Applying for an engineering apprenticeship

Are you eager to take on a career in engineering? Engineering apprenticeships offer students at all levels the opportunity to acquire hands-on skills and real-world experience while on the path towards becoming a qualified engineer. In this guide, we'll take you through the process of applying for an engineering apprenticeship, including invaluable advice from employers on what they seek in an apprentice.

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Typical recruitment process for an engineering apprenticeship

Engineering is a innovation driven industry. Whether you're interested in aerospace, heating, mechanical, sustainable, transport, electrical, or one of the other many areas of engineering, you will be a part of creating a new and exciting future for coming generations. So, what does it take to put yourself in the driving seat of change as an engineering apprentice. Here's some of the most popular processes that engineering firms ask from their candidates.
  1. CV, applications, and cover letters

    Applictions often include CV's, cover letters, or rigourous application question and answer forms. This is a great chance to showcase your passion for the engineering area you're applying for, and any relevant experience or qualifications you may have that back up your candidate profile.  
  2. Interviews

    Whether you're aiming at an enterprise engineering firm, or a small local business, you will be required to attend an interview as part of the application process. Depending on the business, this could be hosted virtually or face-to-face, and is an opportunity for both the company and yourself to ask questions about the role.
  3. Assessment centres and psychometrics

    Many larger engineering firms will invite you to an assessment centre, where you will complete a basic set of psychometric tests to measure your comptency levels in areas like maths and English. Usually these are group sessions, and you will be able to connect with other likeminded future apprentices. 

Dos and don'ts when applying for an engineering apprenticeship

  • Highlight any relevant practical experiences, such as part-time work in a technical field, or any engineering-related projects or competitions you've participated in.
  • Demonstrate your engagement with the engineering community by mentioning podcasts, YouTube channels, or publications that you follow, and explain how they've informed your understanding of engineering trends and technologies.
  • Research the engineering disciplines the company focuses on, such as civil, mechanical, or electrical engineering, and be prepared to discuss how your interests align with their work during the interview.
  • Avoid vague statements. Tailor your application and interview responses to showcase why you are drawn to that particular company, citing specific engineering projects, their innovation approaches, or their sustainability practices.
  • Remember that you are applying for a learning position. While confidence is key, humility is crucial. Acknowledge the skills you need to develop and express eagerness to learn and grow in those areas.
  • Don’t force irrelevant examples into your answers. It's better to think creatively and adapt your responses to the interview questions rather than trying to use pre-prepared answers that don't fit.

A day in the life of an Engineering Apprentice

A word from an existing engineering apprentice

Research into the apprenticeship role you're looking at for is the key to creating an effective application. Take a look at our Day in the Life of an Engineering Apprentice video and explore the day-to-day responsibilities of an apprentice in the engineering sector.

What are engineering apprenticeship employers looking for?

  1. Interpersonal Skills

    An engineer must effectively communicate with colleagues, think outside the box, and work efficiently within a team. Think of the  the experience that built your skills in these areas, such as collaborative academic assignments, leading a club or team, or engaging in design competitions.
  2. Practical Experience

    You may not have engineering-specific experience, but any background that showcases organisational skills, analytical thinking, and resilience can be advantageous. Have you spent time crafting in a technical area in school (think woodwork, metalwork and CAD areas), or participated in a science and engineering competition in the past? These are all relevant experiences that demonstrate practical application of engineering-related skills.
  3. Hobbies and Interests

    Personal pursuits you engage in can speak volumes about your potential in engineering. Crafting, coding for personal projects, or engaging with unique hobbies and interests, for instance a local astronomy or science club, can illustrate your precision, technical curiosity, and analytical mindset.
  4. Extra-Curricular Activities

    Experiences outside the classroom are markers of a well-rounded individual. Whether you've contributed to a process improvement in a part-time job role, led a team to success in a sporting environment, or been active in local community projects, these actions can signal your drive, leadership qualities, and commitment to long-term objectives, all of which are desirable in a future engineer.
  5. Industry Insight

    While a detailed mastery of engineering concepts isn't expected from the outset, showing that you've invested time in understanding the industry you're about to enter is critical. Exhibiting awareness of the company’s notable projects, technological advancements, and industry challenges during your application process reflects your dedication and proactive mindset.

The top five skills engineering employers are looking for

Curious what skills engineering apprenticeship employers are looking for? Here are our top five! 

  1. Analytical problem solving
  2. Organisation
  3. Communication
  4. Teamwork 
  5. Time management

Common interview questions to expect for an engineering apprenticeship

To give you a head start on your interview, here are some of the questions that an employer might ask you during the process.
  • "What aspects of our apprenticeship programme led you to apply for the role?"
  • "What have you learnt about our company, and the values we expect from our team of engineers?"
  • "What interests you about this specific area of engineering, and give us an example of academic or work experience you've had that supports your interest in this area?"
  • "The apprenticeship is a substantial commitment. Can you provide an example of a long-term commitment you have made in the past and how you maintained your drive and motivation throughout?"

Advice from an apprentice

Santina Ajdari Bunting, Arup
Craft a tailored application that tells your unique story, showcasing your passion for the industry and eagerness to learn. Align your experiences with the company's values, emphasising teamwork, communication skills, and your proactive approach to problem-solving. Demonstrate how you've taken initiative (e.g. through a work experience, or volunteering) and been proactive to prove you're not just a candidate but a valuable asset ready to contribute and grow within the apprenticeship role.

A word from the experts

Eleanor Eyre, Head of Careers, EngineeringUK
Apprenticeships offer a fantastic route into a range of diverse and rewarding careers in engineering and technology, and could also lead onto higher education. As an apprentice you have the added benefit of being able to earn money while you learn, gaining invaluable, real-world experience with an employer. The engineering skills you develop through doing an apprenticeship will always be in high demand and your knowledge and experience will be transferable across a range of sectors – from healthcare to renewable power – opening up a world of exciting possibilities for you.”
1 - 3 months
The average time it takes from seeing a vacancy to getting a job

Examples to wow an employer

An example of a cover letter section

Since childhood, I've been hooked on engineering, starting with Lego and evolving into a love for how things work, especially in mechanical engineering. I've worked at an electronics store alongside my studies, where I've gotten hands-on with device assembly and problem-solving, always with an eye for detail.

Moreover, my initiative to lead workshops on emerging tech trends for colleagues has not only solidified my reputation as a resourceful team player but has also allowed me to refine my ability to convey complex technical information in an accessible manner. I eagerly anticipate the opportunity to bring this skill set, alongside my intrinsic motivation and passion for engineering, to an apprenticeship where I can contribute and expand my expertise under the mentorship of esteemed professionals.

Why is this a good example?
  • Early Interest in Engineering: The candidate reveals an early interest in engineering. This enduring passion tells a story that demonstrates a deep-rooted commitment to the discipline.
  • Hands-On Experience in a Related Field: Although the applicant's background may be in a different industry, they have actively engaged in activities and roles that require a technical mindset, a mindset that is sought after in an engineering role.
  • Leadership and Communication Skills: The candidate's experience in leading initiatives or workshops, particularly in areas related to emerging engineering technologies, highlights their leadership potential, and their commitment to go above and beyond in their work.
  • Proactive Approach to Learning and Skill Development: By engaging in self-directed learning, the candidate exhibits a commitment to staying updated with the latest developments in the field, a critical trait for success in the dynamic world of engineering.