What to do after a trade apprenticeship
As your trade apprenticeship comes ever closer to finishing, it’s time to consider your next step. Weigh up the options with the help of our handy guide.
You’ve invested a lot of time and effort in learning your trade. So now that you’ve completed your training you might be wondering what to do next.
During your training you’ve learnt a great deal about your trade. Not only that, but you worked alongside other people, drawing on well-established expertise, learning from mistakes, problem solving and familiarising yourself with a wealth of industry-specific knowledge that will help you to carve a direction for yourself in your new career.
Once you’ve completed your training there are several options you can explore, from continuing to grow in the context of the company you trained with, to seeking out a new role in a larger business or organisation.
You might decide to work for a small local company, or you could feel ready to go solo and set yourself up as self employed.
It’s important to take some time to think about what it is you want to do after your apprenticeship finishes and there are several routes you can go down once your apprenticeship has drawn to a close.
Here, we explore just some options that are available to you.
Sticking with your current employer
If you have found your current employer to be supportive and nurturing while giving you the challenges you’ve needed to progress, it could be that your existing employer is one you want to remain with.
Undertaking your apprenticeship with the support of a good employer develops worker loyalty, and you may discover you wish to progress within the existing company.
Likewise, a good company will see you as an investment and will be keen to make use of the training, skills and up-to-date technical knowledge that you have developed during your time there. They also know and trust you, and your way of working is aligned with that of the business or organisation you have come to know well.
Working for a big company
While you may have had a great experience with one company as an apprentice, working for a big company also has its benefits.
Switching from an employer that focuses purely on domestic work to one that does more commercial work might allow you to broaden your skill set and engage with new challenges.
A new company might also give you the opportunity to move elsewhere, and you could even take your skills abroad as a result of working for a larger employer.
Advantages of working for a big company
The advantages of working for a big company might include drawing on broader funds and resources, which frees you up to undertake different types of work more readily.
Often larger companies have been established for longer and therefore have secure career progression or in-house training routes established. Typically, they are also very efficient and have specific departments to ensure their smooth running.
Usually, larger companies are secure brands that are well known in the marketplace, which can be an advantage when it comes to ensuring that your CV stands out from the crowd in the future.
To be competitive in recruiting the best staff, larger companies are also allowed to be more generous with their staff benefits and holidays in a way that smaller companies might not be able to afford to do.
How to get a job at a big company
Typically, big companies are very good at advertising their vacancies. So make sure to check the relevant job sites regularly
Your learning provider will also be able to direct you to some progression and employment resources and opportunities while you’re still training.
If you’re looking for a new job straightaway then a good place to start will likely involve short-listing the companies you want to work for in a particular area and then checking their websites for any current vacancies.
Job websites are a very useful resource as they allow you to filter available positions by location and industry, so you can find the right opportunity for you.
How you apply for jobs will vary depending upon the company or the route you go through.
Whichever company you apply to, it’s crucial that you have an up-to-date CV that outlines in detail the skills you have developed during your time as an apprentice, as well as the specific knowledge (health and safety or industry regulations knowledge) that you have learnt.
Don’t forget to outline the personal qualities you can bring to an employer and their customers in a concise personal statement at the beginning as well. This will allow you to show employers what sort of person you are, and whether you will be a good fit for their company.
Some application forms will gather all this information using allocated fields, in which case you can simply transfer your information from your CV directly to this.
Working for a small company
Working for a small company might be a preferable option, particularly if you have been working for a small company already and you’re keen to continue to develop your skills in a familiar setting.
Advantages of working for a small company
There are a number of advantages of working for a small company that you might want to exploit. One of these is the fact that it is not faceless.
At a small company, the chances are that you will know everyone you work with, making for a friendlier and informal working environment.
The workforce may also be more integrated, so you’ll know how everything fits together and where you belong in the company.
You are likely to be able to vary the nature of your work and will be encouraged to develop your skills set to fill gaps.
Finally, your potential is more likely to be noticed by managers who are in a better position to listen to you because there aren’t too many people fighting for their attention.
How to get a job at a small company
Smaller companies often can’t afford highly visible recruitment drives, so jobs are more likely to be made known through networking and word of mouth.
So if you’re looking to join a smaller company, send out speculative application letters to businesses, along with your CV, outlining what you can bring them and get to know them by approaching them directly.
Keep an eye on the local paper, which is a more affordable context for a small business to advertise in.
Getting to know people is key and a recommendation from your training provider and the company you did your apprenticeship with is crucial to securing your desired role.
Writing a tradesman CV
Traditionally getting work in the trades meant securing great word-of-mouth recommendations and having a reputation for your skill.
Today it’s much more common for members of the skilled workforces to outline their skills and experience in a tradesman CV.
The main thing is to keep your CV brief and to the point by foregrounding your expertise, experience, qualifications and enthusiasm for the role.
Think about how your prospective employer might read it and what they are looking for: someone who will bring value to their business, someone who is efficient, reliable and easy to work with.
Keep language straightforward and showcase your achievements (even if they are non-academic achievements) and how these have helped you in your approach to your work.
If you’re struggling to decide what type of company you want to work for, or how to write a CV, try getting in touch with The Prince’s Trust, an organisation established for young people (aged 13-30) to help them prepare and progress in the world of work. It’s a valuable resource when it comes to applying for your first job after your apprenticeship ends as they can provide you with loads of helpful tips to help you get onto the career ladder.
Go it alone
Wondering about whether to use your shiny new qualification to start your own business? Here’s some start-up advice regarding the most popular trades for apprentices.
Starting a plumbing business
If you’re looking for what has been described as a ‘recession-proof industry’, starting a plumbing business would be good trade to pursue now that you possess the required skills and experience.
You might find lucrative work as a self-employed plumber who is contracted to construction companies, or you might decide to commit yourself more to domestic call-outs, or perhaps a combination of the two.
Becoming a self-employed carpenter
If you are thinking of starting a carpentry business then you’ll need to decide whether to work from home or from a workshop location.
Both have their pros and pitfalls so you will need to weigh up what suits your needs and what you can afford.
Getting set up with kit early doors can be expensive too so budgeting is important.
So before you make a start on starting up, take some time to decide on the nature of your enterprise: are you going to focus on structural aspects or finishing, or both?
Starting an electrical business
Your first consideration when starting an electrical business might be whether you plan to work in a domestic sector or commercial.
As with most of the trades, work is rarely in short supply as people will always need electrical work done.
It’s often useful to team up with another qualified electrician as a partner so you can focus on specific areas or work in tandem.
If you decide to go down this route, it’s well worth joining a trade association, which will help you gain the credentials that reassure customers.
You’ll also need to keep up to date with regulations and legislation, plus there are a number of basic trade qualifications such as the Code of Practice for In-Service Inspection and Testing of Electrical Equipment, so it’s advisable to check what you’ll need before starting out.
Becoming a building contractor
Becoming a self-employed builder offers you a great deal of freedom.
You will usually work as part of a team, so part of your work will be in building a network of project managers and construction managers who will want to hire you.
This means that developing a reputation for reliability and the quality of your work is key. You might even find yourself heading up your own team in time, in which case you might need to look at the structure of your company and move away from self-employment to a limited company or partnership.
You also need to be fairly expert at planning, managing budgets and costs as well as handling people.
If you are going to take the plunge and become a self-employed plumber, start assembling your own building firm, or going it alone in whichever trade you’ve qualified in, you’ll need to get insured. Public liability insurance can cover your new business against claims from a third party for injury or property damage. So make sure you're covered.
Whatever career path you choose to go down, the future is an exciting time and now you are equipped with the necessary skills, you can continue to build on them to ensure a solid future in your industry. Good luck!