It’s a boom time for apprenticeships. if learning on the job appeals to you, there are thousands of places available on these popular work and study programmes that benefit directly from government investment!
Sports coaching, hairdressing, business, animal care, aviation, marketing, social media, sales, IT, engineering, finance, media… if a career in any of these industries appeals to you, you may be interested to know they’re all sectors in which it’s possible to do an apprenticeship.
An apprenticeship is a great way to get hands-on training in the career of your choice while getting qualifications (to degree level, should you so wish) and earning a salary. You’d be in good company – the number of people starting new apprenticeships between 2015 and 2016 was more than 500,000, and there are around 23,000 apprenticeship opportunities listed every month. Proposals set out by the government in May 2017 outlined plans to increase funding of apprenticeships to £2.5bn, double what it was in 2010.
There are many benefits of doing an apprenticeship. As well as gaining job-specific skills, you’ll get paid to study (usually one day a week) and your employer may cover your travel expenses to get to college. You’ll work alongside experienced staff, gaining expert industry knowledge and those all-important contacts, while at the same time earning a salary and getting paid holiday pay. It’s a package that makes an apprenticeship very appealing, especially in a competitive job market where experience is everything and given the spiralling cost of a university education. There’s nothing to pay when you undertake an apprenticeship – your training costs are funded by the government and your employer.
How to get started?
There are four levels of apprenticeship in England (see box, top right) and each apprenticeship vacancy will specify its entry requirements. For example, for higher and degree-level apprenticeships, employers will generally ask for A-levels or other Level 3 qualifications.
Your current qualifications will dictate the level of apprenticeship at which you’ll start, but some apprenticeships allow you to work your way up through the higher and degree levels, depending on the career sector they’re in.
There are three stages to applying for an apprenticeship. First, and most importantly, decide in which area you want to find an apprenticeship. There are thousands of vacancies spanning a broad range of industries, so think about areas of work you feel passionate about and have an interest in, as well as the subjects you enjoyed and did well in at school.
How to stand out?
Competition for apprenticeships – especially within high profile or prestigious organisations – can be fierce. If you can, volunteer or get work experience in the area in which you’re interested before applying, so you can add it to your CV and show potential employers you’re committed to that career path.
Make sure all relevant qualifications, skills, previous employment or courses are near the top of your CV, demonstrating the value you’ll add to the organisation. Remember, it’s about what you can offer to potential employers, rather than the other way around!
Thoroughly proofread your application, and ideally ask someone else to look over it, too – it’s amazing what fresh eyes will pick up. When you’re 100 per cent happy it’s polished and professional, hit send – welcome to the first day of your professional career!
How much can I earn as an apprentice?
The current wage rate for an apprentice is £3.50 per hour, which applies to apprentices under the age of 19 or those over 19 in their first year of training. If you’re over 25, you’re entitled to the national living wage, which is £7.50 per hour.
Marissa Francis, 25
from her mechanical engineering apprenticeship with management facilities provider ABM UK (abm.co.uk), alongside completing a BTEC Level 4 HNC diploma in construction and the built environment at the College of North West London
“I was introduced to engineering at school by a teacher and decided to take it at GCSE, eventually getting a B.
I continued my studies at Croydon College and completed a BTEC National Diploma Level 3 in mechanical engineering.
“I was unsure which sector of engineering I wanted to specialise in, but thought an apprenticeship sounded a good route. At college, I was advised to apply for university and look for an apprenticeship, and accept whichever offer came through first. This was a place at university.
“I enrolled on an electronics degree course, but after my first year decided to pursue an apprenticeship. I wanted the hands-on skills that are particularly important in engineering.
“I heard about Women In Engineering (wie.ieee.org), which helps young women find out about and apply for apprenticeships. The team helped me to create and develop my CV and took me to careers events attended by engineering companies.
“Women in Engineering introduced me to ABM UK and its apprenticeship programme. I’m now employed there as a mechanical engineer, specialising as a heating, ventilation and air conditioning (HVAC) improver.
“My advice to anyone doing an apprenticeship is get your head down, work hard, accept it will be tough at times and keep your eyes on the prize. Never forget your passion or what made you want to do it in the first place.”
Billy Dolman, 19
Billy is studying for a business administration apprenticeship with Sheffield-based manufacturer PCT Automotive (pctautomotive.com). He recently gained a Level 2 qualification and is aiming to complete Level 3 in 2018
“I enjoyed school and did well in my GCSEs, so decided to go on to sixth form college to study PE, media, English language and maths. But after a year there I was finding it frustrating – what I really wanted was hands-on experience and to feel that I was learning a trade.
“I spoke with the college careers adviser, who told me about PCT, a manufacturing company in Sheffield that runs apprenticeship schemes and is even involved with apprentice exchange programmes with other European countries. I liked the fact that it had been in operation for more than 90 years and has a strong record of taking on apprentices after their studies are finished.
“I decided to give it a go and I haven’t looked back. I started by getting experience across all the departments, from sales to accounts, which I really enjoyed. Then in June this year, I was asked to take on a buying role. I love the feeling of getting off the phone from suppliers and feeling as though I’ve got a really good deal for the company!
“I do regular study days and last year passed my Level 2 qualifications in business and administration. Next year I’m hoping to sit Level 3 exams in procurement so I can progress in the buying department.
“I’ll do as many qualifications as I can – and to be able to get them while doing relevant work experience is ideal. I have no regrets at all about the path I’ve taken.”