An essential guide to finding and applying for apprenticeships

L Plate on car Aimee Bateman shares her advice on how to find and apply for schemes.

Everyone knows that a university degree can do wonders for your career prospects. But many people overlook apprenticeships, which can also be a great way to kickstart your professional life.

Apprenticeships suit people who enjoy a varied learning experience. Every scheme involves some academia, but it’s coupled with on-the-job training. So it’s the ideal way to earn and learn, especially if you don’t want the risk of student debt.

And there is something for everyone, with more than 200 different types of apprenticeships, lasting from one to four years — from nursing and graphic design, to horticulture and electric vehicle engineering. You will be learning skills that are beneficial to employers, with the aim of making you more employable in the future.

But this is a big commitment and it is essential you choose the right apprenticeship for you.

Here are some tips to help you through the application process:

Do your research

The more aware you are of your likes, dislikes, strengths and weaknesses, the better choices you will make. You’ll be able to sell yourself solidly and hiring managers will appreciate this.

There may be different entry requirements depending on the apprenticeship and the industry. You can look for apprenticeship programmes via the National Apprenticeship Service or at your local Jobcentre Plus. You could also approach companies directly to ask if they have any opportunities. They may have something coming up in the future, but haven’t advertised yet.

Although there will be a learning provider involved in your apprenticeship, it will be the employer that provides the practical experience, so it’s important to know how you will be supported. What is the culture like? Have they employed apprentices before? Will you have a work-based mentor? What are the opportunities for you afterwards?

Apprenticeships can be hard to find, but make sure you don’t pick one just because you fear another opportunity won’t come up. The programme must feel right for you.


Once you’ve found an apprenticeship you’re interested in, you need to prepare your CV.

This may sound strange, but your CV isn’t about you: it’s about how you could add value to the employer within the role you are applying for. Try to focus on the following areas:

• Personal information: Don’t be afraid to include details of your social media presence, alongside your other contact details. It’s becoming more common for employers to search for potential employees online. You’re allowed to have a personality and a life, but make sure that what they see online matches what you are telling them offline.

• Structure: Some employers may only spend seconds glancing over a CV before deciding if it is relevant. Use short sentences and bullet points to allow them to do this easily.

• Hobbies: Listing hobbies like swimming, socialising and going to the cinema is fine, but in this competitive market you need to do more to make an impression. Show an employer how your hobbies demonstrate what type of an employee you’ll be.

• Cover letter: This is an opportunity for you to build rapport with the employer and give them a further insight into you and your application. Before you tell them why they should pick you, tell them why you picked them. No employer wants to feel like you’ve just sent out a batch of applications, hoping one of them calls you, so ensure you make it specific to the organisation.

What are the benefits?

The National Careers Service claimed that apprentices can earn £100,000 more on average during their career, than those who take a different route.

While on a programme, pay can often be good too. According to the 2012 apprenticeship pay survey an average apprentices’ wage is around £200 per week.

Aimee Bateman is a careers mentor. She appears in a series of films for BBC Learning Zone on apprenticeships.

Thanks to The Guardian for allowing to republish this article. You can view the original version on the Guardian website.