Apprenticeships allow you to combine on-the-job training with part-time learning, and are great for those who don’t want to commit to another three or four years of full-time study on a degree programme. There are other advantages too – you get straight into the workplace where you gain crucial skills from the get-go, work alongside professionals in their fields, and earn a wage and paid annual leave too. Here are some tips on how to get the most out of your apprenticeship.
1. Do your research
It’s always unnerving being thrust into a new environment with new people, so familiarising yourself with the company and your role will help you hit the ground running. Simple things, like learning the names of your line manager and immediate co-workers before you arrive, will make the first day just that little bit easier.
2. Make a good first impression
It’s a cliché, but first impressions really do count and can colour the way you are viewed by colleagues for a long time after. From getting to work on time to being extra helpful in the office, it will all be remembered and may make the difference when it comes to bagging your next position in the industry.
3. Don’t forget your studies
Many schemes will see you spend one day a week at a training centre or college, while others release their apprentices for longer block periods of training. While your job will be structured with clear timeframes and accountability for what you do, it can be easy to forget about exams and coursework deadlines which are weeks away and where you are only accountable to yourself. Time management is a crucial skill, so set aside time for homework and revision so you don’t fall behind.
4. Ask for help when you need it
There are bound to be times when you don’t understand something. If you’re stuck then don’t be afraid to ask your colleagues or your allocated mentor. Your apprenticeship is supposed to be a learning experience and your colleagues expect to guide you on the way.
5. Stay positive
Try to be as enthusiastic for mundane or repetitive tasks as you are for any other. Your positive attitude will make you more friends in the workplace and you’ll be at the front of your colleagues’ minds when more interesting opportunities come up.
6. Learn more about the industry
Talk to people from different disciplines and in different roles to find out the sorts of jobs that could work for you, and take the opportunity to learn more about how your company works, the internal hierarchy and linkages with partners and suppliers.
7. Throw yourself into extra-curricular activities
From charity fundraising to sports clubs, most organisations have a host of opportunities for those who want to get involved in non-engineering activities. Get stuck in – not only is this a great way to meet new people and have fun, it can also make your CV look more distinctive.
8. Set your own goals
Much of your apprenticeship will be organised by the company you work for, but you can still set goals for the skills or experiences you want to acquire during the scheme. Speak to your line manager or mentor about how you can take on more responsibilities to gain the experience you want – people are usually happy to help those willing to do more work!
9. Talk to senior colleagues
The big decisions don’t end when you get your first job. Your career will be full of decisions about what ‘next steps’ you need to take, whether it’s for job satisfaction, better pay, or seniority. Talk to senior staff about how they got to where they are now to get some ideas of where you could take your career.
10. Keep in touch
Even if you move onto a new role, a different office, or move companies altogether, stay in contact with the people you meet on your apprenticeship. It’s important to grow your network within the industry, and when you look to make another move in the industry, they may know of a position you could go for.