Contrary to popular opinion, UK apprenticeship schemes aren’t just for 16-18 year olds.

There are numerous schemes aimed specifically at older adults, particularly those looking for a career change at 50.

In this article, we’ll look at adult apprenticeships, the main considerations for retraining at 50, and the types of schemes available.

“Wisdom is not a product of schooling but of the lifelong attempt to acquire it.” Albert Einstein.

What is an adult apprenticeship?

An adult apprenticeship is simply a training scheme designed for people over the age of 18. While the course teachings aren’t vastly different, fewer companies will offer adult apprenticeships for financial reasons.

Apprenticeships for those under 19 are paid an hourly rate of £4.30 under current minimum wage guidelines. Anyone over the age of 19 gets paid this for their first year but then increases to the national minimum wage (currently up to £8.91).

Therefore, companies take on a higher financial burden for adult apprenticeships. But, this doesn’t mean you won’t find any, it just means you’ll need to be smarter and more dedicated in your applications.

The benefits of an adult apprenticeship

Generally speaking, apprenticeships are designed for vocational industries, although this isn’t always the case. You’ll typically find apprenticeships for:

  • Hospitality and catering
  • Fashion
  • Aerospace
  • Construction
  • Plumbing, heating engineering, etc.

So, what’s the benefit of an apprenticeship rather than, say, a university course? Well, the biggest difference is that you learn on the job and so get paid. Sure, you might get a bursary, grant, or loan at university, but an apprenticeship pays you.

Retraining at 50 might sound daunting, but an apprenticeship is a good way to do it. It’s a practical way to switch careers, whether to something completely different or a minor sideways shift from your current job.

Considering we’ll be working until at least 65, you’ll get a good decade from your new career. Apprenticeships can take up to 4 years depending on the industry, so you’ll definitely get some use from it.

Considerations before taking an apprenticeship

For teenagers, doing an apprenticeship is an easy decision. Many still have financial support from their parents, meaning there’s less risk involved.

However, opting for a career change at 50 requires a bit more thought. If you’re reading this, chances are you’ve already thought about it. Before going any further, make sure you’ve considered the following:

Emotional implications

If you’ve been in your current career for a while, you’ve likely established a good position and contact base. Choosing to leave this behind can be difficult.

On the other hand, you might have reached your limit and feel a bit stagnant. Retraining at 50 can be a great way to refresh your perception of work, your career, and your future plans.

Financial implications

Making the jump to minimum wage (or less) can be a big risk, particularly if you’ve got a mortgage to pay and a family to support. Once the apprenticeship ends, you’ll have much better opportunities, but you might have to wait up to 4 years.

As such, it’ll be beneficial to have some savings to cover any possible financial gaps. Be sure to write up a financial plan before applying. Apprenticeships usually offer 30 hours a week at around £9.00 an hour. You still pay income tax, too, so factor this in.

Of course, if you currently work a minimum wage job, you likely won’t be missing out on much. Finances can be a big barrier to changing careers at 50 or above. However, some of the jobs can pay incredibly well, so it can be worth it.

Practical implications

Some companies offer jobs at the end of apprenticeship schemes, but not all do. Alternatively, some require you to work for the company first. For example, Whitbread apprenticeships are for Premier Inn and Whitbread Hotel employees, but can help you switch careers within the company.

On the other hand, something like a BAE Systems apprenticeship usually comes with a job offer at the end (or at least a leg up over the competition).

Either way, you’ll be starting from the bottom of a new career path – this is a given. So, be prepared to do some grunt work in your new role to work your way up.

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Where to find apprenticeships

There are plenty of places to find adult apprenticeships; it ultimately depends on what industry you want. A good starting place is a careers guidance counsellor or starting advice from somewhere like Jobsite.

Once you’ve got a rough idea of the sort of industry you want, here are some resources to get you started.

Government website

The UK government runs an apprenticeship website, which you can use to search for schemes in your area. You’ll need an idea of which industry you want, and may have to adjust your ideas based on what’s available.

Barclay’s Bolder Scheme

Barclay’s Bolder Scheme is specifically for over 50s and relates to finance and banking. So, if this is the industry you’re interested in, Barclays would be a great choice.

UCAS career finder

UCAS is the UK’s university application site. It runs a career finder, which lists apprenticeships. Granted, by its very nature they’re aimed at young adults and school leavers, but nothing is stopping older adults from applying.

Directly with a company

The most direct route into an apprenticeship, if you have a company or industry in mind, is with said company. While they’ll likely advertise on job boards, the benefit of going directly to the company is that you can discuss opportunities for over 50s.

As mentioned, some companies might shy away from adult apprenticeships for financial reasons. But, speaking to the company means you can try to overcome these objections. You’ll have to be resilient if you take this route, but it’ll eventually pay off.

Final thoughts

Going for a career change at 50 can be an exciting way to liven up the last few decades of your working life. Apprenticeships are a great way to do this because they’re typically more practical than a university degree.

Before applying, though, make sure it’s the right decision and that you have a clear action plan for overcoming challenges.