Career Path

Apprenticeships

An apprenticeship combines practical training in a job with study. Apprentices work alongside experienced staff to gain job-specific skills whilst earning a wage and working towards a number of qualifications.


If university isn’t for you, then there are still plenty of ways to get into the space sector. There is a skills gap in the space sector as there aren’t enough people with the technical skills the industry needs. 

What is an apprenticeship?

An apprenticeship combines practical training in a job with study. Apprentices work alongside experienced staff to gain job-specific skills whilst earning a wage and working towards a number of qualifications. 

An apprenticeship usually lasts for a couple of years, although it's not unusual for it to last up to four years.

You'll normally work for four days a week at your company and spend one day a week at a college or university. This off-the-job training is called "day release" and only happens during term time. 

To start an apprenticeship you need to be 16 or over, living in England, and not in full-time education. You can find out more about apprenticeships on Gov.uk.

How much does an apprentice earn?

Apprentices earn at least the National Minimum Wage, and they should be paid for a full-time contract, even if they study one day a week.

If you're aged 16-18, or aged 19 or over and in the first year of your apprenticeship, you'll earn at least £4.30 per hour (for 2021-22). If you're over 19 and have completed your first year, you'll earn at least the National Minimum Wage. Some employers pay more. 

You'll also have the benefits of being an employee, including sick pay, holiday pay, and at least 20 days of paid holiday per year, plus bank holidays.

Finding an apprenticeship

The simplest method is to simply email all of the space companies that you know either in your area or nationwide with speculative enquiries. Alternatively, the Government keeps a database of apprenticeships. There are not always relevant vacancies available, but checking frequently will give you the best chance of finding one.

You can also use the website GetMyFirstJob. This is where all apprenticeships are advertised and it's updated regularly. 

Some companies recruit new apprentices onto structured schemes every year. Some of these are listed below:

Airbus - Technical - Stevenage or Portsmouth 

RAL Space - Computing and engineering - Didcot

Reaction Engines - Engineering - Abingdon

Surrey Satellite Technology Ltd (SSTL) - Mechanical Engineering, Electrical Engineering, IT - Surrey

QinetiQ - Science, Technology, and Business - Boscombe Down

Lockheed Martin - Engineering and IT - UK

The Space Engineering Technician Apprenticeship

There's now a new apprenticeship programme written specifically for the space sector, called the Space Engineering Technician Apprenticeship. Apprentices on this pathway will "support the development, manufacturing, assembly, integration and testing of complex, high value space hardware and ground-based equipment".

You can find out more about what's involved here.

Right now, only Airbus is recruiting for space apprentices and you can check on the jobs on offer at the link above. The off-the-job training is offered by Fareham College.

From September 2022, you'll be able to be a space apprentice in Cornwall. A small number of space companies will be hiring apprentices and the off-the-job training will be offered by Truro and Penwith College.

The Higher Apprenticeship in Space Engineering

If you have already completed an advanced apprenticeship and are employed in the space sector then you can enrol in the Higher Apprenticeship in Space Engineering. The Higher Apprenticeship is a unique programme run by Loughborough College and the National Space Centre that combines maths, science, and engineering with specific practical training, and offers the opportunity to earn while you study. The course includes a Foundation Degree in Space Engineering and a Level 4 work based competence programme, it could also lead to a full BSc or BEng degree.

Higher - can lead to NVQ Level 4 and above, or a foundation degree

Advanced - equivalent to 2 A level passes

Intermediate - equivalent to 5 GCSE passes

The Space Systems Engineer Degree Apprenticeship

This degree apprenticeship will be on offer from late 2023. You'll be able to work while studying for a degree systems engineering. We'll update this page with more information as it becomes available.

Other types of apprenticeship

You don't just have to work in engineering, computing, or IT to be an apprentice in the space sector. You might want to look out for apprenticeship roles in business administration, HR, and finance, too!

Author

Joseph Dudley

Joseph studied Aeronautical Engineering at Imperial College London, and created SpaceCareers.uk.

This article contains public sector information licensed under the Open Government Licence v3.0.

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