An increasingly popular alternative to the costly university experience, engineering apprenticeships are available in a range of fields

What engineering apprenticeships are available?

A number of job sectors offer engineering apprenticeships, in areas including:

  • aerospace
  • automotive
  • broadcast
  • civil engineering
  • communication
  • construction
  • electrical
  • energy
  • hydraulics
  • marine
  • mechanical
  • mining
  • process engineering
  • systems engineering
  • telecommunications
  • transport.

Schemes span all available levels including:

  • intermediate - level 2, equivalent to GCSEs
  • advanced - level 3, comparable to A-levels
  • higher - levels 4, 5, 6 and 7 equivalent to a foundation degree or above
  • degree - levels 6 and 7, equivalent to a Bachelors degree.

Which firms offer apprenticeships?

  • Amey
  • BAE Systems
  • Balfour Beatty
  • BBC
  • British Army
  • British Gas
  • British Sugar
  • BT
  • EDF
  • E.ON
  • Ford
  • GSK
  • Jaguar Land Rover
  • Laing O'Rourke
  • Ministry of Defence (MoD)
  • National Grid
  • Nestlé
  • Network Rail
  • NHS Trusts
  • Rolls Royce
  • Royal Air Force
  • Royal Mail
  • Royal Navy
  • Scottish Power
  • Sky
  • Stagecoach
  • The Institution of Engineering and Technology
  • Toyota
  • TUI Group
  • UK Power Networks
  • Unilever
  • Virgin Media.

This is by no means an exhaustive list as engineers are essential in almost all sectors. Make sure that you don't miss out on opportunities by doing some research to see if the companies that you're interested in offer engineering apprenticeships.

Who are they aimed at?

Apprenticeships are traditionally aimed at school leavers or career changers and are presented as an alternative to university study. However, the level of the scheme will determine who can apply.

Level 2 and level 3 apprenticeships are usually aimed at school leavers. You'll need to be 16 or over, living in England and not in full time education to be eligible to apply.

Higher and degree apprenticeships (levels 4,5,6 and 7) are generally geared towards those with A-levels or those who have already completed an intermediate or advanced apprenticeship.

For the majority of engineering apprenticeships previous qualifications (usually GCSEs, A-levels for the higher levels) in maths, IT and science are required. Manual dexterity, an interest in the technical side of operating machinery, good people and problem-solving skills, teamwork ability and an enquiring mind are also an advantage for engineering apprenticeships.

What's involved in an engineering apprenticeship?

This depends on the type and level of apprenticeship taken. For example, the content of an aerospace engineering apprenticeship will be decidedly different from a broadcast engineering apprenticeship.

Generally engineering apprentices take on an operator role, involving anything from installing telecommunications systems, assembling car engines, fitting and testing machinery, demolishing buildings or checking commercial or RAF aircraft.

However, all programmes involve combining full-time employment with part-time study. You could be allocated one day a week to attend college or university, or study in scheduled blocks of a week or more. Assessment methods depend on the apprenticeship, but it's likely that you'll be assessed through a combination of essays, coursework and practical and written exams.

To discover what engineering apprenticeships involve, visit Institute for Apprenticeships - Search the apprenticeship standards.

How much will I be paid?

All apprentices are paid the National Minimum Wage (NMW), which currently stands at £3.70 per hour for apprentices under 19, and those aged over 19 who are in their first year.

If you are over 19 and have completed the first year of your apprenticeship you must be paid the minimum wage for your age. To check that you're being paid enough see The National Minimum Wage Living Wage calculator for workers.

As an apprentice you'll be paid for your normal working hours as well as for any training that is part of your scheme. You're entitled to 20 days paid holiday per year, plus bank holidays.

Salaries are determined by individual employers but in most cases you'll be paid significantly more than the NMW. According to the average salary for engineering apprentices is £16,629, while places the figure at between £12,000 and £28,000. Average salaries for schemes of this nature usually fall between £12,000 and £15,000 (£18,500 to £20,000 for degree apprentices). Once qualified, starting salaries for engineering apprentices can reach £35,000.

How do I apply?

You'll need to apply for an apprenticeship as you would any other job. Make sure you research the organisation thoroughly and that you're aware of what the apprenticeship involves. Tailor your application to each role - one size doesn't fit all.

Applications are normally made online through an application form, but check with the employer as methods can vary. You'll need to use relevant examples in your application. For an engineering apprenticeship, you could refer to relevant school projects in maths and science or any engineering-focused work experience you've undertaken.

Certain organisations may ask you to sit situational judgement, numerical and psychometric tests as well as participate in an assessment centre as part of their recruitment process.

A lot of schemes are advertised early in the year (January to April) with a view to start in September of the same year. However, engineering apprenticeships are available all year round so keep an eye out for vacancies that suit you.

Learn more about how to apply for an apprenticeship.

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