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APPRENTICESHIPS / NOV. 15, 2016
version 12, draft 12

Earn and Learn: The Complete Apprenticeship Guide

apprenticeship guide

Apprenticeships have a bad reputation.

Sixty per cent of respondents to a recent Monster survey thought that apprenticeships pay less than £100 a week while 75 per cent think they’re solely aimed at those aged between 17 and 21, and 21 per cent said that they don’t offer much in terms of career progression.

But, they couldn’t be any further from the truth. Apprentices make an average £170 per week (and often significantly more). More than 210,000 people who started an apprenticeship in 2014/2015 were aged 25 and over, according to Not Going to Uni’s Apprenticeship Guide 2016. And only 4.5 per cent of those who completed their programme with a Level 4 vocational qualification in 2013 became unemployed within the first 6 months.

To rephrase our previous statement: apprenticeships are a great option with a bad reputation.

Whether you’re a school leaver, a career starter or even a career changer, doing an apprenticeship might just be the perfect route for you. Find out all about the opportunities and benefits available to you as well as how to nail your interview in our complete guide to apprenticeships.

 

Apprenticeships: The FAQs

apprenticeship faqs

First things first, let’s answer some of the most frequently asked questions surrounding apprenticeships. For starters:

What Are They?

In layman’s terms, apprenticeships are defined as government-funded work-based training programmes for people aged 16 and over. They combine full-time paid employment with part-time study for a relevant and nationally-recognised qualification.

Generally speaking, they allow you to earn a wage while working alongside experienced staff to gain job-specific skills. Most training is delivered in the workplace, and you’ll have to work at least 30 hours a week. The rest of the training is provided by a training organisation (usually one day a week) either at the workplace, at an off-site learning institution (like a college, for example) or via e-learning. All apprenticeships are at least 12 months long and can take anywhere between 2 and 6 years to complete, depending on the type you are doing.

What Types Are There?

There are over 200 different types of apprenticeships available in the UK, covering more than 1,500 job roles. These include:

Accounting

Criminal Investigation

Learning Support

Agriculture

Custodial Care

Plumbing and Heating

Beauty Therapy

Dental Health

Power Engineering

Cabin Crew

Hairdressing

Retail Management

Construction Building

Information Security

Sports Development

Creative and Digital Media

Journalism

Veterinary Nursing

Remember: you won’t be able to access certain career paths with an apprenticeship. This is particularly true for areas such as medicine or science where you will be required to get a degree.

Check out the GOV.UK website for a complete list of the types of apprenticeships available to you.

Are There Different Levels?

There are four different levels outlined below:

  • Intermediate (Level 2): They’re considered to be the equivalent of five good GCSE passes (at grades A* to C), and rarely take more than two years to complete.
  • Advanced (Level 3): They’re the equivalent of two A Level passes, and rarely last longer than two years.
  • Higher (Levels 4, 5, 6 and 7): These can lead to a National Vocational Qualification (NVQ) Level 4, a Scottish Vocational Qualification (SVQ) at SCQF Levels 8 and 9, a Higher National Diploma (HND) or a foundation degree. They often take longer than two years, and four years isn’t uncommon.
  • Degree (Levels 6 and 7): They’re similar to Higher Apprenticeships but differ in that they provide the opportunity to gain a full bachelor’s (Level 6) or master’s (Level 7) degree. They can take between three and six years to complete, with part-time study taking place at a university. This scheme only operates in England and Wales.

Apprenticeships in some areas are only available at particular levels. For example, Community Safety is only available at Level 2 and Spa Therapy only at Level 3. For those available at multiple levels, you may need to complete the lowest level before advancing to the next successfully

Who Can Become an Apprentice?

Anyone over the age of 16, living in the UK and not in full-time education can apply. Further entry requirements vary according to the type you are interested in, and you may need up to five GCSEs at grades A* to C (including English and Maths) to qualify.

A traineeship, meanwhile, may be more suitable for you if you don’t have the appropriate skills, experience and qualifications. These programmes usually take up to 6 months to complete and are designed to help people between the ages of 16 and 24 gain the essential work preparation training, English and Maths support (if needed), and work experience that employers look for.

Volunteering can also be a viable option to gain any necessary experience, giving you an edge over other applicants.

Who Pays for the Training?

Government funding is available to cover the costs of your training (100 per cent if you’re aged between 16 and 18, and 50 per cent if you’re aged between 19 and 24). If you’re over 24, however, your employer might cover your training expenses or you could be eligible for an Advanced Learner Loan.

How Much Do Apprentices Earn?

The current minimum wage for an apprentice is £3.40 for both those aged under 19 and those aged 19 or over and in the first year. If you’re over 19 and have completed the first year, you will be entitled to the national minimum wage (£5.55 for ages 18-20, £6.95 for ages 21-24 and £7.20 for ages 25 and over) – with many employers paying significantly more.

Generally speaking, pay is dependent on the industry, location and type of apprenticeship you’re undertaking. The most competitive programmes pay up to £30,000 a year, and recent research conducted jointly by Barclays and the Centre for Economics and Business Research (CEBR) shows that apprentices can earn up to 270 per cent more than their university graduate counterparts.

In addition to a salary, apprentices are entitled to the same rights as other employees, including a contract of employment, a minimum of 20 paid days’ leave per year plus bank holidays, pay sick entitlement as well as any other perks and benefits the individual employer may offer its employees.

 

The Benefits of an Apprenticeship

apprentice benefits

It  is a great way to start in the industry you’re interested working in. You’ll be able to learn the skills that employers look for in candidates and you’ll also get paid for your time spent working and studying – but these aren’t the only advantages of becoming an apprentice.

You’ll Earn While You Learn

Perhaps the biggest advantage that attracts school leavers to an apprenticeship is the opportunity to work, learn and get paid for it, all at the same time – unlike internships. Also, as explained previously, government funding is available to employers who hire an apprentice, meaning you won’t have to pay out of your own pocket for your training if you meet the eligibility requirements. In other words: no student loans, no tuition fees and no debt.

You’ll Broaden Your Skill Set

One of the main benefits is that you’re able to build new and develop key skills that employers look for in employees, giving you an advantage over other candidates when you start looking for a ‘real’ job. Companies value skills like communication, IT, numeracy and teamwork – and the more you have to offer, the better your chances will be at landing a job.

You’ll Improve Your Prospects

Skilled workers are always in demand, wherever you are in the world. In fact, the 2015 Apprenticeship Evaluation survey found that 92 per cent of people who completed their training were employed (up from 2014’s 88 per cent).

You’ll Gain a New Qualification

By the end, you’ll be able to add another qualification to your CV and, in effect, present yourself as a knowledgeable and experienced professional to potential employers. Moreover, working toward a recognised qualification like an NVQ or a BTEC can help you pursue university education at a later time if you so wish to.

You’ll Arm Yourself with Experience

Apprenticeships enable you to stay ahead of university graduates by providing you with hands-on training and give you real experience in the working world. Simply put: you’ll gain valuable experience within your chosen industry, helping you boost your CV and making future employers view you as an asset to their organisations.

 

How to Find an Apprenticeship

searching for an apprenticeship

If you’ve decided that it is your preferred route to a successful career, the next step you need to take is to find a programme that best suits your needs, interests and qualifications. There are six main ways you can do this, and you should aim to explore all of these methods to optimise your chances of success.

The National Apprenticeship Service

The NAS, which is part of the Skills Funding Agency, is responsible for supporting, funding and coordinating the delivery of apprenticeships throughout England. Their website currently features more than 19,000 available vacancies in the country across all industry sectors.

You can search for vacancies either by keyword or category based on your preferred location and programme level. Each vacancy includes all the relevant information, including weekly wages, start dates and entry requirements.

If you’re based outside of England, follow the links below to find opportunities in:

Contact Employers Directly

Many large organisations across the UK, as well as small businesses, start-up companies, local councils and health authorities, are always on the lookout for the right apprentice, including:

Accenture

EY

Mars

Airbus

Ford

Mercedes-Benz

Aldi

Fujitsu

PwC

Allianz

Goldman Sachs

Rolls-Royce

Barclays

HSBC

Siemens

BBC

Jaguar Land Rover

Tesco

BT

John Lewis

Virgin Media

Deloitte

Lloyds Banking Group

Volkswagen

This is just a selection of the employers that offer apprenticeships. It’s a good idea to make a list of the companies you would be interested in working for and to then research the types of programmes that each organisation offers. You should be able to do this through the careers page of the relevant company’s website.

Use Social Media

With social media so readily accessible at our fingertips, hunting for apprenticeship vacancies has never been easier.

  • Twitter: Follow @apprenticeships, the government’s official apprenticeship programme, and @MillionExtra, the official account for the City & Guilds Million Extra drive for news, information and the latest vacancies. Also, make sure to follow relevant hashtags like #getingofar and #apprenticeships.
  • Facebook: Search for groups dedicated to local job placements, and don’t forget to follow company pages to learn more about what they do and any relevant vacancies.
  • LinkedIn: Join groups and follow blogs that post industry news relevant to your chosen apprenticeship. Make sure to participate in discussions as well as make valuable connections with professionals and influencers in your target industry.

Ensure that your social media profiles support your professional brand, not weaken it. Here are some tips to help you get started:

  • Use a professional profile picture. Make sure it’s a recent photo of you in which you are easily recognisable.
  • Delete any potentially damaging photos or posts. Jobvite’s Recruiter Nation Report 2016 found that 47 per cent of UK recruiters view photos of alcohol consumption negatively, as do they marijuana use (71 per cent).
  • Activate your privacy settings; restrict access to ‘Friends only’.
  • For extra piece of mind, maintain two separate profiles: a personal and a professional one.

Attend an Apprenticeships Fair

What makes fairs so great is that they are filled with employers who are looking to recruit school leavers and career starters into their apprenticeship programmes. You will have plenty of opportunities to meet real people from the companies you are interested in working for. Make sure to take copies of your CV with you along with any other marketing materials to help make a good impression on prospective employers. Fairs can also be especially helpful for individuals who aren’t really sure about what they want to do.

Check Your Local Jobs Centre

Visit your local Jobcentre Plus office and speak to an adviser for more information as well as advice and current vacancies. Use the local office search to find your nearest branch.

Search Online

Searching online is another great way to find vacancies with many sites and recruitment agencies specialising in apprenticeship schemes, like GetMyFirstJob and the Apprentice Employment Agency. You could also use sites like Monster, Totaljobs, Reed and our own job board over at CareerAddict Jobs to look for opportunities.

 

How to Apply for an Apprenticeship

job application

Now that you’ve located an opportunity that you are interested in pursuing, you’ll need to sort out your application and any supplementary materials like your CV and cover letter. Here are some tips to take into consideration when applying for an apprenticeship.

Apply for Vacancies That Are Suited to Your Skills

In other words, don’t apply for anything and everything that’s going. Make sure you only focus your efforts on the vacancies that best fit your skills, experience and qualifications, and that you don’t waste time applying for roles that you are not equipped to do.

Be Comprehensive

One of the most important things to remember when filling out an application form – for any type of job – is to ensure that it’s 100 per cent complete before submission. Read all the instructions carefully and answer all of the questions – remember: it’s more acceptable to write ‘Not applicable’ than leave something blank! Hiring managers often skip applications that are incomplete and some companies will even filter candidates by their responses to specific questions. We, therefore, reiterate: fill out all of the fields!

Most applications will include the following sections:

  • Education (your most recent school or college)
  • Qualifications (or your predicted grades if you don’t know your results yet)
  • Work Experience (including paid and voluntary work)
  • Skills and Interests (usually questions about your key strengths and qualities)

Remember to take caution when answering certain questions like: ‘What are your hobbies and interests?’ If you’re applying for an accounting apprenticeship, for example, mentioning your love of football won’t earn you any points. Make sure that the interests you include in your application are relevant to the job – they should be more achievement-based and should add further value to your candidacy.

Don’t forget to provide examples to evidence your suitability!

Tailor Your Application

A one-size-fits-all approach simply won’t cut it here. While filling out an application form can be a time-consuming process, particularly if you’re applying for multiple positions, it’s important to tailor your application to each individual apprenticeship. This does not only show that you are indeed interested in the vacancy, but it also provides you with the opportunity to make a great first impression on a prospective employer.

Read the job advert carefully to identify any buzz words and key phrases, and use them when crafting the responses for your application. The objective here is to match the skills and qualities required to succeed in the position to stand out as a viable candidate.

The information you find in the ad can also be used to write your CV and craft a winning cover letter. Remember that when accompanying your online application with attachments to make sure that they’re aptly named so that they’re easily distinguishable – for example, ‘John Smith CareerAddict Apprenticeship CV’. This is particularly important for email applications.

Be Attentive to Detail

In the Jobvite report we mentioned previously, 72 per cent of UK recruiters admitted they would dismiss an application with just one or two typos. Therefore, double and triple-checking your application and CV is essential for success. You could also opt to use a spellchecker tool, but you should definitely get a human proofreader (a friend, family member or even professional editor) to look over it for any embarrassing mistakes a spellchecker might miss.

However, grammar and spelling mistakes aren’t the only things you should keep an eye out for when writing your application. Make sure that you’ve used the correct company name and that you’ve also spelt it right – and don’t forget to check that you haven’t provided the wrong contact information! (On a side note, make sure your email address is a professional one and not something like foxybabe69@example.com.)

 

How to Nail an Apprenticeship Interview

the interview

Apprenticeship interviews are no different than those for a ‘normal’ job. They require the same degree of preparation, participation and professionalism, and they can be just as nerve-racking and frustrating. To help you succeed, we’ve put together a bunch of tips for you to impress the hiring manager and increase your chances of securing the position.

Before the Interview

  • Plan Your Journey: The first step to nailing any type of interview is making a great first impression, and getting lost on your way – and, in effect, arriving late – does not help you achieve that. Therefore, it’s important to find out exactly where you need to go (use Google Maps, if you need to), how long it will take you to get there and what is the best way to get there. Don’t forget to do a test run!
  • Research the Company: Do your homework ahead of time, and learn as much as you can about the company and the position you’re applying for. What do they do? Who are their competitors? Who are their customers? What problems are they currently facing? The more information you have, the more confident you’ll feel and the more successful you’ll be.
  • Practice: Create a list of the different types of possible questions you will be asked in an interview and practice your answers with a friend or a family member who will be able to provide you with constructive criticism on what you can improve. You could even test your interview skills by setting up a mock interview with a career coach or counsellor. Use the selection of questions below to help you practice:
    • What attracted you to this role?
    • What are your main strengths?
    • What skills would you like to improve during this apprenticeship?
    • The training for this apprenticeship includes undertaking qualifications while working full-time, and may be demanding at times. How would you organise yourself to balance your study and work, and ensure you complete your work on time?
  • Confirm Your Attendance: Once you’ve been invited for an interview, make sure to confirm your attendance either by phone or via email at the earliest opportunity. If you don’t, the hiring manager might assume that you’re uninterested in the job.
  • Double-Check the Appointment Time and Date: Don’t make the mistake of showing up for your interview at the wrong time or, worse, wrong day. Be sure to make a note of when and where your meeting is taking place (either in your calendar or on your smartphone) as well as who to ask for upon your arrival.

At the Interview

  • Dress to Impress: Whether you’re applying for an apprenticeship as an office administrator or a plumber, it’s important to dress smartly for your interview as it shows that you actually care about the job. Business casual attire will do: khakis and a shirt for men, and a knee-length (or longer) skirt and blouse for women.
  • Take Everything You Need with You: This includes extra copies of your CV, a list of references, any relevant certifications you’ve obtained as well as a pen and notebook to take notes during the interview.
  • Arrive on Time: Aim to arrive up to 60 minutes before your scheduled meeting. Find a Starbucks (or coffee shop of your choice) nearby to wait it out and go over your notes, and start making your way to the place of your interview about 15 minutes before it’s supposed to start. If, for whatever reason, you won’t be able to make it on time, make sure to call ahead and notify the hiring manager you’re running late.
  • Be Polite: To everyone you meet. A receptionist or a cleaner might be asked about what they thought of you in whatever little interaction they had with you, and if you were rude to them (whether intentionally or not) could work against you when it’s time to make a decision.
  • Mind Your Body Language: Offer a firm handshake, make eye contact, sit up straight in your seat, smile and remember to mirror your interviewer’s own body language (subtly, of course).
  • Don’t Interrupt the Interviewer: It’s incredibly rude. You’ll have plenty of time to talk when it’s your turn, so make sure you listen carefully to what the interviewer is saying and allow them to finish talking before you respond.
  • Think Before You Answer: There’s nothing wrong with taking a little time to answer the questions the hiring manager fires your way. After all, it’s better to take a little longer to produce a well-crafted and thought-out response than simply blurt out an unimpressive one. Think out each question and focus on why you would be great at the job when delivering your response. Remember to answer questions confidently and positively, to speak clearly and to avoid rambling on.
  • Ask Questions: Show employers that you really are interested in the company and the job by preparing a list of questions to ask at the end of the interview. Even if they cover everything you wanted to know about the position, it’s important to have three to five backup questions on standby. This is also a great opportunity to find out what happens next in the hiring process: when can you expect a reply? Will only successful candidates be contacted or will they notify unsuccessful ones, too?

After the Interview

  • Send a Thank You Note: Make sure to send a quick thank you email within 24-48 hours of your interview. Not only is it courteous to thank your interviewers for taking the time out of their busy schedules to meet you, but it also provides you with the opportunity to confirm your interest in the position and also remind them how your skills and experience are a good match for the position.
  • Don’t Take It Personally If You Are Unsuccessful: Remember, there’s a lot of competition, so don’t be disheartened if you don’t get the apprenticeship. Simply ask the hiring manager for feedback on why you weren’t suitable for the role and how you can improve.

 

What to Do When Your Apprenticeship Ends

after it ends apprenticeship

What happens after you’ve completed your apprenticeship? What are the next steps you should take in your career? You have four main options:

Remain with Your Current Employer

A lot of apprentices are offered full-time positions after they complete the programme. But, it’s important to remember that permanent employment is not guaranteed. The key here is to ensure that you perform to the best of your ability in the job and contribute positively to the company’s goals if you want to be kept on.

It’s a good idea to have a discussion with your supervisor about what their plans for you are. Knowing this kind of information can help you assess the situation and make a carefully thought-out decision when the time comes. It’s also important to check out what other professionals in your field with the same experience and qualifications as you are making, so that you can ensure you get paid what you’re truly worth.

Find a New Job

If you would like to move onto another organisation, the skills and experience you have developed will prove valuable when looking for a new job. You’ll also have an edge over recent graduates who, while they do have the relevant qualifications, you’ll have both the qualifications and the experience to succeed in the role you apply for.

Further Your Education

It’s not uncommon to move onto pursuing higher education courses. The qualifications you gain in the programme are worth UCAS points, making it easier for you to apply for and gain a place in a university.

Set Up Your Own Business

You will also be able to transfer the skills you have developed and the knowledge you have acquired into starting your own business. Self-employment is a great option if you want to be your own boss, enjoy a more flexible work schedule, earn more money and pursue your passion.

 

Although apprenticeships have a bad reputation, the fact remains they’re an excellent option for those wanting to start a career in their chosen field. And with the help of the tips, advice and guidance provided here, you’re bound to succeed.

Do you have anything you’d like to add? Join the conversation below and let us know what you think!

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