Engineering is responsible for making things work – and so hands-on, practical skills are the lifeblood of the industry (and its closely linked partner, manufacturing). Of course then, apprenticeships and engineering make for the perfect match: an opportunity to get to grips with a hands-on discipline, hands on. During an apprenticeship, you will combine study with employment, learning key engineering skills plus qualifcations such as an NVQ and technical certificates (as well as earning an hourly rate of £2.65, or £2.68 from October 2013).
Engineering apprenticeships cover the entire spectrum of the industry – from ceramics to food and drink – but learning how to design complex machinery, maintain this equipment, and find new, and innovative ways to improve it remains the constant throughout this vocational pathway, regardless of which specialism you opt for.
A passion for understanding how things work is essential for those interested in pursuing an engineering apprenticeship. After all, your employer will expect you to have strong manual and technical skills – so that you can work practically when necessary, but also have the theory and insight to back it up. You’ll need initiative, and you will also need to be intuitive, as whilst you’ll often be working in a team, there are times when you will have to solve problems – and think up exciting new ideas – on an individual basis.
In terms of qualification and skill requisites for entering an apprenticeship in engineering, maths, IT and science are the topics you will need to demonstrate competence in. There are three levels of apprenticeship available (intermediate, advanced and higher), and which one you choose will depend upon your current qualifications, but generally you will need a minimum of five GCSEs including mathematics, English, and science or technology subjects (often at A* – C).
Once you’ve finished your apprenticeship, the learning doesn’t have to stop there: a higher level apprenticeship will give you the qualifications needed to enter university. Or alternatively, you may wish to go straight into full-time employment, either with your apprenticeship employer (if they offer you a permanent role) or with another company.
Words: Jessie Bland
[This article was originally printed in Jobs & Careers with Hilary Devey magazine in May 2013]