If you’re interested in the world of engineering, don’t be fooled that a university degree is the only way to get ahead with your career.
Many organisations across a wide range of industries now offer apprenticeship schemes at different levels. This means if you’re 16 or over the age of 19, there will be something out there for you.
What is an engineering apprenticeship?
An engineering apprenticeship blends both theory and hands-on learning. It is basically a full-time job that incorporates training while you work, where more senior and experienced staff will teach you all the skills you need to establish and progress your career.
At the end, you will have also achieved a nationally recognised qualification, such as an NVQ, and have earnt a wage throughout (around £170 a week on average). Other benefits include paid holiday, and possibly pension contributions and access to food and leisure facilities.
Engineering apprenticeships usually take between one and four years to complete, with the exact length depending on the level of apprenticeship, and the company or sector you choose to work in.
What can I do with an engineering apprenticeship?
Engineering is a highly versatile subject, allowing anyone that studies for an apprenticeship (or any other qualification) in this sector to work in a wide range of careers.
Just some of the roles available include:
- Mechanical Engineer Designer
- Marine Systems Scientist
- Electrical Engineer
- Manufacturing Engineer Technician
- Vehicle Simulation Engineer
- Environmental Advisor
- Biomedical Engineer
At this stage, it’s worth looking through what you can do with an engineering apprenticeship, as this will help you narrow down the type you need to apply for in order to achieve a particular career path.
If you’re still not sure what you might want to do afterwards, look at the different areas of engineering and decide which one appeals to you most (discussed further down in this post). This will at least ensure you end up completing an apprenticeship in a branch of engineering you’re enthusiastic about.
What levels of apprenticeship can I apply for?
There are currently four different levels of apprenticeship that you can apply for, providing you are 16 or over and not in full-time education (however, you can still apply for a programme even if you are still studying at school or college).
- Intermediate level apprenticeship (level 2) - any qualifications you achieve are equivalent to five GCSEs at grades A-C.
- Advanced level apprenticeship (level 3) - this is considered equivalent to gaining two A levels.
- Higher apprenticeship (levels 4-7) – this can lead to a foundation level degree or above.
- Degree apprenticeship (level 6 and 7) - this can earn you either a bachelor’s or master’s degree.
Which area of engineering should I apply for?
There are many different areas of engineering that you could potentially work in. These include:
- Aeronautical engineering
- Chemical engineering
- Civil engineering
- Electrical engineering
- Mechanical engineering
- Marine engineering
- Transport engineering
It’s a good idea to research as many sectors as possible so you can make an informed decision about which one is right for you. During this exercise, try to think about and write notes on the following:
- What subjects are you good at in school/college? Do you excel in Maths and Physics, or do your strengths lie in Biology and Chemistry?
- What would you love to learn more about? Would an apprenticeship in a sector(s) fulfil your desire for more knowledge and experience in this topic?
- Are there any past experiences or current situations in your life that inspire you to follow a particular type of engineering?
- Do you have a certain career path already in mind? If so, which branch of engineering would help you achieve this?
It’s also worth looking at the websites of organisations that offer apprenticeships in sectors you might be interested.
Don’t worry if it takes you a while to decide which branch is best suited to you – it’s important to thoroughly assess all your options so you don’t waste time further down the line when you discover the apprenticeship you’ve applied for isn’t the right one.
Once you’ve made a decision, you can then think about searching for engineering apprenticeships.
Finding an engineering apprenticeship
Many organisations look to recruit apprentices in the spring, ready to start in September, so start looking any time between January and May to get the best pick of available vacancies.
Apprenticeships can be advertised at any time of the year however, so begin your search as soon as you know that an engineering apprenticeship is right step for you.
To help you with your apprenticeship search, take a look at the following list of web resources:
- Gov.uk Apprenticeship Search – this comprehensive database of current apprenticeship schemes is probably the best place to begin looking for vacancies
- The Apprenticeship Guide
- Tomorrow’s Engineers
- Royal Air Force apprenticeships
- Network Rail
- British Army
- Not Going To Uni
Other suggestions for finding engineering apprenticeships:
- Contact companies with IET Approved Apprenticeship Schemes
- Local newspapers and magazines
- Attend IET Local Networking events to find out about opportunities in your area
- Search the internet for companies that may interest you, and contact them directly
- Enquire at your local further and/or higher education to see if they provide engineering apprenticeships
Hopefully these pointers will help you find some appropriate schemes to apply for. Once you have drawn up a shortlist, it’s time to start on your applications.
Applying for an engineering apprenticeship
Now it’s time for the more difficult part – filling in your application.
Try not to be put off by the long form in front of you. Just take it step-by-step and do a bit at a time. The important questions to ask yourself here are:
- Do my skills, qualifications and experience suit this apprenticeship scheme?
- How am I unique and what relevant qualities make me stand out from the crowd?
Employers can receive hundreds of applications for their apprenticeship opportunities, so it’s essential to sell yourself and explain why they should hire you over the competition.
Do your background research into the company, and use this knowledge to tailor your application to the position – what can you bring to the table that will make you a real asset? This shows that you’ve put thought and effort into your application, and you haven’t just sent off something generic to lots of different places.
Make sure you read through each application carefully once you’ve completed it, and check for any spelling and grammar errors (don’t just rely on a word processor for this – show it to other people too!).
Your family and friends can be a great help here, by making sure you’ve paid attention to detail and haven’t made any mistakes that could cause you to end up on the rejection pile. A fresh set of eyes can pick up on things you may have missed, so always try to ask at least one other person to look over it.
For more information and advice on applying for an apprenticeship, check out our dedicated guide.
The apprenticeship interview
If you’re offered an interview for an apprenticeship scheme, then congratulations! You’re half way there now, but unfortunately the battle’s still far from over.
It’s best to treat your apprenticeship interview the same as you would a job interview. This means maintaining a high level of professionalism at all times, and making sure you’re well prepared.
As part of your preparation, you should:
- confirm the time and date of the appointment as soon as possible
- research the company thoroughly so you can answer any questions that may be asked
- plan your journey accordingly so you arrive ten minutes early, factoring in any time that might be spent stuck in traffic, finding the building, etc.
- make a checklist of everything you need to take with you
- have your outfit washed, ironed and ready the day before
- jot down any questions you want to ask them (it’s good to have at least a couple prepared so you seem engaged and interested in the position).
On the day, try not to let your nerves take over. Remember, interviews are a two way process, and it’s your chance to find out whether it’s the right opportunity for you.
Smile and be yourself as much as you can – letting your personality shine through is a must, and counts for a lot more than people realise!
Be positive and confident, while maintaining eye contact with your interviewers throughout. Your body language will speak volumes, so be enthusiastic, listen to what they are saying without interrupting mid-flow, and think carefully before responding to their questions (don’t feel you have to rush and answer straight away!).
For more advice, take a look at our apprenticeship interviews guide.
For more tips and advice on applying for apprenticeships, please see:
- What is an apprenticeship?
- Why take an apprenticeship?
- Choosing an apprenticeship
- How to apply for an apprenticeship
- Apprenticeship interviews
- Apprenticeship testimonials
- Apprenticeship wages
Best of luck with your engineering apprenticeship application – if you have any comments or feedback on my post, please leave your message below.