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 framework
A framework is 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 framework ‘Business and Administration’.
The number of apprenticeship frameworks available in the UK is steadily increasing, but to better your chances of finding a good match, keep your options open by searching for two or three different frameworks. For example, if you’re fairly sure you want to work with computers, you might search for ‘IT, Web and Telecoms’, ‘Software Development’ and ‘Network Engineer’.
No idea which framework is right for you? You could use Unifrog’s Apprenticeship tool to rank frameworks by criteria such as ‘vacancies available’, ‘salary’ or even ‘happiness’. Also, we have a bunch of guides available in the Know-how Library that go into detail about specific apprenticeship frameworks.
Worth knowing: Apprenticeship ‘frameworks’ are being phased out and will be replaced with ‘standards’ by 2020. For more information on why this is happening, click here. For a full list of which frameworks that will be withdrawn and when, click here. For a full list of the apprenticeship standards that have been approved to date, click here.
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 this table 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 entry requirement guides for each country, 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.
The application process is fairly straightforward - you can use the Unifrog Apprenticeship tool to apply directly for the vacancies on your Shortlist. Just click on the APPLY buttons on your Shortlist.
Alternatively, you can apply 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
Some applications will require you to answer a few questions or submit a CV. If you want help with writing a CV, we have a great guide to get you started. You can also use the Unifrog CV, Activities and Competencies tools to build up everything you need, push them to your Locker and then assign them 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 will take a bit of time and effort – but it will give you a far higher chance of securing an interview.
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.
Applying for a degree apprenticeship? It's worth contacting the university that offers the degree apprenticeship directly, as they'll very often be happy to get in touch with you as and when opportunities come up. The best way to do this is to phone the admissions or course enquiries department.
4. Attend an interview
If you’re invited for an interview, well done – you’re nearly there! Interviews aren’t really anybody’s idea of a fun day out, but a little preparation goes a long way. We’ve created a full guide on how to prepare, 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 - 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.
5. 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.
- Know your rights – you should also by now have an Apprenticeship Agreement (equivalent to a contract of employment), which should outline 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 work place. This includes:
- Sick pay entitlement
- 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.
Once you have a good idea of your rights as an apprentice, what to expect from your training and how to budget your finances, you’re all set - good luck!
Did this guide answer your questions? If not, or if you have any ideas for new guides, email firstname.lastname@example.org - we'd love to hear your thoughts!