Taking an apprenticeship in occupational health and safety, or a related industry, can be the springboard to an exciting and varied career.
Finding the right apprenticeship can be a challenge, and the different options will vary according to the country you live in. The following are a few suggestions of how to find the right scheme for you.
Identify areas of interest
A good starting point is to identify what you’re interested in. Some apprenticeships will allow you to specialise in a particular industry, or even to take a qualification in a different but related discipline that might have elements of health and safety within it.
This could be an environmentally focused apprenticeship, or one focusing on a particular sector such as nuclear or engineering. Or you could identify a specific employer – perhaps from your local area – and see what apprenticeships are on offer there that contain a health and safety element.
Look at job sites and local colleges
For most people in England, this will be the obvious route. In England and Wales, the Level 3 safety, health and environment technician apprenticeship started in 2018 and has increased in popularity in recent years. Apprentices spend 80% of their time working in a business, and 20% learning in college. Applications are usually made directly to a local employer, but colleges may also be able to help.
Scotland, meanwhile, offers two Modern Apprenticeships in occupational health and safety practice, as well as the higher level occupational health and safety practice (technical).
Target employers directly
Not all apprenticeships are advertised. Finding an employer that would put you through an apprenticeship is a good way of creating an opportunity that may otherwise not have existed. Get in touch with employers directly, and don’t be afraid to use your personal or professional networks to ask for introductions. You could approach a company for work experience, and then ask if they would be interested in sponsoring you through an apprenticeship once they have got to know you.
Consider informal opportunities
In some countries, informal apprenticeships are part of the workplace culture. These are typically for smaller organisations, and revolve around an apprentice learning their trade from a more experienced professional.
Shadowing someone more senior from a health and safety team could give you a taste of what’s involved and some basic level of knowledge. This could then be the springboard to more formal courses such as an apprenticeship or degree.
Seek the experiences of others
Wherever you’re based, it’s a good idea to speak to other people who have recently completed apprenticeships. This can help give you an idea of what’s involved, how it works and where it can lead to. That should help you decide whether it’s something you’d like to pursue too.