The employment rate for 16–24-year-olds was 10.8% in 2022/2023 – which is a significant positive improvement. However, it’s still one of the trickiest positions to be in. When you are starting your career and have minimal to none work experience, you are less likely to get hired, making it difficult to break the circle.
As your Career Partner for Life, we are here to support you through all stages of your career. That’s why we have a couple of suggestions on our website and today we will be focusing on one specifically: consider applying for less conventional work opportunities like an apprenticeship or internship. There is a lot of value in completing an apprenticeship or internship right now.
Apprenticeships: The New Wave?
The percentage of employees who were apprentices rose from 3.2% to 3.5% this year, making up almost one-tenth of the volume of all employment in the public sector. An apprenticeship is the absolute best thing you could be doing right now to boost your employability. There are some setbacks when comparing it to “normal employment” as in some cases there might be a reduction in pay and for many people that might be a turn off, but this one negative is greatly outweighed by the sheer number of positives.
During an apprenticeship you can learn on the job and this might be the greatest positive of the bunch. As well as getting your work experience, you’ll also get the chance to work towards a level 3 qualification or above. This is great as not only do you get to build your work experience and portfolio, but you are also being paid to complete a course. Both aspects are important to the overall scheme as the education aspect will fuel your ideas in the workplace and vice versa. Also, with many apprenticeship schemes being done in block formation (i.e., taking a week out to complete the pre-set modules), you’ll be working for the most of the scheme and only taking a week or two out of work to complete the module and any assigned work/exams.
It’s okay to make mistakes in an apprenticeship. In fact, that’s literally what you’re there to do; learn on the job and perfect your skills to best suit the role you’re in. A mistake in a normal job can be a make-or-break situation and, in some severe cases, cost you the position, but in an apprenticeship, these mistakes are part of the process.
Finally, there could be a full-time position at the end of the scheme, but even if there isn’t, you have the gift of experience now. This experience is the whole reason you applied for an apprenticeship in the first place. At the end of your apprenticeship, you will have a better chance of being offered a job if you did well throughout the scheme. The year you took out to lay down the groundwork could result in you securing a full-time job with a company you’ve already got to know over the course of a year. However, even if you don’t get the job in the end, you still have a wealth of experience and academic diploma that you didn’t have a year ago.
Internships can be a bit of a dicey career move. While 48% had undertaken an unpaid internship, just 17% had been paid for their work experience. But 50% of internships result in full-time job offers and internship experience has been ranked by recruiters as the number one candidate criterion. Almost four-fifths of interns said their professionalism and work ethic were ‘very’ or ‘extremely’ improved by the experience.
However, take this information with a pinch of salt because each individual and each internship is different.
The ethics of unpaid internships is rather a hit or miss. It’s always best to be a little cautious of them because some companies can hire interns without offering them any valuable experience in return. Make sure you do your research. If you can’t find anything valuable to put on your CV after completing an internship, then it was probably not the best move.
With that said, if you are financially able to take on an unpaid internship, you might find the right internship to be very beneficial in the long run. Sometimes being in the room where stuff is happening is enough for you to take something valuable away from the experience. You might get told one golden piece of advice from someone working in the field you are interested in, or you might learn a new skill. Just one bit of inspiration, motivation or confidence is worth working for free, but only if you can afford to do so. With finances in mind, part-time internships can be useful if you have another job because you can continue to earn something at least, while you also work for free part of the week.
Alternatively, freelance work is peeking right now. Although the thought of freelancing can be daunting (after all, there is far less financial stability compared to a regular job), it’s a great way to get paid for the work you’re doing while you build your portfolio. Any experience is good experience, because it will teach you about yourself, your skillset. and the industry you are working towards securing a job in.
To bring all of this to a close, what we really saying is that apprenticeships and internships can be very valuable, but it’s important that you choose the right opportunity for you. If you aren’t being paid for the work, you need to be sure that the experience and networking potential will make it worth doing that work for free. If you are struggling with your job search, the key thing right now is to make a move. Whether you end up doing an apprenticeship, an internship or even freelancing, it's better to start doing something rather wasting this valuable time.