Applying for an Apprenticeship: When is the Best Time to Begin?

Written by Steven Marwick
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Applying for an apprenticeship can have a very positive effect on a young person’s life. The opportunities that they unlock can have lifelong benefits and the friends made during this time of transition can last a lifetime. 

There is no set time that employers have to take the decision on an apprentice and it is normally done however best fits in with their work schedules. There are a few different patterns in how apprentices are recruited and we have broken these down for you below. 

Apprentice Recruitment Practices

Ad-Hoc Recruitment

Many employers will recruit apprentices for an immediate start, as and when they are needed, like they would do with any job vacancy at their firm. In such cases it pays to scour apprenticeship job boards to ensure that you have latest information about available apprenticeships in your chosen field. Most of the apprenticeships advertised on an ad-hoc basis are at apprenticeship levels that don’t require A levels or Highers to get into. 

This is obviously not something that you will be in a position to leave school immediately to fulfil so you should only apply for one of the immediate start apprenticeships after you have left school. 

The beauty of the Ad-Hoc approach is that it is something that is available the whole year round and not just in a specific recruitment window. Many people apply for apprenticeships with companies who use the cyclical apprentice recruitment model instead, so there may actually be less competition if you apply for something ad-hoc, outside of that time. 

Cyclical Apprentice Recruitment

The most popular way of dealing with apprenticeship applications is to make them cyclical and always around the same time of year. This also means that when one apprentice finishes their placement it should be possible to take on someone else in the same kind of time pattern. 

Most application periods for apprenticeships open some time in the period from September until March and closing dates will fall between late October and early May. This means that if you are thinking of applying in Year 13 (S6 in Scotland), you should be thinking about applying at the start of the school year. 

This really means that if you are looking to apply for an apprenticeship in September, you should be looking into your application in July or August and figuring out which of the possible apprenticeships on offer would suit you best. This can be a combination of subject area and also the level of study that is required as part of the apprenticeship and the qualification that you will receive upon completion. 

When Will my Job Interview for the Apprenticeship Be?

The shortlisting process will differ between different employers and their policy on when to hold interviews will as well. Some prefer to shortlist and call people for interview as and when they receive applications and some wait until after the closing date. It is well worth getting your application in early to make sure that you haven’t lost out before you have even started. 

Some employers will run particular days with activities in order to assess the potential candidates and these assessment days will look at things like how well you interact and work with others, as well as your aptitude at the kind of tasks they are likely to require from you in the course of an apprenticeship. This can be a good way to measure maturity and responsibility that is just not possible in a traditional interview setting.  

Many of the employers who hold assessment days like this will be running the higher level apprenticeships where there are more stringent application criteria and a lot of competition for places when applying for an apprenticeship.  

Can I Hedge My Bets and Apply for Undergraduate Study?

If you are unsure whether to apply for a University degree course or an apprenticeship, we would recommend that you think about it some more and talk to people you trust in order to figure out what the correct path is for you. 

Having said that, it is entirely possible to apply for both University degree courses and for Apprenticeships at the same time. There is nothing in the Universities and Colleges Admission Service (UCAS) rules that prevents you from doing this. 

The application dates for Universities can be from October until around January (Although some may not come back to you until around May) and this makes it possible that there will be an overlap between the responses from apprenticeships and offers from universities, though it is likely that the responses from Universities will come back first.

Attending Open Days and Careers Fairs

This is an excellent way to get ahead of the field and perhaps even make some contacts with businesses who you may be interested in pursuing an apprenticeship with. We have a helpful guide about why you should attend a careers fair and how to get the best out of your experience when you are at the careers fair

Remember when visiting a careers fair that the potential employers aren’t looking for the finished article. It doesn’t matter if you are a bit nervous when talking to them, confidence when talking to people in management positions can take a long time to muster and some people never manage to. 

The important thing is to identify some businesses that you think may be of interest and swap contact details after having a chat with them. It can be helpful when applying for an apprenticeship to be able to say that you met someone from their organisation at a careers fair. It looks good if you can include the name of the contact and recount a little of what you discussed in your covering letter

Applying for an Apprenticeship – What Should I Do Next?

If you are thinking of applying for an apprenticeship, you should give some thought to why you should apply for an apprenticeship then familiarise yourself with the different apprenticeship levels and the criteria for each. The levels are Intermediate, Advanced, Higher and Degree. When you are ready to take the next step, you should read our helpful guide on how to apply for an apprenticeship

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Last Updated: Monday June 20 2022
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