Apprenticeships are a hands-on route to gain professional experience and earn money at the same time, while building up a support network.
Being care experienced means you may have spent time:
- living with foster carers under local authority care
- in residential care, e.g. a children’s home
- looked after at home under a supervision order
- in kinship care with relatives or friends, either officially with a special guardianship order or informally without local authority support
Being care experienced means you may have had some disruption to your education. However, this doesn’t limit your job or study choice – we recommend researching apprenticeships as one of your options to find out whether they will suit you. Here, we cover funding, support networks, and more.
What is an apprenticeship?
An apprenticeship is an opportunity to work and study at the same time. You spend most of your time doing on-the-job training and the rest working towards a nationally recognised qualification.
The qualification could be the equivalent to GCSEs, up to a master’s degree, depending on the apprenticeship level you start at. As an apprentice, you're paid a salary and get a holiday allowance, just like an employee.
You spend most of your time at work, and 20% of your time studying with a training provider, university or college.
You are not entitled to any student loans as an apprentice because you’re employed. However, an apprenticeship doesn’t mean that you’re not entitled to any benefits. As a care experienced apprentice, you may be entitled to a bursary of £3,000. Find out more here.
It’s important that you speak to a JCP adviser or work coach about your individual circumstances, as there might also be some other means-tested benefits available for you.
As an apprentice, you’re not entitled to student accommodation, although it’s provided in rare circumstances. This means you’ll have to find your own accommodation. You might want to take a look at our accommodation advice for apprentices.
If you’re in local authority housing and are moving out of your local area, this may impact your housing entitlement. If you are planning to live with friends or relatives as part of kinship care, you may need to consider how this will impact any benefits they or you currently receive.
If you’re not planning to move out of local authority housing, you might also want to think about travel time to and from work and your training provider. Before making any decisions, you should speak to your personal adviser or local authority.
Talking about your background
There are also lots of transferrable skills you may have developed due to your personal experience as a care leaver – for example, independence and resilience.
You can talk about all of these in your apprenticeship applications.
Networks and societies
It’s important to have a good support network around you to help you through working and studying.
- Work: Lots of employers have social events you can get involved with, like sports teams and activities outside of work or at lunchtime, as well as professional networking opportunities. This varies depending on which employer you go to and their size. You might want to ask about this at the end of your apprenticeship interview. For example:
- 'Do you have any social clubs that apprentices can get involved in?'
- 'What is the culture like in the office?'
Study: If you’re studying for a degree apprenticeship, or a graduate apprenticeship in Scotland, most universities have hundreds of networks and societies you can join, both generally around interests and hobbies, and they may have more specific networks for care experienced students. For example, some universities have well-being groups and support groups. You can find out more on the provider’s website, or by contacting the Students’ Union.
It’s worth understanding how frequently these groups meet and how. For example, if your apprenticeship structure means you’re on campus for a certain day each week, will that group fit around you?
Finding an apprenticeship
If you’re interested in finding an apprenticeship, you may want to explore:
Support and advice
If you need more support and advice about your next steps as a care leaver, or anything covered above, you may want to contact an independent body for help. Some options include: