And In The Beginning They Were … Apprentices. Or: An Exploration into Apprenticeships in Formula One.

Kid on computer

Even though testing is going on in Bahrain, I figured that this might be a better time than during the build-up to a race weekend to publish some insider material from Formula One. According to Apprenticeships.org.uk (part of HM Government’s ‘Skills Funding Agency’) there are some 22.000 apprenticeships available at any time in England. You need to be 16 years or older and not currently be in an educational programme. An apprenticeship is a true door opener as you get to learn a job while making some money; a win-win situation for employers and candidates alike.

Apprenticeships in Formula One

As with anything in Formula One, it is tremendously competitive to get in to an apprenticeship with a team. Most of the apprentice opportunities are in the manufacturing side of the business. Unfortunately Teams will only be looking at candidates with a college degree, but that is not to say that all is lost if you do not qualify for an apprenticeship in Formula One, but I will go in to some early career strategies further down. Typically Teams recruit candidates for their apprenticeship programmes directly from colleges or from a ‘Registered Training Agency’, which, unfortunately, RIMS is not one as of yet. Normally you would spend up to 3 years on fixed contracts in an apprenticeship before entering a fully skilled role. You would be placed in a host department and then would be rotated to different functions. As you can see apprenticeships are great opportunities to be exposed to and gain experiences in a variety of jobs. Hence, it is a good idea to set your aims at Teams and organisations that have a variety of departments and functions that you can rotate through.

Apart from the ‘hard’ skills, i.e. academic qualifications, Teams are looking for the usual ‘passion’ for the sport and a high level of mechanical aptitude in successful candidates. They would like to see candidates that have shown interest early. Hence if you are 12 years old and reading this blog I would, apart from wondering what the heck you are doing on the web, suggest you get to it and try to find mentors in the engineering and manufacturing sectors to spend time around the process. Of course you will not be able to operate machinery, but you get the idea, demonstrate REAL passion and drive.

Career strategy advice

I’ve said it many times before and I will continue to harp on it; find your entry-point! If F1 is your bulls eye and you have not been successful getting in, go to the next layer: suppliers of F1. Especially as an apprentice candidate you have a real incentive to offer the employer, remember the win-win from above? Make a list of 50 companies that supply F1 Teams with services and start calling and sending in your CV, it’s called networking and if you’ve read my previous articles you understand how important that is. Then you spend three to four years working with F1 parts and prove yourself; suddenly you are very attractive to a Team. If you do not have a degree from a college, you may have to start a little ‘further out’ and work your way in to your entry point, it will take a few more years, but at least you are on the right track.

I suggest you take a look at http://www.apprenticeships.org.uk/ as it has a wealth of information and positions available to research. Well, that is all for this time. I hope you got some useful insight and I wish you all the best in the pursuit of your dreams.

Ah, These Young Ones With So Much Hope And Enthusiasm!

Last time we talked about the functions that do not ‘touch’ the car, i.e. more business administrative roles within the Team. This article will attempt to tackle and, in some respects, generalise another collective group spread across many department; Newbies. This would refer to anyone in a graduate, apprenticeship or internship programme. These programmes are vastly different but have one primary commonality; they are entry points to working in a team. These are extremely competitive programmes and being selected is an achievement in of it self lest we forget about actually completing any of the programmes. Key to succeeding will of course be to performing well in your job, but there is more to it than that. Teams will be looking for candidates that apply themselves and are loyal. Hence, as the old clich√© goes, be the first to arrive and last to leave every day. This is also an opportunity to network, learn and ask questions as you will be exposed to more than one discipline in a team. Can I just mention networking again? You will find that it is as much about what you know as who you know in this business.¬† There are too many examples where candidates superbly competent do not get called up because they are not ‘known’ in the business, start building those relationships early!

Internships are programmes that run for a specific period of time during an interns studies at university. Teams will announce them during a limited time during the year. This will be the lucky few’s opportunity to connect theory to practice, but also to get a feel for the environment. Most teams have internship programmes; they allow teams to take a first look at the potential starts of tomorrow that might come back as graduates. They also tie up relationships between teams and academic institutions to allow teams to gain access to recruit the best graduates. Every intern’s objective should be that when they put in the application for a graduate position the hiring manager says to him/herself “I remember this guy/girl, that was the intern who….[insert positive aspect of your internship]”. If that happens you probably proved yourself and stood out from the crowd and made a point to make yourself known to the managers (without being blunt about it!). By the way, don’t expect to get paid for your internship, you are there to learn, especially if it is part of your educational programme.

Apprenticeships are similar to internships as they run for a specific period of time, but with the objective to lead to permanent employment. These programmes tend to run in the more mechanical/manufacturing aspects of the teams. An apprentice will also have completed his/her studies and will be expected to start contributing to the success of the team relatively soon after joining the team. You will not be earning much money as an apprentice, but you will have the opportunity to learn the ropes and be exposed to different functions within the team. If you are successful in your apprenticeship you will be offered a full-time, permanent position.

Graduate positions come up continuously throughout the year and you can think of them as entry-level positions with caveats. They are proper jobs where you perform a function, but have the opportunity of learning the practical side of what you’ve studied academically. These positions are typically tied to the more technical functions in the team. The demands for a strong academic degree are high. A graduate employee will be contracted on a 3 month period to begin with, then another 6 months and finally a 12 month contract is offered to the successful graduate. If you get this far you will be promoted to a junior position, i.e. you will be a graduate trainee for 21 to 24 months depending on the circumstances before being ‘hired’. It is tough and harrowing as you do not have much time to prove yourself and you have to very quickly figure out what it is that you have to do to prove yourself.

A couple of final notes and advice to anyone in either of the three programmes above; while at work, turn off your phone, your private e-mail, your social networking sites and anything else that does not involve you furthering your career with the team you are at!