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How to become an apprentice or trainee Part 3

Employers love a proven employee but becoming an employee can be hard if you’ve never worked before. Especially if you need a resume to show off to a potential employer. You need to show what you have already done and provide evidence that an employer can use to be confident about taking you on. Here’s some tips on how to change that!


Method 3: Work your way to the top


OPTION 1: Work experience or volunteering


Before you groan at working for free, you should consider the benefits of work experience or volunteering. At the very least you’ll have something to put on your resume, but with a little sacrifice of your time and effort, work experience and volunteering can demonstrate to an employer how keen, reliable and well suited to the work you are.

Work experience can help you grow essential skills, the kinds of skills that are beneficial to any employer in any industry. 

Your work experience can help you learn to communicate, problem solve, and take on new ideas or approaches. Employers like to know you’re able to think on your own and be resilient to change, so building essential (or soft) skills  can be a great way to compensate yourself for the free time given to an employer.

You should also consider the power of ‘try before you buy’. 

Not only does an employer have the chance to see you in action, you can also use work experience to explore the actual work involved in a job you are considering or test the culture of an organisation to see if you’re a great fit. Who knows, you may even change your mind and seek a different path after a week or so of an inside view of your career without all the commitment of an employment contract!

If you have performed work experience, be sure to seek feedback to improve for your next job search approach. Plus, ask your supervisor for a letter of reference. It’s helpful to include in your portfolio for further study or job opportunities.


OPTION 2: Try’A Skill  is a great way to minimise your commitment


The best work experience will be meaningful with hours or even weeks to explore the job, but if you’re short on time or energy for the commitment, there’s other opportunities to try skills out. 

If you’re in high school, our partners Construction Training Fund have a workshop called the Construction Futures Centre you can visit in Belmont, Perth to get on the tools or they have regular programs you can join that function as taster courses.  

We also offer entry level courses with short durations to bridge the gap in study to work. See our short courses for more.

South Metropolitan TAFE also offers Try’A Skill opportunities direct to the public. 

We open our doors to our Building and Construction specialist facility twice a year at Rockingham campus where you can try out mortar trades, carpentry and plumbing. Or visit us at the Try A Skill pavilion at the free Skillswest Careers Expo held each August at the Perth Convention and Exhibition Centre.

See South Metropolitan TAFE’s events page for opportunities to help you Try A Skill.


OPTION 3: Part time work or supportive roles


Think outside the square. Sure you might need full time work to pay your bills or fit in with personal commitments, but put yourself in the shoes of an employer - they need to take a chance on new staff and they can lack confidence themselves in the risk of staff being unreliable or costly to train.

There is a middle ground. You can pursue a supportive role in a business to get a foot in the door, such as working the front counter or phones of a business, or offer yourself as a reduced  hours staff person to an employer.

Think of the skills you have already: if you’ve looked after siblings or are a mother of children, you’ve got hygiene practices, can anticipate other’s needs and keep calm under pressure. If you’ve helped on a home renovation project you’re able to assess safety issues, can perform manual labour, know some tools and equipment, and can communicate with a project lead and follow instructions. 

Create a list of skills and match them to supportive job roles. Then search ads, talk to your network and door knock businesses to put yourself in the way of employers (see our article ‘Researching and building relationships’ for advice). 

Be ready to be flexible, take as many opportunities that are offered, even if they’re not exactly how you dreamt. 

A step in the right direction is better than no step at all, you can work your way to your dreams with a good attitude and effort. Make the most of what you learn and be eager to take on more knowledge and experience when the opportunity is presented to you.

If this works, you’ll be able to demonstrate your interest in other roles in the business, or you will be helping to grow the business and proving your value... a wise employer will snaffle up anyone who is making a valuable contribution!


This article is part three of a series of four blogs to help guide students, career advisors and parent/guardians to navigate the journey to becoming an apprentice or trainee. If you've found this article beneficial, you should read the prior parts or the next part!

If at any time you want assistance in working through your options towards an apprenticeship or traineeship study pathway, contact our Jobs and Skills Centres for an appointment. 

Page last updated October 24, 2019