About Apprenticeships

An apprenticeship is a unique mixture of work, training and assessment. Achievement of an apprenticeship shows that you are skilled at your job and have met the standard required by your industry.

Keeley Baird | Trainer

Apprenticeships are not just for young people or for those learning a trade. They cover most, if not all, industry sectors and are available to employees of all ages. In some cases, the government will pay for some or all of the cost of the training. Apprenticeships are available at different levels, from entry level right through to management positions. Some of our advanced and higher level apprenticeships are recognised by professional bodies such as the Association of Accounting Technicians and the Chartered Institute of Legal Executives.

Apprentices may start an apprenticeship after they have been in work for some time or may start a new job with the intention of joining an apprenticeship programme.

An apprentice's salary is paid by their employer. Although most apprentices have permanent contracts, some are employed on an initial fixed term of, say, 18 months.

"An apprenticeship is a valuable qualification. It shows that you have achieved a nationally recognised standard for your area of work. It also shows your employer that you are committed to your job and that you want to develop your skills."

Apprenticeships are not an easy option – they require commitment both in work and outside work. This is why they are so well regarded by employers and, increasingly, by universities. This is also why apprentices have been proven, over time, to earn more than people who do not have apprenticeships or other similar qualifications.

As well as doing their job, an apprentice is supported by their employer and Damar to achieve a group of qualifications which, together, comprise the apprenticeship "framework". These are:

A competency qualification

All apprenticeships include one or more qualifications (usually these are certificates or diplomas) that ensures that the apprentice has the practical and technical knowledge they need and that they are applying their knowledge effectively in the workplace and meet national standard. These have been developed to test individuals’ competence in their jobs and are divided into mandatory and optional units. The wide range of available units means that it is possible to tailor the qualification to match a specific job role.

Competency qualifications differ from traditional qualifications in the following ways:

  • There are no formal entry requirements.
  • Individuals are assessed on their ability to do the job rather than just by means of examinations, although exams, tests and formal assignments are a feature of some apprenticeships.
  • Assessment of workplace performace is via a portfolio of evidence. This portfolio will be developed in partnership with a Damar trainer and workplace manager.
  • They take account of previous experience.
  • Individuals work at their own pace in accordance with a training plan agreed with their supervisor and their trainer.
  • Assessment is generally undertaken at work (release is usually required for the exam components).

Functional Skills

These ensure that the apprentice has the standard of English, maths and IT skills required for the role. This element is assessed by way of a series of exams (plus a verbal test for English). Students with good and recent GCSEs in maths, English and IT may be exempt. Higher apprenticeships do not include Functional Skills.


At the start of the programme, we plan the apprenticeship with the apprentice and their supervisor. We tailor the qualification by choosing units that closely match the apprentice’s job. We also agree the likely timescale and consider any particular requirements.


Most of the activity takes the form of 1:1 assessment and training visits from the Damar trainer. These take place at work about every four weeks and generally last a couple of hours. There will always be some work to do between visits and this is set out in an action plan agreed between the apprentice, the trainer and the workplace supervisor.

Additional training will often be required for the competency qualification and functional skills. This is delivered flexibly, via our virtual learning environment, Damar Open Learning, in the form of training sessions either in the workplace or at Damar (for which some paid release from work is required) and via 1:1 coaching in the workplace.


For many apprentices, the apprenticeship is a stepping stone towards additional responsibility at work or, for some, further qualifications including university. As well as celebrating achievement, we always discuss progression with apprentices and their employers to ensure that the benefits of the apprenticeship are maximised.

Where can I find out more?

Watch our webinar here for more information. 

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