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Apprentices: sharpen up your communication skills 

How to articulate your real-life experience to potential employers, prove your reliability and land a new job.

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If you’re coming to the end of your apprenticeship, you’ll need to think about next steps, and you may want to secure a new role.  
Being able to effectively communicate the skills and experiences gained during your apprenticeship will be vital, as the employer will have plenty of other applications to consider and you’ll need to stand out. For some jobs, you may find yourself up against graduates who are also seeking their first job.  
The big advantage that former apprentices have over graduates, or those who apply from a different background, is the practical, on-the-job experience you will have gained. Apprentices typically spend around 80% of their time with an employer, and some may have worked with more than one business.  

The devil is in the detail 

It’s important to detail what you have gained from this. Talk about particular projects you have been involved in, and the skills you picked up from those. Maybe there are areas of your study which have been reinforced, or perhaps elements where you have been able to see how things work in practice, where real-world applications may differ from the theory. From an employer’s perspective, this means you’ll be able to get up to speed in any new organisation quicker, and they will be able to trust you to get involved in projects right from the start.  
But it’s not just the technical and practical skills that can help you stand out. You’ll have also gained experience of the work environment, developing skills such as working as part of a team, communicating with colleagues and navigating the tricky world of workplace politics.  
On a more basic level, you’ll have proved you’re reliable and able to turn up on time every day, and can stick at a position. This may sound like something that should be taken for granted, but you can guarantee it will be a concern for employers.  
It’s essential that you have strong references, from both your apprenticeship employer and the educational institution at which you studied. Ideally these will verify the skills you have learned and testify to your ability to fit into a business. They may also provide a character reference, and talk about your personality and the role you play in helping to create a harmonious and productive work environment. A willingness to listen and learn will also be hugely valued by any potential employer. 

Willing to learn 

Make sure that you have other things to talk about at any job interview, such as outside hobbies or interests, or any other jobs or responsibilities you have had. Playing a team sport, for example, will help demonstrate your ability to work with others towards a common goal.  
An individual sport might suggest you’re dedicated and committed to being the best you can be in something you set your mind to. And previous jobs, perhaps while you were at school or college, can also provide reassurance that you work hard and can build relationships with others.  
Finally, it’s important to ensure you’re prepared for any interview. Think about the types of question you might be asked and make sure you have researched the company in question. You want to come across as someone who is confident but not arrogant, keen and willing to learn. If you are an IOSH member, you can access the IOSH Career Hub to try out the interview simulator and CV builder.