What you should know before you apply for an apprenticeship

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Apprenticeships can be a great way to gain relevant and useful qualifications at the same time as working, earning a wage and developing skills that will benefit you throughout your career.

Traditionally, apprenticeships have been seen as primarily a way to start a career in the trades for school-leavers and an alternative to continuing with further or higher education. However, the current UK apprenticeship scheme offers qualifications up to degree-level, with roles in a wide range of different industries and sectors, and are open to people of any age (16 years and above).

If you’re considering an apprenticeship, we’ve outlined some of the essential things to think about before you apply, which can help you make better informed choices about any potential apprenticeship application.

Check the apprentice level that best suits you

There are several different apprenticeship levels, and every apprenticeship role advertised will have a certain level that indicates the kind of qualification it will bring if successfully completed. The levels are:

  • Level 2 qualifications (Intermediate) are equivalent to GCSE passes at grades A*–C (or 4–9 on the new system)
  • Level 3 qualifications (Advanced) are equivalent to A level passes
  • Level 4 & 5 qualifications (Higher) are equivalent to a foundation degree (first year) or a higher education diploma/certificate
  • Level 6 & 7 qualifications (Degree) are equivalent to a bachelor’s and master’s degree respectively.

If you have any existing qualifications from school, college or university, this can help indicate which level of apprenticeship might be best suited to you. For example, if you already have GCSEs, an Advanced apprenticeship might the ideal next step. If you already have A-levels, you might want to apply for a Higher or Degree level apprenticeship. Find out more about the choice between an apprenticeship and university.

Look at the available apprenticeship job roles

If you have a good idea of the career you want to have already, it might be fairly straightforward to look for apprenticeships in that area and follow the path through. However, there are hundreds of different roles available that fall under the umbrella of apprenticeships, so it’s worth giving some thought to what kind of role might be most suitable for you as there might be several options to choose from that can give a great foundation for your future career.

Applying for an apprenticeship job role that incorporates something you are already interested in is usually a great idea, as it can help you make the most of the entire experience if it’s something you are passionate about or have a special interest in.

For example, if you are interested in how things work and how to fix them, an engineering apprenticeship might be the ideal fit. Alternatively, if you love social media or creating content then an apprenticeship in digital marketing could be the perfect match.

Consider the practicalities of travel

Thinking about how you’ll get to and from work as part of your apprentice role is important, because it needs to be a journey that is sustainable for the duration of your apprenticeship. If you don’t have your own transport and will be relying on public transport to get to work, you’ll need to make sure that this will be possible at the times that you’ll need to travel.

Look at what apprenticeships are there which are available and relevant to you and within a reasonable distance to travel before applying for a role.

Consider the apprenticeship wage

How much you’ll be paid as an apprentice can vary, depending on the length of the specific apprenticeship programme and the employer. There is a minimum hourly rate that employers have to pay all apprentices during the first year of their programme, which is currently £4.81 in 2022 and this usually changes every April. Employers can choose to pay more than this, and many do.

If the apprenticeship programme you apply for lasts for longer than a year, it’s important to note that the wages for the second year onwards must then be at least the national minimum wage for the age of the apprentice and the national living wage for those aged over 23. These are currently:

  • Under 18s – £4.81 an hour
  • Aged 18-20 years – £6.83 an hour
  • Aged 21-22 years – £9.18 an hour
  • Aged 23 or above – £9.50 an hour

As mentioned earlier, employers can choose to pay more than the minimum legally required and many will do so. When you apply for an apprenticeship, the job description will usually inform you if the role has a wage that is higher than the required minimum, but you can always ask an employer to confirm what the role pays if you are invited for an interview or are offered the job.

Need help to apply for an apprenticeship?

For some people, when they apply for an apprenticeship, it might be the first job application they have ever done and it can feel a bit daunting. Some top tips include:

  • Make sure that your application is tailored to the specific role you are applying for and the responsibilities that you know the job will include. This will be detailed in the job description so it’s important to reference things such as your relevant skills and experience in your application to help the potential employer see how well-matched you are to the role
  • Write a great cover letter that helps your personality and enthusiasm to come across. This can help show why you would be a good fit for the role in a way that there isn’t room for on the factual application form.
  • Ensure that you check your application before submitting it and get someone else to check it for any errors or typos too. Making mistakes on your application doesn’t look good to potential employers and ensuring that your application is error-free can help show that you pay attention to the little details, which can work in your favour during the recruitment process.

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