Which is the best business apprenticeship for me?

How to choose the right business school leaver programme
Considering a business apprenticeship? Some allow you to try out different business functions such as HR and marketing, while others specialise in one area.

Apprenticeships and entry-level jobs in business are available, so you need to take the time to think about your skills and aspirations to decide which route is right for you. If you are thinking about an apprenticeship or other formal programme you should consider what qualifications you will study towards, if the programme gives you the opportunity to experience a range of business areas and the duration of the programme. If you want to go straight into an entry-level role you need to think about what training you will be offered, if you will need to study for qualifications in your own time and whether you can progress quickly.

What qualifications will I get on a business apprenticeship?

The real advantage of apprenticeships is learning while earning. The qualifications you gain during the programmes vary between employers. For example, the Schroders traineeship programme has roles available in five areas, including operations, sales and marketing, compliance, data management and technology, and allows you to gain a professional qualification (the CFA Institute Investment Foundations Certificate). There are also degree apprenticeships offered by employers such as Nestlé, whose chartered management degree apprenticeship gives you the opportunity to work in different business areas (including sales, marketing and supply chain) while studying for a degree in professional practice in management at Sheffield Hallam University.

When choosing a programme you should consider whether you want a degree or if you think studying for professional qualifications and diplomas would be more suitable for your career. In PR, for example, professional qualifications from the Chartered Institute of Public Relations (CIPR) are highly regarded and people often enter the profession without a degree, so it may be better for you to look into apprenticeships that support CIPR qualifications. However, studying at university during a degree apprenticeships will mean you have a debt-free degree and you can put the theories you learn at university into practice. Having a degree also opens up more options to you if you decide you want to change career at a later point in time.

Will my apprenticeship specialise in a particular area?

Some apprenticeships will allow you to rotate across different business areas – for example, the Nestlé chartered management degree apprenticeship outlined above. Other programmes focus on one particular area of the business. For example, PwC offers an apprenticeship that focuses solely on management consulting.

If you know what business area interests you, it will probably be more beneficial to find a programme that specialises in that sector. If you have a range of skills and like the sound of a couple of business areas, then a programme that allows you to experience different areas may be better to find out which area suits you. Our article on what types of jobs and employers there are in business may help you decide too.

How are apprenticeships structured?

The length of apprenticeships varies – some last for 12 months and others can last for three years. Programmes where students study for a degree tend to last the longest. Some employers will ask you to attend college or university one day a week to study for your qualification, but others may require you to study in blocks – Nestlé gives employees blocks of study time in Sheffield. You need to consider whether you only want to be training and studying for a year, so you can progress onto a full-time position, or whether you want to develop your academic knowledge further by undertaking a sponsored degree programme.

You should consider location and decide whether you want to move away from home, stay local or commute. If you want to stay at, or close to, home then look at apprenticeships in your area. Unilever, for example, offers a choice of locations for its apprenticeships; these vary depending on the type of apprenticeship you choose but include Leeds, Bedfordshire, Surrey, Port Sunlight (near Liverpool), Milton Keynes and London. Some employers will rotate you around different locations and will expect you to be mobile; be sure to check if they offer relocation support. Make sure you know where you will be working and if you’ll be expected to travel, and that you are happy with the arrangements.

Will an apprenticeship enable me to progress as quickly as graduates?

With some employers, by the end of the apprenticeship you will be at a similar level as graduates who join the organisation on graduate schemes or in entry-level roles. This is because you will have qualifications as well as on-the-job experience. However, this won’t necessarily be the case at all employers, so ask before you sign up if this is important to you.

After getting your first job in HR, PR, sales, marketing or management consulting, industry-recognised qualifications tend to allow professionals to advance their career. There are a range of courses and certificates at different levels that are open to school leavers and graduates.

How do I find out more about business apprenticeships?

Visit companies’ websites and social media channels to find out about aspects of the business that matter to you most, such as size, location, culture and structure. Research who a PR agency’s clients are, for example, and read news stories about the projects it has worked on.

Talk to friends, family or anyone they can put you in touch with who works in the business sector that interests you, as it can help you to get an insight into the daily life in the particular job. There are also events, such as open days, that you can attend to improve your understanding of specific sectors and employers. Look out for these being advertised on employers’ careers websites and on TARGETcareers. Careers fairs also offer the chance to meet employers – your school may know when and where these are happening.

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