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A complete guide to Apprenticeships

Whether you’re just about to leave school, or college, or are half-way through your career, an apprenticeship could be the perfect answer to kick-start your career. In this guide to apprenticeships, you’ll learn everything from what they are, the benefits of being part of one, and all the tips to nailing the interview so you can decide if an apprenticeship is a suitable move to develop your career.

What are apprenticeships?

Simply put, an apprenticeship is a ‘proper’ job where you receive training alongside your role in the workplace. You can earn while you learn while obtaining that elusive work experience that every person needs.

As a job seeker, I’m sure you have come across the old excuse ‘sorry, but you don’t have the experience required for this role’ or something to that effect. We know it’s frustrating, and it feels like you’re stuck in a Catch 22 situation: you want a job, but you need the experience to get that job, but how on earth do you get experience if no one will give you a chance in the first place?  A great answer is apprenticeships.

By applying for apprenticeship jobs, you are bypassing the need for experience. Most employers want apprentices so they can be trained up properly and taught the employers’ way of doing things, rather than getting an experienced person who might be resistant to change. So by applying for apprenticeship jobs, you don’t need to worry about a lack of experience.

Employers are looking for something else (more on this later on!). For now, we’ll reveal exactly why you should consider apprenticeships.

The qualification

Upon completion of your apprenticeship you will have gained valuable experience in the workplace, and up to two NVQ qualifications that will help you to progress in your chosen career. Your apprentice contract should be for the duration of the apprenticeship (normally between 12-15 months), so you can part ways if you choose; in most cases though, you’ll be offered a full-time position.

Why would an employer spend all that time and money training you up so that you can leave? The employer may also choose to enrol you in a higher level apprenticeship, so you can continue your professional development within the company.

Types of apprenticeships

There is a wide range of apprenticeships to choose from, and they typically last between one and four years. In fact, there are intermediate, advanced and higher apprenticeships covering 170 industries, like from construction and engineering, sales and customer service, and 1,500 job roles, so you’re spoilt for choice!

The most important thing for you though is to decide on what sort of career you want to embark upon before you choose the apprenticeship.

Who pays for the apprenticeship?

The government or the employer pays for your apprenticeship. Government funding for the apprenticeships works as follows:

  • 16–18-year-olds are fully funded by the government
  • 19–24-year-olds receive 50% funding, sometimes 100% depending on the industry sector
  • 25+-year-olds receive no funding, and the employer would have to pay for the apprenticeship fully

How to become an apprentice

There are a few methods of finding apprenticeships. You could visit your local college or training provider to see what apprenticeships they have available at the time. Alternatively, you could search for apprenticeship jobs via job boards like CV-Library. A simple Google search will also pull up a wide range of apprenticeships, and don’t forget to check social media too!

What do employers look for when recruiting apprentices?

First of all, it’s essential that you have a well-presented CV with the correct punctuation, spelling and grammar. You wouldn’t believe how many CV’s we receive for apprenticeships that are riddled with mistakes.

Before you submit your CV, get someone to check it; spell check alone isn’t enough! Contact your local job centre or ask parents, partners, or friends to check your CV and make sure it’s up to scratch. If a recruiter has a pile of CVs to read for one position, and yours is full of errors and missing key information, then you’ll likely be rejected in an instant.

So what else do employers recruiting for apprenticeships look for? Well, experience is not essential, but if you have any work experience that is always useful to display. A key piece of information is GCSE grades (or O Levels!). You must put your grades on your CV – most apprenticeship jobs want people to have at least Grade D in Maths and English.

If you received lower than this, don’t fret too much, there’s a qualification called Functional Skills which you can take to bump your GCSE levels up during the apprenticeship. If you didn’t do so well in your GCSE’s, you can quite easily dazzle the employer with your infectious enthusiasm, desire to work hard and other soft skills you’ve picked up along the way.

Tips for a successful apprentice interview

Everyone knows that job interviews can be nerve-wracking experiences, but the best way to combat those nerves and perform well is to do your homework. The more research you do, and the better your preparation, the more relaxed you’ll feel – this will enable your confidence to shine through.

Start by researching the company, examine their website and find out who they are and what they do.  A good tip is to look at their ‘news’ or ‘blog’ sections to discover any recent stories about the company. Is there any useful information you can utilise in the job interview?

If they ask you ‘what do you know about the company?’ reflect on your research regarding what the company does, who their clients and competitors are, how they make their money, and big achievements they’ve had recently. You’re sure to wow the recruiter with your knowledge.

Secondly, examine your CV and make sure you know it inside out. You’ll want to re-read the description of the apprenticeship as you’ll need to be able to match the skills and qualities you have to the description to prove you’re the right match.

Your confidence and enthusiasm will go a long way in interview. Make sure you stay relaxed and don’t be afraid to allow your personality to shine through.

Examples of apprenticeship interview questions

Practise some of these questions with friends and family to polish delivering a fluid and confident answer. You’ll want to use elements of your CV and your research of the company to fuel your answers; add as much detail as you can to answer the questions efficiently. Remember you’re trying to sell yourself and prove why you’re the best person for this apprenticeship.

  • Why have you applied for this apprenticeship?
  • Describe yourself.
  • What do you know about this company?
  • Describe a time when you had to work under pressure
  • Describe a time when you had to work independently.
  • Have you ever worked as part of a team in or out of School?
  • Please give details of any hobbies that you have?
  • Do you have any work experience?
  • Where do you see yourself in five years’ time?
  • Have you got any questions for us?

Pro tip: Always have questions to ask at the end! If all of your questions have been answered during the interview, clearly say that your questions have been answered already and that you researched the company thoroughly beforehand.

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