Think you need to attend university to become an engineer? Think again. Engineering apprenticeships allow you to earn while you learn, and they're available in a variety of disciplines
What engineering apprenticeships are available?
Available at intermediate, advanced, higher and degree level, engineering apprenticeships open doors to exciting and challenging careers in a range of industries. Programmes exist in the following areas:
- civil engineering
- process engineering
- systems engineering
To work in graduate engineering roles you'll need to complete a degree apprenticeship.
Which firms offer apprenticeships?
- Amey - Offers technical apprenticeships at higher and degree level in areas such as civil and construction engineering, environmental engineering, civil engineering and rail design.
- Arup - Apprenticeships cover disciplines such as civil and structural engineering.
- Babcock - Runs aviation and nuclear apprenticeships.
- BAE Systems - Apprenticeships span intermediate, advanced, higher and degree level. Programmes cover civil and systems disciplines.
- Balfour Beatty - You can undertake an apprenticeship in civil or mechanical engineering.
- BBC - Offers an apprenticeship in broadcast engineering.
- British Sugar - Runs schemes in electrical, mechanical, chemical and process engineering.
- BT - Provides a variety of engineering services apprenticeships.
- EDF - Offers an engineering maintenance apprenticeship, nuclear business apprenticeship and a nuclear engineer degree apprenticeship.
- GSK - Advanced and higher apprenticeships cover two engineering disciplines in manufacturing and research and development. They also offer a chemical engineering degree apprenticeship.
- Nestlé - Provides an advanced apprenticeship in food and drink engineering.
- NHS Trusts - Offered by individual NHS employers, you could undertake an electrical and engineering apprenticeship.
- Rolls Royce - Runs an engineering degree apprenticeship and a manufacturing engineering degree apprenticeship.
- Sky - Software engineering and home service engineering are just two of the apprenticeships on offer.
- Stagecoach - Runs a mechanical and electrical engineering apprenticeship.
- Toyota - Offers automotive and maintenance apprenticeships.
- TUI Group - Provides an aircraft engineering apprenticeship.
- Unilever - Taking two to five years to complete depending on the programme, apprenticeships are available in supply chain and engineering.
This is by no means an exhaustive list. British Gas, E.ON, Ford, the Ministry of Defence (MoD), Network Rail, Royal Mail and the Armed Forces also offer engineering apprenticeships. If you have a particular interest in the nuclear industry, see nuclear engineering courses to learn more about available apprenticeships in this area.
Engineers are essential in almost all sectors, so make sure that you don't miss out on opportunities by researching the companies you're interested in to see if they offer any relevant schemes.
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've 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.
What's involved in an engineering apprenticeship?
This largely depends on the type and level of apprenticeship taken. For example, the content of an aircraft engineering apprenticeship will be 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, to 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 £4.15 per hour for apprentices under 19, and those aged over 19 who are in their first year.
If you're over 19 and have completed the first year of your apprenticeship you must be paid the minimum wage for your age.
As an apprentice you'll be paid for your normal working hours as well as for any training that's part of your scheme. You're entitled to at least 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. 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. You'll likely need to write a cover letter or supporting statement to go with your application. For inspiration see our example apprenticeship cover letter.
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.
Find out more
- Gain an insight into the engineering and manufacturing sector.
- Decide whether you should go to university or do an apprenticeship.