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Employment

Apprenticeships: How to get a job once your placement ends

Apprenticeships are a route to learn skills, earn money and gain employment. But what happens next?

Apprenticeships allow trainees to learn on the job and earn money while gaining qualifications, but they are most often just the beginning of a career.

In 2019-20, over 150,000 people completed an apprenticeship. Some were youngsters stepping into the world of work for the first time, with others seeking a career change in the post-pandemic world.

With a labour shortage across many sectors of the economy, the need for reskilling and changing careers following the pandemic means apprenticeships are essential.

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“I think apprenticeships are really important, I think they are going to help a lot of people potentially change their career path into sectors that are going to be busier given the current and the future climate,” said Spencer Mehlman, the founder and managing director of the National Skills Agency.

“People that might have been in hospitality and retail may well be looking at changing and becoming more aligned to technology-led roles. And that may well mean picking up an apprenticeship in one of those key areas.”

All apprenticeships offer the chance of gaining a qualification once they have been completed – some which can be equivalent to a degree – and often apprenticeships can lead to a full-time job too.

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But not all apprenticeships guarantee a full time job at the end, and it can be daunting to head into the jobs market after spending years as a trainee. 

We asked Jennifer Coupland, chief executive of the Institute for Apprenticeships and Technical Education, which supports employers to develop quality apprenticeships, how to go about finding work at the end of an apprenticeship.

What’s the outlook like for someone who has just completed an apprenticeship?

You can feel confident that you have a head start on other people coming straight from college or school. This is because you will have a lot of work experience under your belt that you can flag on your CV.

The great thing about apprenticeships is of course that they combine fantastic training at work, where you learn from your colleagues and managers, with off-the-job training in all the technical things you need to know from a college, university or other training provider.

“Definitely don’t talk down your apprenticeship. Celebrate all the great things you have learned.”

As well as learning the practical work skills, you will also be ahead with developing lots of other things that employers want like soft skills – the ability to communicate and work as part of a team for example. These things can’t just be learned in the classroom.

Also, remember that employers have really bought into apprenticeships and want the skills apprentices have learned.

How should I sell my apprenticeship after it’s completed?

Definitely don’t talk down your apprenticeship. Celebrate all the great things you have learned.

Your apprenticeship will have been designed by expert employers who created it because their sector has specific skills needs that you have been trained to fulfil. This should give you plenty of confidence going into a job interview, particularly if you’ve done a bit of research into the organisation you are applying to work for.

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Assuming that you passed your endpoint assessment, you will have proved that you have developed all the right knowledge, skills and behaviours. Make sure you explain all this to the people doing the recruiting.

It’s a good idea to have a set of first-rate examples prepared for an interview that shows how you put what you learned into practice for the benefit of your apprenticeship employer. Be positive and focus on how far you’ve come

How can an apprenticeship set me up to find a job at the end of it?

First of all, it’s important to remember that most employers keep on apprentices after they complete. Make sure you find out where you stand on this well before you sit your endpoint assessment, if at all possible.

Also, don’t be too disheartened if you find that you have to move on – employers usually have good reasons, often more related to their business position than your performance.

Regardless of this, you will complete with a high quality and well-respected qualification and impressive work experience.

Remember that there are lots of great opportunities to progress your training further once you have finished your apprenticeship. Work is going on across government to make opportunities for progression all the way up to degree apprenticeships and other higher-level training much clearer. You can find out more about opportunities for progress on our occupational maps.

On a more general note, if you are on the hunt for work, much of the same advice applies to qualified apprentices as everyone else. Do your research into the opportunities out there and I recommend tailoring your CV and covering letter to suit different vacancies. It is more work but it will pay off.

Employers can tell the difference between applications that have been thrown together in 15 minutes and those that have benefitted from a lot of time and thought.

 At what point in the apprenticeship should I start putting in applications for a job?

It’s best for apprentices to start planning for future applications as early as possible. There’s a good chance that you will stay on with your employer but don’t assume this.

Always keep your CV up to date. Make sure it’s a great record of your achievements. These could be anything from completing a project you have been working on to delivering a presentation to senior leaders.

If you could say one thing to an apprentice who is nervous about finding work at the end of their placement, what would it be?

Be proud of everything you have achieved and confident about your prospects for progressing into a rewarding career. It is tough out there, but your apprenticeship is respected by employers and has given you the skills you need to succeed!

Have you been affected by the economic impact of the coronavirus pandemic? The Big Issue is committed to supporting its readers and find ways to help people stay in their jobs and in their homes through our Ride Out Recession Alliance. Send your stories and ideas to rora@bigissue.com to help us support those who need it most.

Career tips and advice from our Jobs and Training series:

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