How to get an apprenticeship if you are leaving school or college

There is a lot of talk about apprenticeship and this is never more so as we approach apprenticeship week 4th-8th March this year. All over the country there are events taking place and here in Norfolk we have the Norfolk Skills and Careers Festival. As part of this we celebrate apprentices that have done well and succeeding in competing their training.

The question though I get asked the most is where I find an apprenticeship. Sadly, I hear feedback all the time that still apprenticeships are not sold enough in schools, and although careers advisers do their best, as do members of staff there just isn’t enough clear information given out. Options for local 6th form and colleges are easily found and so those options are often put before apprenticeships despite many young people telling us they want to learn practically on the job.

So how do you go about finding an apprenticeship if you are young person. Is there one place to look? Do you wait for a Careers Festival or event to approach training providers or employers? What even is a training provider?

The honest answer which I feel is the elephant in the room is that it isn’t easy. It isn’t that the information isn’t out there. You can look for vacancies on many websites including the government apprenticeship website, Not going to Uni and local sites like here in Norfolk helpyouchoose.org or Apprenticeship Norfolk. Many local authorities do their own version of an apprenticeship guide that lists different types of apprenticeship and gives contacts for all the local training providers for the different vocational areas. Here in Norfolk it is called Your Guide to Apprenticeships Norfolk.

There are however many issues with the information. There is not one single place to find all apprenticeships particularly if you are looking further afield say to national employers or schemes. Sometimes you have to go to a company website to find the information you need. This is particularly true if your area doesn’t support the vocational choice you want to go into. Here in Norfolk Arboriculture for example has been one of those areas that you would think opportunities exist but in fact are very hard to find. Even finding the relevant information within a website is hard and you have to know whether you are applying for an intermediate apprenticeship, an advanced apprenticeship, a higher apprenticeship whether you can get to that apprenticeship easily – many in Norfolk might not seem very far away but transport can be a problem in rural areas.

Deciphering all this information means that sometimes it seems easier to go for the academic route or maybe a vocational course rather than an apprenticeship.

There is also a question of standards. Some see apprenticeships as the second option, the lesser option for those that don’t make academic grades. This opinion wrongly still exists. We need this to change. Many apprenticeships require good grades at GCSE and provide the young person with skills crucial to the work place of the future. Not only that they have a relevant qualification filling the skills gaps we need for the economy of the future, but they have a paid job. However, the stress on employers and training providers to get the quality right with what seems to a complex and arduous funding system means many are battling uphill. We are often in a catch 22 situation where there are not enough employers, or not enough quality training providers to offer opportunities we know young people want.

Apprenticeships depend on employers coming forward to succession plan their next employees offering quality training and opportunities. In addition, training providers, those organisations whose job it is to work with employers to provide the training support and help young people get a qualification that is recognised in their industry are under more funding stress than ever before.

The Government Levy introduced on 6th April 2017 has strangulated some providers and has often been used for the training up of existing staff in companies rather than on apprentices coming into the employer. Some would argue what is wrong with training staff up, and indeed looking at the globalised high skill economy we are encompassed by this is to be appalled but not at the expense of new life blood flowing into our companies keeping the economy afloat for years to come.

So, if you are young person today sitting thinking about an apprenticeship what do you need to know, where do you go?

Firstly; that the timing of applying for apprenticeships is different often from college. Many college applications or university applications take place between September and January. Some apprenticeships may be in this time period, but many will be later looking to catch leavers, maybe from February onwards some much later. Careers advice in the autumn term therefore may not cover this period, and so it relies on the career staff in school to still intervene at these later periods providing up to date relevant information on vacancies locally to young people in the schools or colleges they attend. For Parents sites like All About School Leavers are very helpful in filling in what may or may not be picked up in school or college.

Secondly; where to go for the right information: Many young people may not get enough time in school solely looking at apprenticeships and how they can negotiate the sites or opportunities labyrinthine to really be effective. There is lots of information, lots of sites, but where is the information telling you about the opportunities you want? Young people need exact information, which employer, when to apply, how, what that employer will want them to say on an application or in a CV they see so they can really apply effectively and within the specified time given for the vacancy.

It can take a parent or young person and even me as an adviser, hours seeking out the right opportunities for a young person so they really get to apply to what they are interested in, have the credentials for and practically can get to. It is serious leg work, and it is this that so often halts a young person in their track. In a way it is a good selector, do you have the determination or initiative to keep looking and seek out advice from the right people or organisation. Don’t give up – if this is what you want keep going and ask difficult questions and email companies or organisations someone will know.

Thirdly; Knowing your local area, or what careers advisers call Local Market Information. This is something that not enough time is spent on. What is your area known for? Is it manufacturing, or engineering, finance and insurance, marine industry, service sector? Knowing the big but also the smaller employers can really help you find opportunities otherwise missed. It also saves a lot of time. If you are looking for apprenticeships in a vocational area that isn’t appearing on local sites it may be that employers for that are don’t exist in your local area.

However, they may exist nationally. This helps you know where to look on national sites, but also thinking about what employers do that type of work will lead you to employer sites where often apprenticeships are given under the career section. This is not only valuable information for school leavers but also graduates who often are equally lost as to where to go next.

Local market information about employers can be found on local sites the Local Enterprise Partnership find yours on the location map on lepnetwork.net and sites like we have like Norfolk Insight which gives LMI in an easy to read format and can tell you what is going on where you live.

It might not be for young people so much but for careers teachers or advisers this can really help young people understand what skills are going to be needed in their area, what employers are in their areas and therefore where apprenticeships might be.

In school we learn about other countries, other languages, but we also have a duty to education young people in our region about the local economy, about employers and not just the most heard of ones but the others that provide great opportunities locally that they may not have heard about.

This ensures they can in the future make well informed realistic career decisions that are suited to who they are. In this way, we foster a work force not only equipped to give us the skills we need in the future, but also young people proud of the career they are in whatever route they took to get there.

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