what I should do for my son to get an apprenticeship. He is 17 years old and doing very well at college. He has completed his first year Carpentry and Joinery course and is currently studying Carpentry diploma 2 (DO57). He is really enjoying it and really wants this as a career. Which is fantastic.

My problem is that I feel he should be doing something else with the spare hours for him to gain more socially, financially and just (life) experience. He would prefer to find an apprenticeship which would help gain skills towards his career. But, and this where we are confused, how does an apprenticeship work? Would he be able to accept an apprenticeship and continue with his current college course? He attends college 3 days a week. Or does he have to start an apprenticeship once he finishes this course and find a part-time job in the mean time? I just want to make sure he makes the right decision now, so as not to ruin his options in the future, I'm so pleased that he knows what career he wants and enjoys and really wouldn't want to upset this. Someone said that he may have been better off finding an apprenticeship first and having his employer send him to college. Is this correct? Has he made the wrong decision going to college without an apprenticeship? Will he still be able to do an apprenticeship once he's finished college if he's unable to do one now?

It's only because it's my sons future that I am so worried and find the whole thing very confusing. And he doesn't seem to get much help or advice from his college.

Thank you for reading. Really hope someone can help clarify for us.


New Member
I'm not an expert april, just a shopkeeper who has a retail apprentice and who has also had young people from the local Sixth Form College and Further Education College helping out in the shop in one way or another and heard from them about what goes on at 'College'.

First of all you and your son need to go and get information from The National Apprenticeship Service website: Once you've gone through that if you are unclear about specific issues then phone the National Apprenticeship Service and ask questions.

Be aware that there are essentially three ways into an apprenticeship:

You apply through the National Apprenticeship Service - here is the application page

or you (that is your son) finds an employer who is offering apprenticeships, they may be advertised in the newspaper or in more basic ways - the Flooring Shop near to my own business premises recently had a handwritten advert on their door offering two apprenticeships as Carpet Fitters very possibly they advertised in other places and probably through the National Apprenticeship Service too but it may well have been those who noticed the advert on the door who got the job.

The third way is to approach suitable employers and ask if they would take on apprentice, you'd have to approach a lot of employers from the very large to the very small but you might just be lucky, not all employers think of the idea of an apprentice until it is suggested to them especially if it is suggested by someone who seems really keen and likely to be a good employee.

There are reasons to do with how things work in education and how things work in government which have meant that for a long time now there has been pressure on schools to push as many young people as possible towards college and university whether that was in the best interests of the young people or not. This is gradually changing but only very slowly. Clearly college has been of benefit to your son because he now knows what he wants to do, the problem is as you have identified that many college courses involve a quite limited number of sessions or days per week. Not being a spoilsport about young people having some spare time and some fun but there is the danger of 'drift' i.e. having a lot of time but not doing anything particular with it and also of course not having any money and being over-dependent on parents for this reason.

My own apprentice attended the local Sixth Form College and was perfectly happy there and enjoyed her courses but she was not very into the general college activities which make college such a valuable time for some young people. Some college attenders are spending time on sports teams, music groups, theatricals, film making, expeditions, charity fund raising, helping in the community but many go in for their lectures and practical work, maybe have coffee in the cafeteria and then go home.

My apprentice and I are 'Apprentice Ambassadors' i.e. we've been recruited by the local authority as people willing to go to various meetings and events in schools and talk to parents and pupils and teachers about the whole apprenticeship thing. Usually my apprentice goes to these events alone but recently we were invited to something which involved us both and we sat there for a whole day as parents and pupils in a very large school came round to talk to representatives of various careers. It was very interesting that when my apprentice was asked by other young people about going to college she kept saying that though she'd enjoyed her college courses, if she had known that she could have got an apprenticeship at 16 she'd have gone for it. My impression is that apart from her course those two years drifted past her (she did have some part time seasonal work at intervals) and, as she enjoys her job and likes the way you learn in an apprenticeship and likes being paid too she now wishes she hadn't bothered with those two years. For another young person attendance at the same college might have been the highlight of their life to that point and lead to all sorts of experiences and opportunities - people vary so much!

Completing his college course won't prevent your son getting an apprenticeship. On the other hand apprenticeships aren't like a taxi that you can ring up and get to come when you want it. Some really large firms may have a policy of taking on a certain number of apprentices at a set time each year, other employers, especially small employers will take on someone when they need them which could be at any time at all. In other words the availability of apprenticeships isn't necessarily in synch with college terms and leaving dates.

Unfortunately you can't depend on getting good advice from the college because colleges need to keep their students (especially their good students) and get exam results. Again my own apprentice was originally keen to go into the field of photography and there aren't many opportunities to do this for a living. While she was in her second year at college a local photographer advertised an apprenticeship, she wanted to apply, the college advised her against it telling her she'd get no credit for all the work she'd already done for her courses if she left. She panicked and stayed on the course, only to realise once she'd left that the sort of opportunity she wanted was quite rare and no such possible opportunities were coming up once she'd left.

On the other hand you can't believe all employers either. Some are only looking for cheap labour which they'll ditch as soon as the apprenticeship is over, they'll have to let your son attend his official course but may duck out of providing him with the on the job learning which is the real purpose of an apprenticeship. Unfortunately applying and being interviewed for an apprenticeship is just like applying and being interviewed for any other job. They are assessing you and you are assessing them!

My advice? I'd suggest that your son continues his course while researching and looking for and applying for apprenticeships. You can go to as many interviews as you can get (good practice!),you don't have to accept any job even if it is offered to you. But if the right job comes along then the right thing may be to take it whether the college course has been completed or not as long as the job will lead to the qualifications required.


New Member
Thank you so much for your very interesting and informative reply. I now understand why this has been so confusing...I shouldn't have expected more help from the college, but like you say it hasn't been a total waste, he is learning and heading towards a career in something he knows he enjoys and he has made some good friends through the course.

At least I know he could try to find an apprenticeship now that will either fit in with his course time or start when his course has finished.

Thank you again for clarifying a few things, we really do appreciate it.


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