Is there an age limit for apprenticeships?

3 July 2020

an employer training an older apprentice

Alongside college, university and full-time employment, apprenticeships are one of several options for people that are considering their next step after completing their GCSEs or A-Levels. As such, it is a common misconception that apprenticeship applications are open only to those fresh out of full-time education. The reality is, however, anyone aged 16 and over can typically apply.

While it’s true that apprenticeships are often regarded as being exclusively for younger people that are only just starting out on their professional life, older people who are looking to change careers but require training and a relevant qualification before they can move into a different role can also benefit. 

So, if you’re looking for a career change and are considering doing an apprenticeship, you’ll be happy to know that you are typically still eligible to apply for many apprenticeships even if it’s been some time since you left high school. However, it’s also important to be aware that there are some apprenticeship schemes that may have an age limit that may make you ineligible to apply.

Can you start an apprenticeship at any age?

The minimum age requirement for apprenticeships is 16, and all applicants must no longer be in full-time education. However, there typically isn’t an age limit on applicants, with anyone over the age of 16 able to apply. Government funding may not be as easy for people aged 19 and over due to the government’s policy on apprenticeships, but funding is still available in the form of an Advanced Learner Loan if the applicant fits the criteria.

Entry requirements for apprenticeships are also based on the level of qualification. These are as follows:

Level 2 (intermediate) – applicants must be 16 or older and prove they’re capable of passing the course.

Level 3 (advanced) – applicants typically need to have three or more GCSEs or experience in the industry, but this is entirely based on the employer.

Level 4 and above (higher) – applicants must have at least five GCSEs graded A to C or a Level 3 qualification such as A-Levels, NVQ/SVQ Level 3 or BTEC. In some cases, employers will ask for applicants to have qualifications on relevant topics.

Levels 5, 6 and 7 (degree) – applicants must have at least five GCSEs graded A to C or a Level 3 qualification such as A-Levels, NVQ/SVQ Level 3 or BTEC. Employers have been known to request that applicants have specific grades in relevant qualifications.

Am I too old for an apprenticeship?

Previously restricted to school leavers and young people, apprenticeships are now presented as a dynamic way of retraining people of all ages. This means that if you think you’d learn better from working with a relevant company, shadowing expert colleagues, gaining a recognised qualification and earning a wage, an apprenticeship could be for you, regardless of your age.

As there’s usually no age limit for when you can become an apprentice, whether you’re too old to take on an apprenticeship is more a matter of whether you think it would benefit your development. Government statistics suggest that people of all ages are beginning to consider apprenticeships as a method of higher education, with 46 per cent of applicants in the 2018/19 term being aged 25, and a 21 per cent rise from the previous year for applicants aged between 35 and 44.

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