Not yet ready for apprenticeship? Try a T-level, traineeship or internship on for size instead

An apprenticeship need not be your first stop after education. Have you considered doing a T-level, traineeship or internship to prepare you for work-based training?

For those of you embarking on your GSCEs in Year 10 and Year 11, it may be time to start thinking about what you’ll be doing once you have finished school. If A-levels aren’t for you and you are keen to get into the workplace straight away but don’t quite feel any of the apprenticeships on offer are right for you, there are alternative options to consider, such as a T-level, traineeship or internship, taking you on the right pathway to your new career.


You may have heard about the new T-level qualification that began in September. They are a third option for students who have just finished their GCSEs, alongside apprenticeships and A-levels.

These two-year courses are similar to apprenticeships in that they will offer students a mixture of classroom learning and ‘on the job’ experience during an industry placement.

On a T-level, you’ll spend 80% of your time in the classroom and 20% on a 45-day placement with an employer to give you the skills and knowledge companies are looking for.

If this sounds similar to an apprenticeship, the main difference is that apprentices will spend most of their time in the workplace, whereas a T-level student will spend most of their time in the classroom.

Here is what you need to know:

  • T levels are two-year technical study programmes aimed at students who have just completed their GCSEs.
  • They are split into three main sections: a technical qualification; an industry placement; and transferable skills in English, maths and digital technology.
  • Over the two years, you’ll spend at least 45 days in your chosen industry.
  • T-levels are equivalent to three A-levels.
  • 24 T-level subjects will become available over the next three years, starting with courses in construction, digital and education.
  • T-levels will be based on the same standards as apprenticeships, designed by employers and approved by the Institute for Apprenticeships and Technical Education.
  • Once complete, you will gain a nationally recognised certificate. It will also give details of what you learned to help you move into employment or a higher apprenticeship.
  • Your T-level will be worth UCAS points if you want to continue in education.

If this sounds more up your street, you can find out more details by visiting


If you don’t have either the qualifications or the work experience to take your next step after school, then a traineeship could be the path for you.

A traineeship is a skills development programme that includes a work placement shadowing an employer or working for a local company, focused on giving young people the skills and experience that employers are looking for.

Work preparation training in English and maths will also be given to those who need it.

You’ll spend a minimum of 70 hours in a work placement, with the rest of your time in college or a training centre. The course can last from six weeks up to one year, though most traineeships will last less than six months.

As well as leading to employment, a traineeship could also be used to get you ready for your apprenticeship, helping you develop the appropriate skills or experience needed for your application.

As it is a training programme rather than a job, you may not be paid by your employer, but if eligible, you can maintain your entitlements to benefits while on a traineeship as necessary, so make sure you do your research and are financially able to undertake the course.

Traineeships can also offer young people the chance to gain new qualifications that concentrate on employment and reflect your career goals.

For example, you can gain a level 1 award in employability skills, learning competencies such as understanding customers, time management, problem solving at work, working in a team and dealing with your first days at work.

You can apply for a traineeship if you’re eligible to work in England, have little or no work experience, and are aged between 16 to 24 with no qualifications above GCSE level (or equivalent).

Benefits of a traineeship include:

  • Training to prepare you for work, including CV writing and what to expect in the workplace
  • Support to improve your English, maths and digital skills, if needed
  • Sector-focused vocational learning to help prepare you for your apprenticeship or job
  • Obtaining links to further job opportunities
  • Preparing for work by learning soft skills such as planning, presentation and interpersonal skills, all crucial to working in a professional environment

If you are interested in applying for a traineeship, you can find more details by asking your local college or training provider if they have opportunities, or speak to your school careers adviser.

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An internship is a period of work experience offered by an organisation, enabling you to gain valuable skills that can be advantageous when applying for jobs in a competitive market.

They can provide you with transferable skills, useful connections and invaluable industry insights and are seen as important stepping-stones from your studies to a full-time job.

Internships can vary in length, from a summer scheme, allowing you to continue your studies if necessary, to longer six to 12 month placements.

Interns should receive at least the national minimum wage in the UK if you’re performing the role of a worker. The majority of interns are classed as workers and you’re only not a worker if you’re shadowing someone.

If you work set hours, perform the same duties as paid members of staff, meet deadlines, work unsupervised or supervise others, then you’re classed as a worker, so make sure you check your rights before accepting.

Usually, internships are not accredited by universities as part of courses, but may be accredited or formally acknowledged by professional training organisations. For example, experience gained on an accountancy internship may count towards The ACCA Qualification, which is required to become a qualified accountant.

The application process can be as competitive as applying for a permanent job, especially in sectors such as healthcare, law, media, social care, and teaching and education, where experience is essential, so you’ll need to apply at least six months in advance.

Make sure you do your research and manage your time well in the application process. When applying, think about your motivations, what you can offer the company and why you’ll be the right intern for them.

Benefits of internships include:

  • Ease of transition between study and employment.
  • The chance to increase your skills and experiences in a particular industry.
  • Improve your understanding of a particular job.
  • Open your eyes to new roles.
  • Gain an insight into how companies operate.
  • Provide you with useful connections and contacts.
  • Allow you to provide real work examples in future job interviews.
  • Possibility of undertaking in-company training courses.
  • Gaining a potential referee for future applications.
  • Improve skills in communication, personal effectiveness, presentation, problem solving and influencing.
  • Potential full time employment at the company.

An internship is different from an apprenticeship because they don’t result in any formal qualification and they are more flexible in the commitment required.

As an apprentice, you’ll need to commit to a programme for at least 12 months in duration to obtain your qualification, however, with an internship you can be much more flexible, trying different companies and roles and really explore a career in depth.

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