How to apply for an apprenticeship
You’ve found an apprenticeship you’re interested in– great! Now, what do you need to do? We’ll walk you through the application process step-by-step in this blog. So you know what to expect and feel confident from the start.
Bylor group recruitment
Remember that the application process is likely to differ, depending on the employer. For instance, here’s the process for group recruitment at Bylor, an HPC contractor, so you can see how it compares:
- Apply online
- Initial telephone assessment: Confirm qualifications and fundamentals of the job
- Online interview
- Session with current apprentices: Discuss a day in the life and what it’s like to work at HPC
- Session with the college: Discuss expectations of apprenticeship
- Face-to -face interview or a second remote interview
Step 1: Complete an application form
Pretty much every apprenticeship you see advertised will request that you complete some sort of application form. This might only be for basic information. Or it could involve lots of questions specific to the role. In which case, you’ll need to spend time researching not just the job, but also the company to make sure your application is spot on.
Also: remember to read fully the criteria for the role – such as the qualifications required or the minimum age for the job (some apprenticeship at HPC are for 18+ only). It’s important to make sure that you’re completely comfortable with the job requirements too (e.g. working in a confirmed area, at height or any physical requirements etc.)
What’s apprenticeship season?
Historically, this refers to the period from October to March when employers opened up their apprenticeship schemes to new applicants – ready for them to start the following autumn. In reality though, employers, such as Bylor, an HPC contractor, can have openings any time of the year – particularly when they’re recruiting for roles where there’s a shortage of skills. So don’t hold back from applying for any roles just because it’s ‘out of season’.
Also, consider your own timetable. If you want a job that starts in September, start researching and applying for roles from Spring. Always check the start date. While some employers have long lead times in the run-up to starting an apprenticeship others will only advertise a new vacancy a month or two before they need someone to start. So make sure you’re available for the start date – and not on holiday or still in school!
Don’t wait until the deadline to apply!
Some employers will close an apprenticeship scheme as soon as they have enough candidates that meet their requirements. So get your application in quick – but don’t rush it. A company will want to see that you’ve spent time putting together your application and researching the role.
Top tips for success in completing your application form
- Skills and behaviours Provide examples of how you’ve demonstrated the skills and behaviours in the ad.
- Research the company Look on their website, their social media posts. And find out what they’re doing on site at HPC.
- Match up interests Find ways to align what you’re interested in with the company’s goals. So if they’re expanding abroad, mention if you want to travel.
What if there isn’t an application form?
Sometimes an employer might ask for a copy of your CV instead. Or you might be applying to a company you like on the off chance that they have an opening. In which case, you want to put a lot of effort into making sure your CV and covering letter get noticed… for the right reasons! Get more advice on putting together your CV and covering letter.
Not sure where to find apprenticeship jobs?
We advertise our roles through the HPC Jobs Service (you need to register to receive notifications about new jobs – and it’s only for 18+). HPC employers might promote them on their own websites too and LinkedIn. Or you could find them on the Government’s apprenticeship site or independent jobs sites.
You’ve submitted your application… now you wait! If you got your application in early, don’t expect to hear whether you’ve made it through to the next stage before the closing date.
You should hear either way though from the employer. And if you don’t, contact them after a couple of weeks. It maybe they haven’t finished going through all the applications yet. And they won’t mind you getting in touch – as long as you don’t bother them too often.
What if you’re not successful?
Don’t give up. Many apprentices will tell you that they applied for several jobs before they finally secured their first job. So don’t take any rejection personally.
If you can, ask for some feedback from the employer. Some will be happy to help; others might not have time. If this is the case, consider showing your application to someone in your family or a family friend to get feedback instead.
Did you know? In 2018/19, 393,400 people started an apprenticeship in England.
Step 2: Take an online test
Congratulations – you’ve been invited to take an online test! This is likely to assess your basic numeracy and literacy skills. There may also be some ‘aptitude’ tests – these are a bit like IQ tests. And they test how you respond to various challenges.
Some employers might skip straight to an assessment centre or online interview. But it’s best to be prepared, as you may face the same sort of tests in either of these environments.
Top tips for success in preparing for an online test
- Brush up on your Maths and English skills
- Practise, practise, practise! There are lots of sample interview questions online
- Ask other apprentices what their experience was like Ask at a careers fair, Ask an Apprentice event or Learn Live broadcast
Did you know... The ratio of women to men starting apprenticeships in 2018/2019 was 50:50?
Step 3: Visit an assessment centre
Congratulations – you’ve been invited to an assessment centre! This is a good sign that an employer is interested in you. But now they want to see how you work with others and respond to different challenges – much like if you were in the workplace.
What can you expect?
- Group activities – these might be problem-solving challenges, like the kind of tasks you’d have to complete in an escape room
- Solo exercises – you might need to give a presentation that you’ve been asked to prepare in advance
- Interview – this could form part of the day’s assessment
Top tips for success in preparing for an assessment centre
- Do your homework: Know where you’ve got to be and when for the assessment centre. Or if it’s virtual, make sure you’ve tested the tech platform and know how to use it. Also find a quiet room for the duration.
- Remember the job description: Try to showcase the skills and behaviours the employer is looking for. Plan your time and be proactive in listening and working with others.
- Remember your research: Be as relevant as possible to the business in how you respond to challenges and questions.
“An HPC apprenticeship … provides an amazing way to be able to study and learn, whilst networking with knowledgeable and like-minded people, something you wouldn’t do just by going to college” – Megan attended the first Young HPC event in 2017, and started apprenticeship in Project Controls at HPC the following year.
Step 4: Take part in an interview
Congratulations – you’ve got to the final stage and bagged yourself an interview! Here’s how to ensure you make it over this last hurdle.
The interview process
- Find out what format the interview is in Is it face to face, virtual or on the phone? How many people will be present?
- Don’t be late Make sure you arrive – or log in – in plenty of time. Look smart. And be responsive and positive.
- Do your homework If you’ve been asked to prepare anything, make sure you’ve done this in advance.
Will I always have to do an interview?
No – some employers might include an interview in the assessment centre activities. And some might invite you to an interview before an assessment centre day! Check what it says in the job vacancy or ask the employer if you’re unsure about the recruitment process.
Don’t worry about nerves… It’s completely normal to be nervous in an interview. Employers will be used to it and most will try to put you at ease. Focus on answering the questions clearly and demonstrating your skills. You deserve to have reached this stage. So take some reassurance from this and feel confident in how you present yourself.
Top tips for success in preparing for an interview
Know the employer: Research the company through their website or the Hinkley Point C (HPC) web pages. There’s lots of useful information on Young HPC and EDF’s website. Also, take a look at Start Profile and watch some of the films on YouTube to get an idea of what it’s like to work at HPC. Get a good feel for the contractor’s values, what it does and identify the things you have in common (e.g. charity causes).
Know the job: Know exactly what role you’re applying for – and why you want to work in this industry. Also, consider where the job could take you. And what you expect to enjoy most about the role. Read the job description closely, as this will contain all the details. There’s no point in applying to be a Digital Engineer Apprenticeship, for example, if you prefer to work outdoors in a hands-on role! You might also want to keep up to date with the relevant news in your industry, just in case your interviewer asks your opinions on any topical news stories.
Know yourself: Consider how your training, skills or experience will help you meet or exceed the requirements of the role. See our skills and behaviours section if you need more help on identifying your skillset. And think of examples to demonstrate how you’ve shown key skills and behaviours, like problem solving and resilience.
Practice makes perfect
Now you’ve done your research and planned how to answer common interview questions, practise doing it!
Ask a family member or friend to help you out. And try to take it seriously. It’ll flag up any areas that you might not be as confident in talking about. They might also have suggestions for how to improve your techniques. For more tips, take a look at our interview techniques page.
What happens afterwards?
Hopefully it went well and you feel confident you gave it your best shot. The interviewer will give you an idea of when they’ll make their final selection by. So pay attention and don’t be shy to ask about this at the end of the interview, if they don’t volunteer the information.
It’s always a good idea to email the employer afterwards to thank them for their time. Make sure you send anything – like an example of work – that you promised to share after the interview. And don’t be hesitant to ask any questions you forgot to ask on the day.
Treat the process as an ongoing learning experience
- Could you have performed better in any areas?
- Were you asked any questions you hadn’t anticipated?
- Did you get a positive response to your answers?
Read more in our guide to online interviews and interview techniques section.
Step 5: Get a job offer!
Congratulations if you’ve made it through the selection process and are offered a job at the end of it! The hard work and effort was worth it – and you deserve to celebrate.
What if you don’t get the job?
- Don’t give up. It’s not uncommon to apply for more than one apprenticeship before you land a job. Use the experience to your advantage. You made it to the final stage. That’s a big achievement in itself.
- Ask for feedback. Most employers will be happy to share this with you. It’s also an opportunity to find out if they’re likely to have any more jobs coming up. They may well keep your details on file and get in touch if another vacancy opens.
- Look for other apprenticeships. Do your research. Find where there are open days, site tours at HPC or careers fairs. Take advantage of any opportunities to meet employers. Treat these as if they were interviews or assessment centre activities. Be professional and impress with your research and attitude.
- Improve yourself. Even when you’ve landed a role, you should never give up on developing your skills and behaviours. Consider how to develop yours further. Take a look at the 10 skills and behaviours valued by employers. And jump on any opportunities that come your way – like the Young HPC Elevate professional development programme.
It might seem a rigorous process but employers are investing in your training for the next one to six years. So they want to make sure they pick the right person for the job. And it’s why you should treat the application process as seriously as you would if you were applying to university or for a graduate job.
Read our five myths about apprenticeships to discover the main misconceptions about apprenticeships.
- Know your start date and where you need to be on your first day
- Ask what your working hours will be
- Find out what you need to bring on your first day
- Carry out any checks in advance (e.g. you might need a DBS certificate)
- Ask for any other useful information (e.g. parking)
Is the recruitment process the same for all apprenticeships?
Although many apprenticeships follow a similar application process, there may be some subtle differences. And remember that if you impress an employer enough at a careers fair or event, you might be offered a job on the spot and not even need to apply – as happened to one HPC recruit!
- Advice from Apprenticeships.gov.uk on the application process
- Complete these three Start activities to demonstrate to employers you’ve learn about the different types of apprenticeship; what’s involved in the application process and where to find apprenticeship roles
- Useful information from UCAS on applying for a post-16 apprenticeship