Thinking of doing an apprenticeship but not sure where to start? This guide will take you through every step - from choosing a framework to planning your finances.
1. Choose a standard or framework
In England, apprenticeships are sorted into standards; in Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland, frameworks are used. They are essentially the subject area of an apprenticeship. Whereas you might choose to study ‘Business Studies’ at university, for example, you can choose to do an apprenticeship in the standard ‘Business and Administration’.
You can search through hundreds of different standards and frameworks using Unifrog’s Apprenticeships tool. The tool will allow you to sort and rank by criteria such as ‘vacancies available’, ‘salary’ or even ‘happiness’.
The number of apprenticeship standards and frameworks available in the UK is steadily increasing, but to better your chances of finding a good match, keep your options open. Our Apprenticeships tool allows you to select up to ten at a time. So, if you’re interested in working with computers, you can select the standard ‘IT, Web and Telecoms’, as well as ‘Software Development’ and ‘Network Engineer’.
Worth knowing: In August 2020, apprenticeship frameworks in England were swapped to standards. The change in name was intended to mark a broader change from qualifications-based apprenticeships to occupation-focused ones. In other words, a framework revolves around gaining certain certificates and qualifications, whereas the aim of a standard is that an apprentice can carry out all aspects of their job. For more information on this, see the Useful resources at the end of this guide.
2. Choose a level
Generally speaking, if you currently hold qualifications at one level, you should be able to apply for an apprenticeship at the next level up. A Welsh student with a Level 2 NVQ, for example, should be eligible to apply for a Level 3 apprenticeship. If you’re not sure which level qualification you have, use the table in the Useful resources at the end of this guide to find out.
England, Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales each have different names for apprenticeship levels (in England, for example, Level 3 apprenticeships are often referred to as ‘Higher Apprenticeships’). To help you get to grips with it all, we’ve created guides for each country’s system, which you'll find in the Know-how Library.
Once you have an idea of which level you want to go for, you'll still need to check the individual entry requirements for each apprenticeship as, much like job advertisements, each one has its own specific criteria. You may also want to apply for two different levels to broaden your options.
3. Find opportunities
You can use the Unifrog Apprenticeship search tool to find vacancies. Alternatively, you can find opportunities through the national apprenticeship service for your country:
- For Scotland, click here
- For Wales, click here
- For Northern Ireland, click here
- For England, click here
On Unifrog’s Apprenticeships tool once you’ve created a shortlist you can apply for the opportunities you’ve saved directly from your shortlist. You can do the same thing using the vacancy search tools hosted by the apprenticeship services for Scotland, Wales, Northern Ireland and England.
Some applications require you to answer a few questions or submit a CV. If you want help with writing a CV, take a look at our guide on Acing your CV.
You can also use the Unifrog CV, Activities and Competencies tools to build up the evidence you need for your applications, push your work to your Locker, and then assign things to specific apprenticeships using the Apply tool.
The Activities and Competencies tools will come in especially useful for questions such as ‘When have you demonstrated good leadership?’ or ‘What experience do you have working with vulnerable people?’
The most important thing by far is to tailor your CV and/or application to each individual apprenticeship, taking care to address each of the requirements listed in the description. Yes, this can take a bit of time and effort - but it will show that you’re dedicated to that specific role, rather than just looking for any job.
Useful tip: If you haven’t heard back from the employer after a week or so, it doesn’t hurt to give them a call just to check your application has been received. It'll show that you’re keen and will give them the opportunity to ask you any questions.
5. Attend an interview
If you’re invited for an interview, well done - you’re nearly there! Check out our guide, How to interview like a boss, but here are the three main points to remember:
- Research the employer. Use their website, blogs and social media to find out what they’ve been up to recently and what makes them stand out.
- Practise answering questions that might come up. You should be for questions such as ‘Why do you want to work here?’, ‘What do you think your main responsibilities will be?’ and ‘What would you say are your biggest strengths/weaknesses?’
- Get organised for the big day. Plan your transport, organise a lift if possible, and get some smart clothes ready.
6. Final steps
You’ve been accepted! Excellent - what now?
- Get your finances in order. By this point you should know what your wage will be, so use Excel or Google Sheets to create a table of your weekly or monthly expenses. Remember to include rent, bills and weekly shopping (if living independently), transport, lunches and clothing. This will give you an idea of how much you have left in your budget to spend each week.
- Apply for an Access to Work grant if you’re a disabled apprentice. You can find out if you’re eligible, and how to apply in our guide Financial support for disabled students: UK apprenticeships.
- Know your rights. You should receive an Apprenticeship Agreement (equivalent to a contract of employment) from your employer, which outlines how long you’ll be employed, the training you’ll receive and your working conditions. Apprenticeships working more than 33hrs/week are entitled to the same benefits as everyone else in the workplace. This includes:
- sick pay
- at least 20 days paid holiday a year, plus bank holidays
- statutory maternity/paternity pay and maternity/paternity leave
For more details on what you’re entitled to, read our full guide Apprenticeships - know your rights.
- This article explains the difference between frameworks and standards.
- This table will help you work out your qualification level.