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How to get an apprenticeship

Forget Lord Sugar – real-life apprenticeships are both enjoyable and rewarding

With millions of TV viewers tuning in to the latest series of The Apprentice,Michael Cheary at explains all you need to know about apprenticeships, and how to secure one.

Apprenticeships are an exciting prospect for anyone taking their first step on the career ladder. For 16 entrepreneurial hopefuls each year, this means getting involved in one of the fiercest battles on TV for a top job under the incredulous eye of Lord Alan Sugar. Luckily for the rest of us, apprenticeships are an exciting, enjoyable and rewarding prospect for anyone looking to forge their career. But what are apprenticeships all about, and how do you secure one?

What is an apprenticeship?

An apprenticeship is a work-based training programme that allows you to earn a recognised qualification whilst gaining practical experience. They usually provide a combination of on-the-job training and off-the-job training, which may mean day release to attend college, distance learning or independent study. What’s more, since apprenticeships offer a small amount of pay, you can start earning some money at the same time.

Apprenticeships usually take between one and four years to complete and there are hundreds of different types, covering literally thousands of different roles, like health, beauty, construction, property, plumbing, graphic design, and everything in between.

Anyone over 16 in the UK not currently in full time education can apply for an apprenticeship. While some apprenticeships are targeted solely at candidates between the ages of 16 and 18, there are no age limits to start an apprenticeship, with many large companies allowing applicants of all ages.

What are the benefits?

The main advantage of an apprenticeship is that you can earn a salary whilst gaining industry specific qualifications. They also allow you to build the foundations for a career, whilst providing more practical training, making them a perfect way to gain experience in your chosen industry.

Other key benefits include:

·     One-to-one training with a reputable employer

·     No student loans or debts

·     Opportunity to build your professional network

·     Learn industry specific skills in a practical setting

·     Gain a professional qualification

·     Start earning money

Securing an apprenticeship

The first thing to do is decide what industry you want to work in. Try and weigh up your interests, and work out what your main strengths are, what skills do you want to learn, and what career prospects are there within this industry. Do some research into what’s available to you, what apprenticeship schemes are currently available within your area, and where you want to go in your career, before moving forward.

Although most apprenticeships are entry-level positions, you should still take care to write a good CV that plays to your strengths. The majority of employers won’t expect you to have an extensive employment history, but your CV should be used as an opportunity to demonstrate some of your valuable skills you’ve gained from school or part-time work such as:

·     practical problem solving

·     being able to work independently and as part of a team

·     reliability

·     good listening skills

·     attention to detail

·     a willingness to learn

You should also write a cover letter explaining why you think you’d be suitable for an apprenticeship, why you want to work within that industry and for that company, and where you want to go in your career. Writing a personalised cover letter for each position you apply for, although time consuming, will dramatically improve your chances of success.

As with any position, ensuring proper preparation for the interview stage is essential. With the possibility of competing against a number of other candidates, always be conscious of how to stand out from the crowd. Practicing common interview questions and knowing what questions you want to ask are vital.

Don’t give up

Finally, resilience is the key attribute to adopt when starting to look into apprenticeships. While they can be competitive to get into, they are a great way to learn a trade in a hands-on environment.

Feel like an apprenticeship is the right option for you? View available apprenticeships on