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Choosing the right apprenticeship for you

May 9, 2017

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Apprenticeships always seem to be in the news these days – but how should you go about choosing an apprenticeship that is right for you?

An apprenticeship is a real job where you receive training while earning a wage so it’s worth taking the time to do your research.

By completing an apprenticeship, you could be following in the footsteps of some highly successful people – including Actor Sir Ian McKellan, Fashion Designer Stella McCartney, Chef Jamie Oliver and our very own Managing Director Nathan Evans.

Do your research

So where to start with your search? The National Apprenticeship Service website is a fantastic resource for you to begin to get a handle on apprenticeship opportunities in your area. You can search for roles within a geographic radius of where you live or alternatively browse apprenticeships by category, such as construction, planning and the built environment or science and mathematics.

One of the first things to consider is the level of apprenticeship you wish to work towards. The level of apprenticeship may affect the length of your training and the minimum entry level qualifications you will need to have obtained before applying for the role.

Intermediate Apprenticeships

An Intermediate Apprenticeship is the same as five good GCSE passes. You’d work towards work-based learning qualifications such as an NVQ Level 2, Key Skills and, in most cases, a relevant knowledge-based qualification. Completing an Intermediate Apprenticeship often allows entry to an Advanced Apprenticeship. Most of the business administration, IT and finance apprenticeships that we offer at Clarkson Evans start at intermediate level.

Advanced Apprenticeships

An Advanced Apprenticeship, like the one offered to our would-be electricians, is equivalent to two A-level passes. Advanced apprentices work towards work-based learning qualifications such as an NVQ Level 3, Key Skills and a relevant knowledge-based certificate, which in the case of our electrical apprentices is the AM2. Advanced level apprentices should have between 3 - 5 GCSEs at grade C or above or have completed an Intermediate Apprenticeship. Our electrical apprentices are accepted onto our apprenticeship programme with GCSEs Grade C in English, maths and a science.

Higher Apprenticeships

Higher apprentices work towards work-based learning qualifications such as an NVQ Level 4 and, in some cases, a knowledge-based qualification such as a Foundation degree. Apprentices can also progress to higher education, including university degrees.

Degree Level Apprenticeships

They are similar to higher apprenticeships and provide an opportunity to gain a full bachelor’s (Level 6) or master’s degree (Level 7). The courses are designed in partnership with employers, with part-time study taking place at a university or college. They can take between three to six years to complete, depending on the level of the course.

Nowadays apprenticeships are not just being offered to people who wish to become electricians, plumbers or hairdressers, but also for more seemingly exotic roles such as greenkeepers, investment operations specialists and lab technicians.

Use your network for advice

Remember your family and friends are a great careers resource. Ask them about their jobs and how they got to the positions they are in today. Did they complete an apprenticeship? If they had their time again would they still work as an electrician, teacher, quantity surveyor? Do they know anything about the industry you’re thinking of going into and would they recommend it to you? One in four of our new apprentice electricians are recommended to join our company by their family and friends!

Seeking the opinions of people you know is particularly important if you are considering an apprenticeship after working for a few years. People that know you well often have a really good idea about what you are really like and where your strengths lie.

It’s a common misconception that apprenticeships are just for school leavers and yet the average age of our electrical apprentices is 23 years old. If you’re thinking about embarking upon a career change in your twenties you can’t rely on support from your school or college careers adviser and so the people around you play a vital role in helping you to determine your choice of future career.

Discover more about your local business community

Another useful source of potential apprenticeship information and opportunities locally are the websites of medium to large employers. Whether you are based in Oxfordshire or Milton Keynes, in every region there will be several employers known for their apprenticeship training. For example, throughout the south west our award-winning apprenticeship programme for electricians is known far and wide and we’re often the employer of choice for would-be sparkies!

Trade bodies also do their best to promote apprenticeship roles in their industry sector. For example, companies operating in the construction industry have put their weight behind an initiative called Go Construct, which showcases the various roles available in the construction industry.

Think about your long-term goals

You’ll be surprised at the range of apprenticeship roles on offer but if that feels a little daunting start by thinking about the kind of things you like doing and what interests you. Are you the type of person who likes to work outdoors as part of a team or would you prefer to work independently in an office environment? Think about your long-term career goals and expectations – is your apprenticeship the first step towards your dream job? Do you see it leading towards further training?

Research the roles you’ll be qualified to undertake when you complete your apprenticeship, considering everything from a job’s long-term earning potential to whether it will eventually offer you the opportunity to move into management, work part-time or relocate to another part of the country, or even work overseas.

Make an exhibition of yourself

There are several free, national careers exhibitions held throughout the UK where you’ll be able to meet current apprentices and find out more about their roles. We exhibit at several of these events so what better opportunity to come along and chat to our existing staff. These exhibitions will not only provide you with further information about a company before you apply but also give you the chance to impress a potential employer with your enthusiasm, skills and passion for apprenticeship training.

Is big beautiful for you?

Not every workplace is the same and you should choose your apprentice employer carefully. Working as an electrical apprentice for a large employer such as Clarkson Evans would mean you are likely to be one of several apprentices working for the company. This means you’ll undertake your training with like-minded people of a similar age. It is also likely that big employers, like ourselves, will have their own training facility, with dedicated facilities designed to meet your needs.

Choosing a smaller apprentice employer may mean that your on-the-job training will be supported by attending a local college or training provider. Being part of a smaller team could make it easier for you to know everyone involved in the business.

Larger apprentice employers often have apprentice management teams whose job it is to ensure that your training stays on track. They are also on hand if you have any extra support needs or concerns as your training develops. 

Our apprenticeship roles are advertising throughout the year and do not have traditional autumn start dates – this gives candidates total flexibility about when to start their apprenticeship. All employers do not all operate in the same way and so, if the start date for your apprenticeship is important to you, this is something to find out more about at the research stage.

Compare the market

In the same way that would-be undergraduates compare the programme of study from one university degree to another it is important that prospective apprentices compare the training offered from one training provider to another. Read the training provider’s Ofsted report and see what current apprentices have to say about the training. How many days will you be expected to devote to theory work? Is the emphasis on practical skills? How far do you have to travel to go to college? Is there additional training on offer as part of the apprenticeship programme? For example, our electrical apprentices have additional training on basic first aid, which is over and above what is offered to many other apprentice electricians.  

Embarking on an apprenticeship could provide you with your time to shine, to take the first step of the ladder to a rewarding well-paid career. You owe it to yourself to choose your apprenticeship with care.