Ever since university tuition fees were raised in 2012 to £9,000 a year, interest in apprenticeships from school and college leavers has risen dramatically.

They are a fantastic way of earning while you learn, with the current National Minimum Wage rate for apprentices set at £3.30 an hour. This applies to all 16 to 18 year old apprentices, and all those aged 19 or over in the first year of their apprenticeship. For all other apprentices, the National Minimum Wage appropriate to their age applies, and the wage rate is paid for both time spent on the job and in training.

An apprenticeship can give your CV a real boost, and make you stand out in the job market to potential employers with at least a years’ experience under your belt. This will give you an advantage over other candidates with little or no experience. Apprenticeships can also lead to permanent roles within the organisation you are already training in, with opportunities to work your way up to management level.

So if you’re thinking a traditional higher education via a degree isn’t the right path for you, be inspired by our wide range of unusual apprenticeships you never knew existed!

1. Chocolatier

Want to put the yummy filling in truffles? Wish you could decorate chocolates to make them look amazing? If you love chocolate, then this could be a great option for you. As a chocolatier apprentice you will learn how to:

  • Temper and mould chocolate
  • Make ganaches, fondant creams, caramels, pralines, sugar decorations, and chocolate ice cream
  • Create show stopping chocolate desserts and cakes
  • Make chocolate from bean to bar
  • Develop new chocolate flavours and ranges

However, a passion for all things chocolate isn’t the only thing required to become a good chocolatier – you’ll need to enjoy practical work with your hands, be able to work well as part of a team, and be aware of hygiene, health and safety issues.

Chocolatier apprenticeships are offered by a number of food manufacturing companies and chocolate shops around the UK, including:

You can also search for chocolatier apprenticeships in the Food & Drink Apprenticeships section at gov.uk.

2. Wig-maker

Wig making is a challenging and highly skilled job that is unfortunately becoming a dying art, even though wig makers are still highly sought after in the film and theatre industries. Wigs can either be elaborate pieces based on a fictional character or real actor, or be made to blend in with an actor’s own hair and look completely natural so it seems they are not wearing a wig at all.

Wig making requires patience, as they are made one hair at a time, and even once you have mastered the techniques involved, it still takes about a week just to produce one wig.

If you already have some hairdressing experience, then a wig making apprenticeship is certainly worth considering. If not, you may want to try and get some first, as hairdressing is often an essential skill demanded by those offering wig making apprenticeships.

Companies where you can learn this trade include:

3. Crime Scene Photographer

An apprenticeship in Photo Imaging will provide you with the skills needed to be a Crime Scene Photographer. As well as the legal and ethical requirements of photo imaging, you will also learn other important skills involved in the job, such as communication, teamwork and health and safety.

The course will show you how to produce an accurate record of a crime scene or accident photographs, to help investigators with their work and allow the court to see exactly what took place on the day.

Search for Photo imaging Apprenticeships at gov.uk.

4. Power Station Maintenance

Many energy companies now offer apprenticeships in maintaining their power stations, as well as other areas such as business, smart metering, and commercial.

This type of apprenticeship will equip you with the necessary technical skills to maintain a gas, coal or nuclear plant in the UK. At the end of your training, you will be awarded a certificate

Organisations offering apprenticeships in power station maintenance and engineering include:

5. Digital Journalist

If you’re a creative type that enjoys writing, social media and being able to communicate ideas and stories to a range of audiences, then the BBC’s Digital Journalist Apprenticeship could be the right step for you.

This two year non-graduate scheme will arm you with a diploma in journalism at the end of it, and teach you how to write engaging content for TV, radio and online. Working with BBC editors and other staff, you’ll discover how to write and record for your audiences.

Applications usually open in early summer to start in September. To find out more information, visit the BBC Digital Journalism Apprenticeship website.

6. Formula One Engineer

If you have a passion for fast cars or feel you would enjoy a satisfying, hands-on career in engineering, then look no further than a Formula One Engineering apprenticeship.

Now offered by a number of racing team companies, including Red Bull, Williams, Mercedes, McLaren and Ferrari, you will learn a range of skills involved in the production of components and their fitting.

Good Maths, English and Science GCSEs are usually required, and you will often be asked to sit a test as part of the application process.

7. Diamond Setter

Want to work with diamonds and other exquisite jewels? Applying for a jewellery silversmithing and allied trades apprenticeship opens doors to a wide range of career paths, including diamond setting.

Using a range of tools, machinery and other equipment you will set stones for different pieces of jewellery, ranging from simple to complex.

Search for vacancies at the gov.uk apprenticeships section.

8. Equine Dentist

One of the most unusual apprenticeships out there, specialising in horse’s teeth certainly isn’t everybody’s cup of tea.

If you are a horse enthusiast and/or already have experience working with horses, then this may be a specialism you want to consider.

An equine dentist apprenticeship takes three years to complete, at the end of which you will become a registered and fully qualified member of the British Association of Equine Dentistry Technicians (EDT).

At the end of your apprenticeship, will you be able to sit the approved British Equine Veterinary Association (BEVA) theory and practical examination.

9. Pathology Support Worker

Enjoy science? This apprenticeship equips you with all the necessary skills to support health professionals in a pathology laboratory environment.

You will be responsible for a number of pathology tasks using specified methodologies, which will support projects involving therapies and technology, and help maintain stocks of laboratory supplies and consumables.

This work-based programme lasts for 18 months and can be applied for through gov.uk.

10. Fashion & Textiles Technician

If you’re a creative individual who likes clothes, fashion or anything to do with textiles, then this type of apprenticeship is worth looking into.

The opportunities open to you once you’ve completed the course are vast, teaching you both technical and practical skills, and the option to specialise in one of the following:

  • apparel
  • textiles
  • footwear
  • leather goods
  • saddlery.

Find out more about this programme at the Fashion & Textiles apprenticeships page at gov.uk.

11. Fish Husbandry

This 15 month apprenticeship involves working on fish farms, rivers, and reservoirs, where you will learn about fish biology, as well as how to care for fish and look after their habitat. Good English and Maths GCSEs are often required, along with any other relevant qualifications that might be useful.

Once you have completed your apprenticeship, you will be qualified to work on a fisheries site, or for an enforcement agency such as the Institute of Fisheries Management, or the Environment Agency. You could also work at a garden/aquatics centre, or public aquarium.

A passion for a fish is a must, along with a willingness to work outdoors in all types of weather.

12. Explosives Storage & Maintenance

This training shows you how to correctly store, transport and maintain explosives without harming yourself or others.

Due to the risks involved, you will need to be 18 or over to apply for this particular apprenticeship, which can help you on your way to becoming an Ammunition Technician within the armed forces.

Find out more at the explosives storage and maintenance apprenticeships page at gov.uk.

13. Automotive Clay Modelling

Want to design a car? This niche apprenticeship launched by Vince Cable in 2014 involves a rigorous recruitment process, but can promise a long and rewarding career in car manufacturing if selected.

Aimed at addressing a national shortage in skilled sculptors, your role will mainly require taking a 2D concept and translating it to a 3D model.

Companies offering this apprenticeship include Aston Martin, Nissan and Jaguar Landrover.

14. Tattooist

For the artists out there, a tattoo apprenticeship will teach you how to design a tattoo onto a client with an electrically operated needle and advise people on which tattoos they choose. You’ll also be given the opportunity to research and create your own designs, so you can build up your own portfolio of work.

The best way to complete a tattoo apprenticeship is to approach local registered tattooists and ask if they will take you on as a trainee. Lasting anywhere between one and three years, your tattoo training will allow you to open your own premises once you have registered yourself at gov.uk.

15. Funeral Director

Facing death on a daily basis while still staying strong for your customers who come to you at a very difficult time can make this a challenging role, and isn’t suited to everyone.

However, if you feel you have a caring, professional manner, the ability to empathise and make people confident they are in the right hands, then this could be an option for you. Good organisational skills are also a plus, as well as being able to act serious and dignified during sensitive situations.

You will primarily be responsible for organising burials and cremations, and providing support and advice to bereaved individuals.

Check out the Funeral Operations and Services apprenticeships at gov.uk to search and apply for vacancies.

16. Blacksmith

Another career option for those who like practical, hands-on work, although is a trade that’s worth finding out if you actually like it first before embarking on a sustained period of training through an apprenticeship.

There are lots of places that offer taster sessions, or you can ask a local blacksmith if they will take you on for a period of work experience.

If you decide you enjoy it, and wish to pursue a more formal qualification, we recommend looking for a further and/or higher education college that offers a BTEC National Award, Diploma or Certificate, or even a three year BA degree programme in blacksmithing, e.g. at Herefordshire Ludlow College or Warwickshire College.

17. Glass blowing

For those who enjoy arts and crafts, put your creative and practical skills to use in the glassblowing industry. With the chance to work in a number of different sectors, including manufacturing, scientific equipment, jewellery and other accessories.

Good manual dexterity is essential for glass blowing, and you will learn a number of techniques, including how to make different types of glass, and how to decorate it using engraving, etching, sand or grit-blasting.

Although you would normally train on the job for this type of work, it may be helpful to have qualifications in art, design and/or technology.

Try contacting local glass companies to see if they have any openings for a trainee, or search for glass industry apprenticeships at gov.uk.

18. Floristry

If you have a keen interest in plants and flowers, as well as good creative skills and a friendly manner, then floristry could be the right apprenticeship path for you.

Help customers by advising them which plants and flowers they should choose for their occasion, prepare bouquets, displays and other arrangements, and deliver their orders on time.

Depending on the company you train with, you may also have to sell related items such as gifts and cards, travel to suppliers, and provide administrative support.

To get some experience first and check you will actually enjoy floristry, you could try applying for a taster course at your local college or join a flower arranging club/society.

Floristry apprenticeship openings can be found at gov.uk and at Lantra. For more information on floristry training and education, visit the British Florist Association, and the National Association of Flower Arrangement Societies.

19. Bus & Coach Maintenance

Being in the automotive industry doesn’t necessarily always mean working with cars!

Get your hands on some larger, more complicated vehicles by learning all aspects of bus and coach repairs on the job, including both practical and theoretical skills. You’ll work with a range of vehicles, where routine vehicle servicing and maintenance, and attending breakdowns and recoveries will also be part of your responsibilities.

Search for bus and coach engineering apprenticeships at gov.uk.

20. Spectator safety

Protect the public and provide support for their health and enjoyment by training in the spectator safety industry.

Due to the rise in popularity of large professional sporting events in the UK, there is now more demand than ever for competent, fully qualified marshals and stewards. Tasks in this role include monitoring crowds and dealing with problems.

If you complete an advanced apprenticeship, you can go on to work as a grounds safety officer or senior steward.

Search for spectator safety apprenticeships at gov.uk.

If you have any comments, suggestions or feedback on my post, or have your own unusual apprenticeships you’d like to share, please reply below.