In the current job market, it is worth taking a second look at anything that can give you a competitive edge. Graduate apprenticeships do just that - they can get you a long-term placement with a blue-chip employer that will not only equip you with a wide-ranging skill set, but also, hopefully, lead to long-term, full-time employment.
Gone are the days when graduates could waltz out of universities and straight into great jobs - for a start, there are a great many more graduates, and certainly no more jobs. Those who show they are willing to undertake an apprenticeship scheme make themselves much more attractive to employers than someone who feels 'entitled' to a good job.
Schemes mostly last a year but can be longer - either 18 or 24 months - and are tailored to specific roles. This is not just a long-term internship, but genuine training in a designated role - the graduate will become part of the larger workforce.
For employers, the benefits are obvious - we can train young, hungry employees themselves, and if they fit the bill then we have a ready-made employee!
Graduate apprenticeships are offered across a broad range of employment sectors, from finance and banking to engineering, hospitality, media or retail. But one of the very hottest sectors - where you really do need to demonstrate a willingness to work and learn - is technology. And it is here where, perhaps not surprisingly, employers sometimes show a more imaginative approach to finding the best graduates.
Our London-based app development company, AppBox, runs a competition annually for budding developers. The APPrentice competition gives student developers the chance to demonstrate their abilities in the real world, gain valuable exposure and even win cash. The goal is to deliver a polished game - so the eventual winners will have a concrete success story on their CV and AppBox get not only a hit game, but also a highly-talented employee.
Competitions such as these offer possibilities for fledgling developers to get a foot on the employment ladder in a field where the competition is tough. There are a lot of brilliant young people who want to work in tech, so opportunities such as these should be grabbed with both hands.
More traditionally, graduate employers promote their jobs during autumn and spring terms - what has become known as the 'milkround'. There are recruitment fairs, presentations and seminars. The key for prospective employees is to get in quickly - demand can be high and the recruitment phase often gets cut short. After all, if an employer sees a brilliant applicant, it will probably offer a placement immediately to ensure they don't lose them, so places can fill quickly.
So be decisive, choose a sector in which you want to gain some invaluable experience and apply as soon as you can to different employers. Usually, the best time to apply is in the first term of your final year at university. By then you should have researched your chosen field in depth, establishing which companies offer apprenticeships and what they involve (and the likelihood of full-time employment afterwards).
Don't forget too that many employers will offer graduate placements abroad - for the right person (and not every young person wants to work abroad, so don't allow yourself to be pressured) that can be a great chance to impress potential employers and see more of the world too.
Also, look to see what further qualifications you may obtain through a graduate apprenticeship. In some careers, such schemes are officially accredited by professional associations, and any extra vocational qualification on top of a degree will make a candidate stand out in the race to the best full-time jobs.
Graduate apprenticeships may not be for everyone, but they are certainly a way of gaining hands-on experience at a potential employer. Be open-minded about such schemes and think long-term - you are looking for a career to see you through your whole working life, so a year or two of learning at the outset is a small price to pay!