Finding and making the most of an apprenticeship

01 January 2017 | Careers Advice | Thomas Peacock

Apprenticeships have never been more popular as a post 16- route. According to, there are up to 28,000 apprenticeship vacancies available online, covering more than 170 industries. With such a wide range of pathways and routes available, narrowing down your options and finding the apprenticeship that’s right for you can seem a bit daunting.

We’ve come up with a few hints and tips to get you thinking about your perfect role and some advice about how to make sure you’re getting the most out your apprenticeship.

Finding an apprenticeship

Different apprenticeships offer different levels of progression and qualifications, and have different entry requirements, so think about which is best suited for you:

  • Intermediate apprenticeships are about equal to 5 GCSE passes
  • Advanced apprenticeships are about the same as two A Level passes
  • Higher apprenticeships can lead to NVQ Level 4, or a foundation degree
  • Degree apprenticeships are becoming increasingly common and can help you achieve a full degree as part of your course

Talk to people who have experience in a particular industry to see if it’s right for you. You might have been told to start by looking for an apprenticeship to do with a subject you enjoyed at school, which can be a good jumping off point – if you enjoyed school. However, if you prefer to learn with your hands rather than in a classroom, think outside the box – for example, most trades, such as plumbing or construction, won’t have been available as options in schools. If you or your family members don’t know anyone personally, then search out case studies on the Internet.

If you’re looking for advice on a sector in general, then check out apprenticeship advice websites. Most will have sections for each industry, which will give you a general overview as well as profiles for people who work in that sector, so you can see the variety of roles available to you.

For example, the Energy sector covers roles in Nuclear power, sustainable resource management, electrical network construction and maintenance and many more. If you’re looking to get into a specific company, many will have their own YouTube channels where you can listen to apprentices describing their own experiences in particular roles.

Tailor your CV and cover letter to each apprenticeship you apply for. When applying, you need to be able to talk about why you think you’d be great for the specific role you’re applying for, which you can’t do if you send out the same CV and cover letter to everyone.

Look at the job description for the role, and use this as a basis for constructing your cover letter. If the employer is looking for a specific set of qualities, such as good time management, communication skills or the ability to work in team, then make sure to talk about them and give examples of when you’ve used them in your cover letter. For example, you could have played team sports, either in or out of school, or had to keep to strict deadlines for handing in coursework. Not only does this show the employer that you’ve actually read the job description, it shows that you’ve put some care and thought into your answer – something that will stand you in good stead against any other candidates applying for the same role.

Most importantly, be honest on your CV. Don’t put down work experience or jobs down that you haven’t actually done.

Don’t get hung up on your lack of qualifications. If you’re struggling to find things to put on your CV, then think about the work experience you’ve already had up to this point.

Have you had any part-time work while at school, for example in a restaurant? Then you’ve already started to develop your customer service skills in a high-pressure environment.

Even if you don’t want to go into a customer service role, your employers will value your ability to recognise the skills you already have and to be able to show that you are willing and able to learn.

At this stage, employers know that you won’t have a wealth of industry experience to fall back on, so it’s important to show enthusiasm and passion for the placement you choose. Being curious and showing that you’re eager to learn can more than make up for any gaps in experience – so make sure this shines through on your CV and in your cover letter.

When you’re invited for an interview, turn up prepared.

  • Dress smartly and get your clothes ready the night before - you don’t want to be rushing around in the morning
  • Turn up on time and leave enough travel time so that you can find an alternative route if traffic is bad, or public transport is late
  • Practice standard interview questions with a friend or family member to get you used to thinking on your feet
  • Read over your CV and cover letter to refresh your memory, as employers could as you questions
  • Research the company – their website will have the company’s mission statement, their plans for future growth and news about what they’ve been up to, so use these resources to get a good picture
  • Prepare some questions to ask your employers about what your normal working day will be like, your job prospects after completing your apprenticeship and what the company culture is like

Making the most of your apprenticeship

So when you’ve found your apprenticeship, how can you make sure that you’re getting the most out of your new role? Below are a few tips to give you an idea:

Set goals for what you want to have achieved by the end of your apprenticeship. Think about what skills or qualifications you want to gain, what role you would potentially like to move into after your apprenticeship and keep this in mind while working.

Having clear objectives will help you keep focused and determined, especially when you’re going through more challenging periods in your placement.

Network with your colleagues and make the most of the people you work with. They’re a huge source of information, hints and tips about the company you work for, and have a wealth of experience in the sector you’re now working in. Socialise, ask smart questions about your new role and use your initiative, and you’ll find it much easier to settle into your new role.

Accept that you will make mistakes. Employers realise that you’re new to the world of work, and so making mistakes is inevitable. Be mature, admit that you’ve done something wrong and ask for feedback to make sure that it doesn’t happen again in the future.

If you ask more questions in the beginning, it shows that you’re willing to learn and mature enough to ask for help. Don’t let a mistake knock your confidence either – you’re in a challenging, new environment and will be learning constantly, so don’t let a small error trip you up.

If you need any more advice, then come along to WhatCareerLive? where you can meet with employers and ask for advice about apprenticeships from industry professionals.

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