Applying for apprenticeships in Northern Ireland

Find everything you need to know about applying for an apprenticeship in Northern Ireland.

Each apprenticeship vacancy will specify the entry requirements, set out the details of the job role, and how to apply – applications are usually made direct to the employer — online, through an application form, or a CV and covering letter.

When to apply

Apprenticeship vacancies appear throughout the year – each will give a deadline for applications, and start dates. Don’t wait until the deadline to make an application – some companies close their recruitment as soon as they have a sufficient number of suitable candidates.

Vacancies with larger firms often start appearing from September, but most start to be advertised from January or February onwards. Smaller businesses might start recruiting a month or two before the job starts, so if you hope to start work in August or September, start looking from March/April onwards.

If you’re interested in working for a particular employer, take a look at their website – most have a page on careers, apprenticeships, or vacancies. If you are interested in a particular apprenticeship job role, you can filter your search for these on the vacancy listing.


Maisy, software engineering apprentice

The application was a detailed process – 500 words about yourself and why you wanted to do the course. Then you got shortlisted and did a further essay about PwC – what you knew about them and your intentions with the course. And then there was an assessment centre. I had a one-to-one interview with someone from PwC and Queen’s, and a group role play. There were 18 people, split into three groups. The [waiting] at the beginning of the day was the worst bit for me. But it was a quick day. I found out they’d accepted me and then I got the formal offer through UCAS.

Application tips

  • When vacancies appear, it’s a good idea to apply as soon as you can — depending on numbers of applications, firms may close the recruitment process early.
  • Take time to research the job role and your career interests thoroughly. You may want to organise some relevant work experience to confirm it’s what you want to do, and build your CV.
  • If you’re at school or college, always check the start date for the apprenticeship to make sure you will have finished! Some smaller firms advertise vacancies only two to three months in advance of the actual start date.
  • Look carefully at the skills and personal qualities required in the job description. Try to find examples of things you have done to demonstrate what they're looking for.
  • Don’t be shy, and try not to undersell yourself! Be confident about what you have achieved and what you can offer the employer. Equally, be careful of overselling, as anything you write may be explored further at interview.
  • Always check spelling and the readability of your work. And ask someone to double check it for you. It’s easy to make mistakes such as typos – but in a competitive field, errors can count against you and be seen as a lack of attention to detail.
  • Employers will have particular things they are looking for in candidates, which will be set out in the vacancy details. There are common ones you should try to demonstrate evidence for on your CV, applications, and covering letters. These are:
    • communication skills — both written and verbal
    • ability to work in teams and/or on your own
    • motivation and enthusiasm
    • able to work under your own initiative
    • flexible and committed approach to work/study 
    • positive ‘can-do’ attitude
    • good timekeeping and organisational skills
    • ability to meet deadlines, and work under pressure

When providing personal contact details, make sure your email address and any voicemail greeting on your mobile are appropriate for an employer!

​Help and support

If you're unsure about which apprenticeship you want to follow, or need more information about the apprenticeships programme, contact the NI apprenticeships helpline.  

Into Apprenticeships — Guide for disabled people

Disability Rights UK has produced this guide, answering common questions, such as how to find an apprenticeship, whether the training will be accessible, and what support is available in the workplace. There are several inspiring stories written by disabled apprentices about their own experiences and the challenges they faced. It also contains a useful resources section listing further websites, publications, and organisations which can help.

What happens next?

After you’ve applied, the recruitment process can vary widely. Larger companies can have several stages before you even get to an interview, so be prepared for some, or all, of the following:

  • initial functional skills assessment to test maths and English — a key component of apprenticeships
  • online aptitude tests
  • telephone or online interviews — used by some employers as part of shortlisting, before inviting candidates to an assessment day or face-to-face interview
  • attendance at an assessment day, where candidates are assessed on their ability to work in groups, and complete individual activities and tasks, followed by face-to-face interview

Smaller companies may have a slightly more informal or personal process, perhaps involving an initial written application, followed by face-to-face interview stages if you’re shortlisted.

Interview tips

Apprentices' rights and responsibilities