Apprenticeships for deaf young people

Information for parents who have a child interested in apprenticeships, traineeships or supported internship schemes.

What is an apprenticeship?

Apprenticeships, traineeships and supported internships can be an opportunity for young people to gain structured work experience alongside studying for qualifications. Their time is usually split between the workplace to learn key skills ‘on the job’, and going to college to study for the qualification. Apprenticeships will involve being employed by an organisation or company and they will be entitled to at least the Apprentice National Minimum Wage of £3.30 an hour (November 2015) for age 16 to19 or older apprentices in their first year.

Apprentices will also have the opportunity to gain more general skills, such as maths, literacy and ICT, which can be useful for getting a job. Gaining experience in the workplace also helps develop ‘softer’ skills like teamwork and problem solving, or customer service.

A traineeship (England and Wales only) is a course with work experience that prepares a young person for work or an apprenticeship if they don’t yet have the right skills or experience.  Further information can be found on the government's traineeship webpages  where you'll be able to search for traineeships in your area.

Supported internships are structured study programmes based mainly at the workplace. They are especially for young people with learning difficulties and/or disabilities to enable them to learn the skills they need for employment. The Preparing for Adulthood website has lots of information and advice on supported internships.


What areas can you do an apprenticeship in?

A teenage girl uses a computer with the support of her tutor.

Apprenticeships can be found in a wide range of modern industries.

The government’s apprenticeship website provides information on the different areas you can do an apprenticeship in.


Finding an apprenticeship

There are a range of different types of apprenticeship which vary in the time they take to complete, the level of study and the typical entry requirements in terms of qualifications. 


Intermediate apprenticeship
These apprenticeships involve study at the same level as GCSEs. Possible entry requirements might include GCSEs at grade D or above; or BTEC Introductory; or NVQ1.

Advanced apprenticeship
These apprenticeships involve study at the same level as A-Levels. Possible entry requirements might include five or more GCSEs at grade A*–C (possibly including English and maths).

Higher Apprenticeship.
These apprenticeships involve study at university foundation degree level and above.

Degree Apprenticeship.
These apprenticeships involve study at bachelor’s or master’s degree level. Young people will spend time in the workplace and at university and their student fees will be covered.

Northern Ireland
There are two levels of apprenticeship available in Northern Ireland. These are Level 2 and Level 3, which are equivalent to Intermediate and Advanced apprenticeships respectively in England.

In Scotland, apprenticeships are called ‘Modern Apprenticeships’. All Modern Apprenticeships aim for a Scottish Vocational Qualification (SVQ) Level 3 qualification, which is equivalent to a Scottish Higher. However, it may be more appropriate for learners to start off by making progress towards a SVQ Level 2, equivalent to a Credit Standard Grade.

In Wales there is a similar program to Access to Apprenticeship, called a ‘Traineeship’. Full apprenticeships for 16–19 year olds come in two forms, equivalent to Intermediate and Advanced in England: Foundation Apprenticeships and Apprenticeships.


Applying for an apprenticeship

studying at college

Apprenticeships are applied to in a similar way to how you would apply for a job. New vacancies can be made available any time of year.

f your child has transition planning in place (required by law for young people with EHC plans and Statements of SEN) their Teacher of the Deaf and/or SENCO and careers adviser should have been working with them to support transition to post-16 education and employment. They may be able to support transition to an apprenticeship by helping a young person with the application process and advising employers and apprenticeships providers once an apprenticeship is secured.

In England you can find and apply for apprenticeships through the Government's find an apprenticeship service.

Many colleges allow you to apply for apprenticeships through them and give you support in finding the right apprenticeship for you. Checking the websites of colleges in your area, or contacting them directly, may help you get a better understanding of what they offer.

Registering on the Careers Wales website will allow you to use the vacancy search to find and apply for apprenticeships.

Search and apply for apprenticeships using the Modern Apprenticeships website.

Northern Ireland
The nidirect website provides information on how to start looking for an apprenticeship.


What if my child finds it difficult to meet the entry requirements as a result of their deafness?

The Equality Act 2010 states that education providers have to be flexible when assessing applications. This means that if your child is likely to find some entry requirements difficult to meet as a result of their deafness, they can prove that they are able to succeed on an apprenticeship through other means.

Some apprenticeships might involve tests in literacy and numeracy, and some may have interview processes. Again, providers and employers must make ‘reasonable adjustments’ to these arrangements which might include extra time in tests or the provision of communication support at an interview. Employers can use Access to Work funding to pay for communication support both at interviews, and in the workplace if the applicant is successful.

Sometimes providers and employers do not have to make adjustments when it comes to course requirements. This will be the case when they are seeking to see if your child meets a certain ‘competence standard’. For example, if your child applies to an engineering apprenticeship which requires them to have a certain specified ability in maths, this counts as a competence standard. While they should be flexible in the way they allow applicants to prove their ability in maths, they would not be expected to lower this requirement.


Should my child tell the employer or apprenticeship provider that they are deaf?

Some young people may not want to tell their college or prospective employer about their deafness. It should always be up to the young person. However, it is a good idea to be as open and upfront as possible, especially if your child might require support in order to fully access their apprenticeship. It is illegal for an educational provider or employer to discriminate against a young person applying for an apprenticeship because they are deaf. 


Can deaf young people get support when they are on an apprenticeship?

A teenage boy apprentice studies woodwork and carpentry as part of his training.

The Equality Act 2010 applies in England, Wales and Scotland and places apprenticeship providers and employers under a duty to make ‘reasonable adjustments’. This means that they must make arrangements to ensure that disabled apprentices, including those with a hearing impairment, are not at a substantial disadvantage compared to non-disabled apprentices.

Reasonable adjustments might include a wide range of support including: 

  • technology and equipment such as radio aids
  • Teachers of the Deaf
  • communication support workers
  • note-takers/palantypists
  • sign language interpreters
  • lipspeakers
  • changes to buildings or rooms to improve acoustics
  • training for staff in deaf awareness.

The provider responsible for delivering the educational part of the apprenticeship will have the same funding that any other educational provider will have, called ‘Additional Learner Support’ funding, and this should be used to pay for adjustments and support. However, because in most cases an apprentice is also an employee, employers can also use Access to Work funding to make adjustments. This means that, for many apprentices, both their education provider and their employer are responsible for ensuring that they can access their apprenticeship fully.

There is no justification for not making a reasonable adjustment but in some circumstances a provider may be able to argue that what is being of asked of them is not reasonable.

The Disability Discrimination Act in Northern Ireland also means education providers and employers must make reasonable adjustments for anyone with a disability.


What happens if an apprenticeship provider or employer is failing to make a reasonable adjustment?

It is always important to talk through any problems with the apprenticeship provider or employer. This will vary depending on the apprenticeship, but if in doubt your child should talk to their course leader or lecturer. Very often problems with support can be resolved by looking for a constructive solution with the provider. It’s also good to try and keep a record of any meetings you or your child has regarding their support so you can remember what’s been said and agreed. If this approach doesn’t work there are a number of options open to your child if they wish to make further complaint. Initial complaints should be made to:

If these complaints processes have not worked and your child wishes to take the matter further they can take their case to a county court (England, Wales and Northern Ireland) or a Sheriff Court in Scotland. However, it is a good idea to contact the the Equality Advisory and Support Service or a solicitor, who can advise your child on their legal rights, including eligibility for legal aid. As an apprentice is also an employee, your child has the option to take their employer to an Employment Tribunal.


Further information