Leicester College Blog

Higher & Degree Apprenticeships: What are employers looking for?


Higher and degree apprenticeships are an increasingly popular option for students when considering their future options. As they are paid and often lead to a long and rewarding career within a company, it is no surprise that they are sought-after. However, they’re also incredibly competitive and will involve an in-depth recruitment process to make sure you are right for the role, that the company is right for you, that you have the skills, qualifications and qualities required for the job role and that you fit in with the company ethos. It is therefore extremely important to understand what employers look for when recruiting new apprentices.

The Leicester College careers team got talking to Dan Doherty and James Crawley at What Career Live in March 2019. Dan works for CapGemini who offer both higher and degree apprenticeships ranging from technology, cybersecurity and finance. James is currently on an apprenticeship program with IBM. We asked both Dan and James what Employers look for when recruiting and these are their top tips:

Get some work experience

Dan and James both emphasised the importance of students getting either paid or unpaid work experience as this will demonstrate your passion, enthusiasm and motivation to recruiters. Dan advised, ‘try to tailor your work experience to the content of the apprenticeship.’ If you know that the apprenticeship is going to involve networking with others, then try to incorporate this skill into the work experience to highlight that you have this key quality to employers. Getting work experience also says a lot about the type of person you are to recruiters and it can help you make that positive first impression which is essential in the recruitment process.

Build your online brand

It’s really important to make employers aware that you exist and to show them that you are digitally savvy, especially if the apprenticeship program is technology related. Creating an online brand for yourself can help you to achieve both. When asked about CVs, Dan stated:

“CVs are useful but they’re not the most effective way to sell yourself.”

He suggested that students look to using other platforms to build their brand and network with employers like LinkedIn, Springpod (for STEM students) and using apps like Debut which is a graduate platform. You can also use Not a CV. All of these tools will help you to network with key people in the industry, make them aware of your skills, qualifications and abilities, and prove to them that you are understand the benefits of online branding in a digital recruitment age.


Do some self-directed study

James at IBM stated that people had been recruited for apprenticeships at IBM on the strength that they got involved with self-directed study. He stated:

“If you’re interest is coding, then study for a course in coding which develops your skills in this area and this is especially important if your course at college doesn’t include the areas which interest you, or the subject isn’t the focus of the apprenticeship program”.

There are lots of free online courses and distance learning courses you can study for; try the courses at FutureLearn, OpenLearn and Leicester College. Wherever you choose to study, remember that taking the time to educate yourself is an impressive trait by itself because it proves to Employers that you are serious about wanting that apprenticeship, and it also highlights your initiative, drive and determination.

Understand that you will be studying as well as working!

Higher and degree apprenticeships all involve academic study as well as working, so it is crucial that you are prepared for this form of training. With regard to degree apprenticeships, Dan states:

“It’s important you realise you will have to study for a degree as well as work full-time. It’s hard work!’ You might have to attend a University for the academic part of the degree apprenticeship, or your studies could take place in a training centre. It might involve lab sessions, extra work in the evenings, sitting exams and travelling to different locations for work and study, so it is important at the recruitment stage to demonstrate your awareness of the commitment, time and dedication it will take for you to successfully juggle both work and study”.

If you’re interested in higher and degree apprenticeships, you can speak to the careers team at Leicester College who will be happy to discuss these options with you. Good luck!


By Sonia Riyait



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