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Am I too old for an apprenticeship?

No-one is too old to start an apprenticeship. There is a common misconception that apprenticeships are only for school leavers or only for 16-24 year olds, but that is certainly not the case.

There is no upper age limit for taking an apprenticeship course, and with people having longer working lives there are more opportunities to change career now than ever before. Apprenticeships are an ideal way to do that.

What are the age requirements for an apprenticeship?

Anyone aged 16 and over, living in England, Scotland and Wales who are not currently in full-time education could be eligible for an apprenticeship. 2/3 of the UK workforce believe they are too old to start an apprenticeship, so it is important to understand that these opportunities are open to everyone, regardless of their age.

The job market is changing. There is a skills shortage across many sectors, and more flexible ways of working and learning. People may change careers two or three times during their working lives, and the idea of a ‘job for life’ is no more. So even if you are in your 30s, 40s, 50s, or 60s an apprenticeship could be the right way for you to retrain.

What should you consider before starting an adult apprenticeship?

Know what it is you want to achieve out of your apprenticeship. Do you want to acquire another set of skills to improve how you perform in your current job role, or are you looking for a complete career change?

Do you have the entry qualifications needed? In England, Scotland and Wales there are different levels of apprenticeship – and employers will have different entry requirements. But this could put older applicants at an advantage, as they may already have a range of qualifications to their name.

Can you afford it? Apprenticeships do pay a wage, but employers are accustomed to their apprentices being younger. Some may only pay the minimum rates they are legally obliged to, and even if they do pay higher salaries than this you should expect to earn less than your previous job.

Having had experience of the world of work, you should be able to adapt to the demands of an apprenticeship more easily. You probably have skills that younger apprentices don’t, and by the same token could learn new skills. You will have had more experience writing CVs, applying for jobs and preparing for interviews too. 

What might be the downside of being an older apprentice?

Pay could be a problem.

As you are older, employers will have to pay you more as an apprentice than someone younger. The National Living Wage for a 25-year old in England is over double the National Minimum Wage for a 16-year old. Even then, you may have to accept taking a significant wage cut from what you are used to, especially if you have come from a well-paid industry.

For these reasons, an employer may be more willing to offer the same apprenticeship to a school leaver than someone, for example, in their mid-40s. Plus, many employers will want to see a return on their investment. They could see more potential in training a 16-year old if after their apprenticeship that employee goes on to work for the company for 20 or 30 years.

As an older apprentice, you could be learning and working with people much younger than you. This may be challenging for some people; but rewarding to others.

Changing career with an apprenticeship

More and more people are seizing the opportunity of opening up new career opportunities. Popular apprenticeships to take in later in life include Finance, Engineering and Software Development, but in reality there are few job roles that should be excluded to someone over the age of 25. The only job roles that might be unsuitable are those that require a high level of physical fitness. The only job roles that might be unsuitable are those that require a high level of physical fitness, but in general, age is no barrier to becoming an apprentice!

Finding an apprenticeship

There are lots of ways to search for apprenticeships. You could look on websites like Talentview, TotalJobs, Indeed or the government’s apprenticeship service. You will be able to apply for apprenticeships by uploading your CV or applying directly to the employer.

Begin an apprenticeship in construction

Construction apprenticeships are a fantastic way to get into the industry, at any age. We have all the information here for you to make a start, including guides to over 170 different job roles. These will help you find the type of roles that suit who you are, the skills you have and the skills you want to acquire.  

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