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NAW 2017 - 10 top tips if you’re struggling to find an apprenticeship

Gloucestershire College is celebrating the 10th anniversary of National Apprenticeship Week with interviews, facts and advice for those trying to find an apprenticeship.

Here we offer 10 top tips if you're struggling to get yourself hired as an apprentice...

To celebrate National Apprenticeship Week, Gloucestershire College is promoting the benefits of doing an apprenticeship, as well as the wide range of roles available.

But what if you’ve already been looking for an apprenticeship, but haven’t had any success in landing the right role?

Here are our 10 top tips if you’re struggling to find the right apprenticeship…

1. Smarten your search

Unfortunately it’s very unlikely the perfect apprenticeship is just going to land in your lap! Unless you’re very lucky, finding the right apprenticeship for you is going to require some time and effort, however it’s easy to feel overwhelmed by the boggling number of websites out there containing thousands of apprenticeship vacancies.

Never fear! We’ve compiled a list of the most useful websites to visit:

  • Gloucestershire College live vacancies – we update our apprenticeship vacancies page daily with the latest vacancies in the county.
  • Find an apprenticeship service – the official Government website for finding and applying for apprenticeships. Set up an account to apply.
  • Indeed – search for ‘Apprenticeship’ under keywords and select your area.
  • Go Think Big – a digital hub for all things career related, including useful articles and tools like the CV Evaluator and Salary Calculator. Visit the ‘Opportunities’ section to search for apprenticeships by region, as well as internships, work placements and graduate schemes.
  • Company websites and social media – larger companies tend to advertise their vacancies on their website and social media pages.

The best way to avoid hours of trawling through vacancies that you’re not interested in, is to narrow your search. Start by thinking about how far you’re willing to travel to work each day and how you’re going to get there. There’s no point in applying for vacancies in places that you can’t get to, so use search filters to tailor results to your requirements.

2. Don’t apply for everything

Putting in an application for a range of different apprenticeships may seem like a way of increasing your chances of getting an apprenticeship, but in most cases it isn’t a good idea.

Doing an apprenticeship, means committing to the role five days a week for at least a year, so it’s important that you apply for a vacancy you are suited to and can see yourself doing in the long term.

Go for quality, not quantity when completing applications by choosing the vacancies which really ignite your interest and then spending time tailoring your application to each position you apply for. Applicants who list their skills and qualities related to that specific role will stand out a mile from those who use the same application for each different apprenticeship they apply for.

3. Don’t be put off by ‘desired skills’

As well as GCSE requirements (typically A-C in English and Maths, but can be higher for more technical roles), many employers also ask for a number of desired skills. These are usually specific to the role, for example an IT or administration apprenticeship might ask for Microsoft Office skills, and an engineering role might require an interest in electronics and numeracy skills.

Although you stand a much better chance of getting the job if you do hold all of the skills listed by the company, the reality is that these ‘desired skills’ are really a wish list of what the ideal candidate would hold. If you meet the required GCSE standards and can demonstrate a genuine interest in the industry you are applying for, as well as a willingness to learn, an employer might see the potential in you.

If a vacancy is completely outside your skillset, it is probably not worth applying for unless you are actively making an effort to acquire at least some of the entry requirements, for example: retaking a GCSE qualification, doing volunteer work or attending a relevant evening class.

4. Show employers you have an interest in the industry

You’re more likely to be considered for an apprenticeship if the employer you’re applying to can see you have a genuine interest in their industry.

Think about any events, courses or work experience in the industry you’re applying for you can include in your application. If you don’t have any of these, it would be worth finding a local opportunity you could get involved in, such as volunteering at an event or even doing some work experience on weekends or during school holidays with a company in your chosen industry.

5. Ace your application

Your apprenticeship application form is all a potential employer will have to go by initially, so make it stand out in a good way! Allow plenty of time to complete the form, so you can think your answers through and ask a teacher or family member to check it for mistakes.

Your application is your chance to highlight your strengths and why you are the best person for the role, so think about your best qualities and those which will be useful in the role you are applying for. Try to back up the strengths you list with examples and evidence of when you’ve put these qualities to good use.

Finally check and double check for spelling mistakes, grammatical errors and general readability – don’t let silly mistakes cost you your apprenticeship!

 6. Prepare for interviews

Interviews can be a daunting prospect at any age, but being as prepared as you can will help you feel less nervous, and will impress interviewers by showing you’re serious about the job. Ways to prepare:

  • Be well presented. Think about the type of company you are interviewing for and what is appropriate – if you are going for an apprenticeship in business administration or accountancy, typical office workwear such as a shirt/blouse and smart trousers/skirt is appropriate. If the role is in a more manual trade such as construction, smart/casual is probably more acceptable. If you’re interviewing for a hairdresser or fashion brand, think about demonstrating your interest in fashion or being up-to-date with the latest trends, while still looking professional.
  • Research the company you’re interviewing for – you should know what they do and what the apprenticeship will involve.
  • Practice answering questions – get a friend or family member to rehearse the kind of questions which might come up in the interview. A useful list of commonly asked questions can be found here.
  • Remind yourself of the job description and the qualities the company is looking for in an apprentice (it always helps to save copies of the job vacancy advert when you apply). Think about the work experience and qualifications you have under your belt which meet their requirements, and examples of when you have demonstrated the qualities they’ve asked for.
  • Prepare a couple of questions to ask them at the end of the interview about the company or apprenticeship. This is a great way of showing you are really interested in the role.

Finally, remember nerves are normal and interviewers will have been through the same experience as you in their own careers. An interview is not just for the company to assess you as a candidate; it’s also your chance to find out whether their apprenticeship is right for you, so relax, take some deep breaths and be yourself.

7. Get post-interview feedback

If you’re unsuccessful in an interview, contact the employer and politely ask for feedback on why you weren’t chosen. They may be able to give you some pointers to use in your next interview or something to work on.

8. Don’t be shown up by your social media

Some employers look up profiles of potential employees on social media, so don’t let an offensive comment, or post that can be seen as in bad taste cost you your apprenticeship. Your online profiles should reflect your personality, but remain professional.

9. Or your contact methods

If your email address sounds pretty childish, offensive or just plain silly it might be worth changing it, or opening a second email account for potential employers to contact you on. Novelty email addresses look unprofessional, and similarly, make sure you have an appropriate voicemail message set up on your mobile.

10. Seek some advice

If you continue to be unsuccessful in your applications, it may be time to seek some help from apprenticeship experts.

At Gloucestershire College, our Advice Team can give you one-to-one assistance on your education and career options. Book an appointment with them by contacting Student Services on 0345 155 2020 or emailing:

The National Apprenticeship Service also runs a national helpdesk from 8am to 10pm, seven days a week. Through this you can ask for feedback from employers if you weren’t selected, or make a complaint if you think you received an unfair interview process or think you were unsuccessful because you were discriminated against.


Inspired to find out more about apprenticeship opportunities in the area? Gloucestershire College is hosting an Apprenticeship Information Evening is free to anyone considering doing an apprenticeship and parents are welcome to attend. Book your place at the event

Why Gloucestershire College?

We have a lot of experience offering Apprenticeships and work-related training. We have industry-standard facilities and experienced teaching staff which provide the ideal complement to work-based learning.

We are here to help

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