Education can change your life and take you in a different direction at any age. This post looks at how to enhance your chances of gaining an apprenticeship. In 2017/18, there were more than 800,000 people that were participating in an apprenticeship in England. Moreover, 41% of those apprenticeships involve someone aged 24 or older.  I should know, as I’m one of them!

My journey

apprenticeshipGaining relevant valuable experience on-the-job with an apprenticeship can set you up for success in the industry you wish to enter. Before I started my apprenticeship, I was working at Tesco as the duty manager in an express store. I spent 2 years, working different days each week, gaining hands-on experience. I stacked shelves and dealt with issues varying from colleagues to customer complaints. While I enjoyed the hands-on work, I wanted to expand my CV and gain a qualification that employers would look at and take notice of.

In April 2018, I was offered the chance to change my career and start a digital marketing apprenticeship at ID Card Centre. I haven’t looked back since.

Using the power of knowledge to direct your future

“Knowledge is power” so they say, but what does this mean? The more knowledge you gain the more powerful you become as a person? What if it meant the more knowledge you gain, the more power you gain to direct your own future?

What if you don’t know what you would like to do for a career? Your dream career path might be staring you in the face; you just haven’t realised it yet. Have you ever thought that one of your hobbies could be turned into a career? For example:

  • Do you enjoy online shopping? Perhaps you should look into an education course or career path in web design or digital marketing.
  • Do you live on your computer? Maybe a career in IT is for you.
  • Are you addicted to your mobile phone? Love posting pictures of your food on Instagram? Why not explore the opportunity of digital marketing?

Aren’t apprenticeships just for school leavers?

apprenticesFor some, the standard route of completing their GCSEs and A levels and then moving away to University doesn’t sound very appealing.

For others, leaving school and getting a job straight away is their goal, and that’s fine. What if they could leave school, get a job and continue learning? Being paid to learn sounds great, there’s no loan or debt to accrue. So, what’s the catch?

For the learner, there is no catch other than having a deadline to complete your apprenticeship (don’t leave it till the last minute!). For the employer, there can be a cost for taking on an apprentice, but the benefits they can bring more than cover the outlay.

By starting an apprenticeship, you gain valuable life skills and experience that you cannot get by just studying. By gaining valuable skills that you can take with you wherever you go, you can impress future employers with skills gained early on and show maturity beyond your own age.

Also, apprenticeships aren’t just for young people. For example, Angela Bovell at the young age of 52 started an apprenticeship at Barclays.

Finally, many people don’t realise that it’s possible to take a degree-level apprenticeship while earning a wage and getting on-the-job, real-world experience!

How can you stand out in your apprenticeship application?

Recently, Nicola O’Brien, Managing Director of ID Card Centre, gave a talk about apprenticeships at Northampton-based Goodwill Solutions Learning Academy who supplies apprenticeships through their learning centre. ID Card Centre currently employs 3 apprentices, two aged 19 and myself aged 23 (classed as a “mature” apprentice).

Here are Nicola’s tips to help candidates stand out:

  1. Read the job advert thoroughly. Only apply if it’s the right position for you. Employers receive a lot of applications for a role. However,  some may be from people clicking ‘apply’ to any and every job that comes up on a job listing directory. Don’t waste everyone’s time doing it. If you’re sending out a generic application to every job, it will be obvious to the employer and you’re unlikely to stand out for an interview.
  2. Follow the instructions on how to apply. If an employer wants you to phone them or drop your CV in person, they’ll tell you. If they want an online application, then apply online – don’t turn up out of the blue!
  3. Send a cover letter. ID Card Centre always asks for a cover letter yet 90-95% of applicants never send one. Therefore, send one and you immediately stand out. It’s your opportunity to sell yourself outside of a formal CV. It also shows the employer you’ve read the job application, understand it, know the employer and role requirements.
  4. Don’t be afraid of gaps in your employment. Maybe you were looking for work, off sick, looking after dependents, incapacitated or incarcerated. Be honest, it’s best it comes out now. What did this time teach you? What’s changed? How does it make you more employable now?
  5. Attitude is everything. Although qualifications and experience do count for a lot, use your cover letter to demonstrate your willingness to work. What is driving you to work? Is it just the money or perhaps you are looking for a sense of purpose? Don’t presume the employer knows all this – tell them about YOU! Why should they invest in you? Why do you deserve this chance?
  6. Your CV is important, so get it right. This doesn’t mean just spelling and grammar! Add detail of what you did day-to-day but also special projects, things you were proud of, responsibilities you had. You may think – “I was just stacking shelves”, but turn that into “I took pride in my work, ensuring the shelves were stacked correctly and according to the Company’s process so that my colleagues always knew where to find something”.  Are you sociable, friendly and like helping others? Then how about “I enjoyed being the member of the team people could rely on or come to for advice”.
  7. Turn up on time. If it’s a telephone interview, be available at the agreed time! If an interview is arranged, turn up or let them know you can’t make it. Even if you don’t get the job, the experience is excellent and they may think of you for a future role.
  8. Use interviews to ask good questions. Questions like “what are the hours?” “how much do I get paid?” and “how much holiday do I get?” show the employer it’s all about you and it’s JUST a job. Instead, ask: “How is the training and induction plan structured?”,  “What team members would I be working with?”, “Are there opportunities for career progression?”, “What are the future plans for the company?”

Summary

All the above show you have a long-term plan. Remember, no employer wants to go through the process of taking on someone for a few weeks or months. When in employment keep an open dialogue with your employer. What’s going well, what’s not going well? For example, at ID Card Centre we do weekly catch ups and monthly appraisals to make sure everyone is happy and on track with support and training needs. Take the feedback on board, don’t be afraid to ask for help and support.

Overall, an apprenticeship is a great option that employers and people who are looking for a new career or qualification should take seriously. By learning and working, regardless of age, you will be gaining invaluable experience for the career path you choose.

Thanks for this post go to our friend Ciaran Walsh, Digital Marketing Apprentice at ID Card Centre who enjoys content writing and everything SEO.