This week (6-12th February) is National Apprenticeship Week, and to help aspiring trade apprentices, IronmongeryDirect has created an expert guide including everything you need to know before applying.
What’s an apprenticeship?
Apprenticeships are schemes offered by employers and educational facilities. They offer a combination of on and off the job training to achieve a qualification in the relevant field. You’ll be paid an apprenticeship wage, and will have similar benefits to regular employees – like sick pay and a holiday allowance. You’ll be completing real working hours, and courses usually last between 1 and 5 years.
What can I get an apprenticeship in?
Apprenticeships are available in just about any career choice – and we’ll explain how to find the best apprenticeship for yourself in more detail below. Apprenticeships are particularly popular in trade careers because firsthand experience is usually essential to learning more physical, manual or vocational jobs.
Who can be an apprentice?
If you’re interested in taking the first step towards your dream trade career, you’ll need to know if an apprenticeship is suitable for your circumstances. In the UK, you’ll have to meet certain criteria in order to be eligible for an apprenticeship:
- You’ll need to be at least 16 years old
- You’ll need the right to live and work in England
- You can’t already be in full-time education
- You can’t already have a similar job
However, that’s not all you’ll need for a successful apprenticeship. Apprenticeships require hard work, dedication, constructive criticism and growth. Throughout your apprenticeship, you’ll have to demonstrate that you’re capable of being professional and working well with an employer. You’ll need to be punctual, making sure you attend work and training on time – both your education provider and employer can terminate your apprenticeship if you’re not able to meet the terms of your contract.
Levels and qualifications
Apprenticeships are often available at different levels, and how much experience or the qualifications you already have will often determine which course is right for you. Here’s some of the common apprentice qualifications you can earn:
Apprenticeship Levels & Qualifications
In some apprenticeships, you might pick up additional qualifications along the way – such as diplomas or first aid courses. If you’re still unsure about which level to go for, you could speak to a college or university providing apprenticeships in your chosen trade for more information.
Pros and cons of apprenticeships
If you’re still wondering whether or not an apprenticeship is for you, we’ve put together some of the most applicable advantages and disadvantages to this kind of program.
Benefits of apprenticeships
- You can earn on the job – with the National Minimum Wage for apprentices’ currently starting at £4.15 – while learning the skills you need to make your apprenticeship a full-time job in the future
- You’ll get first-hand employment experience, and develop your work ethic
- You’ll learn from highly experienced workers within your industry
- You’ll meet new connections and create a professional network
- You’ll leave with a recognised qualification
- Employers and educators will know your experience level, and will provide you with everything you need to learn
- You might be offered full-time employment once your apprenticeship finishes – but this isn’t guaranteed
- You won’t leave with debt from completing the course
Drawbacks of apprenticeships
- The national apprenticeship wage is lower than that of standard workers
- You’ll have to commit to attending at both your workplace and your educational institute
- You might not go to university or college, which could make it difficult if you’d like to swap careers later in life
- Sometimes it can be more difficult to find an apprenticeship than other traditional courses and qualifications
Finding An Apprenticeship
If you’re interested in completing an apprenticeship, there’s an abundance of programs to choose from out there. Pinning down and reviewing apprenticeships can seem overwhelming at first, but here’s 3 sure-fire ways to find your next career opportunity.
1. Search online
One of the easiest ways to find an apprenticeship is simply by taking a look online. You can take a look at an abundance of apprenticeships on the government website, or standard job boards like Indeed, Reed and Totaljobs. Here, you’ll be able to find out more about the courses, what’s required for them, and whether or not they’re suitable for you.
2. Speak to an education provider or agency
If you’ve decided on an apprenticeship, you can actually approach a college or university directly to find out what they have to offer. This way you can also choose where you study above all else. You can also ask education providers more about the course, and whether or not it’ll get you moving in the right direction.
3. Contact employers, agencies and recruiters directly
If you already have an idea of where you’d like to work, you can get in touch with employers directly. Plus, direct enquiries demonstrate drive and interest, which can really help you to get a foot in the door. You can also find apprenticeships through recruiters and agencies, who often benefit financially from confirming a place for you.
How to Get an Apprenticeship
Once you’ve found an apprenticeship you’re really interested in, it’s time to get everything sorted for a successful application. Apprentice applications are extremely similar to those of regular employees, but don’t forget – there’s usually plenty of competition.
1. Sort out your CV and cover letter
Firstly, you’ll need a good CV that sums up your experience to date. Make sure you include some information about yourself, your educational history, employment history (if you have one), and details about any previous work experience. You’ll also need to prepare a cover letter to summarise why you’d like to do an apprenticeship in this field, with this employer. If you’re new to CVs and cover letters, there’s plenty of online, educational and government-backed advice services to help you.
2. Make an application
While you may have everything down in detail on your CV and cover letter, most apprenticeships will require you to fill out an application form too. You’ll need to carefully answer questions in good written form and represent yourself as the perfect candidate. If you can, have someone else review your application when you’re done to highlight any areas that could do with a little more work – most applications allow you to save your progress to come back later.
3. Interview preparation
If your CV, cover letter and application get you to the interviewing stage, it’s a good idea to get in some interview prep to build your confidence and help you plan good responses. There’s plenty of ways to do this – you can look online and find mock questions to answer, or you could even ask someone to interview you a few times as practice. Again, you can find plenty of helpful resources online, from educational facilities, or even employment organisations, like the Job Centre.