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Applying for an Apprenticeship

Applications are now closed for 2020, but it’s never too early to start preparing for 2021. On this page, we’ve gathered together all the best advice on your application: what you need, what you can expect, how to prepare, and how our application process might be different from what you’re used to. For more advice, you can also check out our wider section on how to apply for all roles at FCO Services, aimed not just at apprentices but at potential applicants of all levels.

What do I need to apply?

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UK National status

You have UK national status or UK citizenship through naturalisation, and you’re free to remain and work in the UK.

UK residency criteria No.1

To satisfy government scheme access rules, you must have been resident in the UK for the last three years, measured from the first day of the apprenticeship (usually in September of the year you’re applying).

UK residency criteria No.2

You also need to meet the relevant residency requirements for the security vetting level of the role, which will be either Security Check (SC) or Developed Vetting (DV) – living in the UK for either 2 of the last 5 or 5 of the last 10 years respectively. Find out more about eligibility on our How to apply page or on Gov.uk.

The right qualifications

We’ll specify more for some programmes, but most need a minimum of two GCSEs/O-Levels, or another equivalent, at grades 9-5 (A*-C) in Maths and English.

No duplicate qualifications

We can’t accept your application if you already hold a qualification in the same subject area, at the same level as (or higher than) the one you’d study in your apprenticeship.

Genuine interest

You don’t usually need relevant previous work experience, but we’ll want to see your interest in the business area.

Tips from the recruitment team

Want to know how to excel in your written application? How to ace your interview? Here are the tips from the team who’ll be assessing you:

When you’re finished with your application, check it for grammar and spelling. Even better, get someone with fresh eyes to check it for you, so that you make the best first impression.

Spell out your qualifications as much as you can. Don’t tell us you have two GCSEs: tell us you have a B in GCSE English and a C in GCSE Maths. Don’t just say ‘I’m good at wiring plugs’; tell us where you got the experience.

Don’t just write ‘See CV’ as an answer in your application form. Make it easy for assessors to see how great you are. Even if you copy-paste relevant sections from your CV, you seem more open and helpful.

Why are you interested in this subject area? What intrigues you about FCO Services’ work? Demonstrating real enthusiasm for your future career and future team goes a long way.

Try not to be completely silent in group assessment, as it’s hard for assessors to mark you if you don’t talk at all. You don’t have to be a leader or talk constantly – we just want to hear you, and get to know your style.

You don’t have to know everything right now. In fact, we expect you’ll get some things wrong. But if you don’t know something, it’s great to see evidence that you’re trying to learn and understand.

The most common mistake among applicants is confusing FCO Services with the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, so find out about us and what we do before you apply. You’ll find detail on that here.

Application steps

If you need us to make any adjustments at any stage, you can find out more about that here.

Online application

Found your programme? Time to apply online, filling in pre-application eligibility questions and outlining how you meet the programme’s essential criteria. At this stage, it’s important that you tell us exactly what qualifications you have at which levels, and tell us about why you have an interest in your chosen area, whether it’s hobbies or schoolwork. We’ve provided advice on how to fill in the form for all applicants – not just apprentices – on our How to apply page and you’ll find that here.

Application sift

At this point, you don’t need to do anything, but our team will be conducting a sift behind the scenes. That means we’ll assess all our applications against the essential criteria for the programme, progressing applications based on merit and who best fits the criteria. It’s important to note that our sifting process anonymises the personal data in the application form.

Assessment Centre

As a result of the sift the most meritorious candidates are invited to an assessment centre. Dependent on your programme, that will usually involve a group exercise, a technical or job-specific exercise, and a written exercise. We’re not looking to trip you up here, and we won’t expect you to be an expert already, but we want to get to know you and your potential. Please note, any Engineering candidates will also have a colour-blindness test, since part of your role will rely on distinguishing colours in wires and cables.

Interview

If you’re successful at the assessment centre, we’ll then most likely invite you back for a final interview, where we’ll ask general questions about you, as well as some specific questions around your basic knowledge of and passion for the subject area you’ve chosen.

Vetting

If you’re successful at interview and we offer you a place, you’ll then go through our pre-employment enquiries, including referencing and medical assessment. This assessment helps establish any reasonable adjustments we can make for you, and in some cases, establishes physical ability for certain roles, e.g. those that require climbing. You’ll also undergo the relevant vetting process to make sure you’re suitable for the position. You can find out about that in more detail – what’s involved and why it’s necessary – here.

Tips from our apprentices

“Whatever you’re applying for, really research the role in detail. You’ll be asked job-specific questions around your basic knowledge and your interest in the subject.”

Accounting apprentice

“A mix of programmes can be grouped on the same assessment day – you’re not competing with each other, and you won’t all have the same level of experience, so don’t panic.”

Finance apprentice

“You’ll meet a lot of volunteers from current teams on your assessment day. They’re there to tell you the truth about the job and give you genuine insight into the scheme.”

IT apprentice

“People really try to put you at ease on your assessment. Have a chat with them, because if you join, it’s lovely to meet up again and see the people you spoke to that day.”

Logistics apprentice

“Clue yourself up on exactly what FCO Services do – the kinds of projects they work on, the services they offer. The website offers a lot of information to help you do that.”

Building Surveying apprentice

“In group scenarios, it’s often not about finding the right answer. It’s about how you arrive at an answer together as a group, and how you interact with everyone else.”

Building Services Engineering apprentice

Need interview adjustments?

We want to support everyone as much as possible in applying for our apprenticeships, so if you have a disability or long-term physical or mental health condition, or any other reason you might need application adjustments, all you need to do is let us know. It’s worth noting though that there are some apprenticeships that have specific physical requirements – for instance, we have to test for colour blindness if you’ll be dealing with electrical wiring as a core part of your programme – but we support everyone as far as we can. We’re Disability Confident committed, so we actively encourage applicants with disabilities, and we’ll do all we can to help if you disclose what you need, and it won’t affect your application. Equally, if you have a problem with using our website, please tell us so we can improve.

If you have any questions, feedback on our website, or would like to ask us about your application, please email us at fcoservices.recruitment@fcoscareers.co.uk and we’ll be in touch as soon as we can.

Vetting advice for apprentices

If your application is successful, you’ll need to be vetted, which means we’ll background check you for national security purposes. You can find out more on the Gov.UK site here, but you might have a lot of questions about this, so let’s tackle some of the big ones:

No, you’ll only be vetted if you’ve been made a conditional offer of employment, and at that point we’ll ask you to fill in an online form to start the process, operated by UK Security Vetting (UKSV), which is part of the Ministry of Defence.

We work to protect government buildings and data, we are a secure organisation and all our employees hold security clearance. Security clearance enables us to give assurances to ourselves and our customers. Our value of being trusted is threaded through all that we do.

UKSV run the process independently from FCO Services, and they’ll be looking at both your character and your circumstances, to assess whether you’re right for this level of responsibility and see whether there are any causes for concern or things that could make you vulnerable. For instance, a history of debt caused by serious gambling could make you susceptible to bribery in post.

It depends on the programme you’re applying for and the level of vetting you need, so let’s talk about that first.

 

For Accounting and Data Analysis, you’ll need Security Check (or SC) vetting before you start the role, but you won’t need Developed Vetting (DV) for your apprenticeship.

 

For Finance, Building Services Engineering, and Security Design Engineering, you’ll need Security Check (or SC) vetting before you start the role, then Developed Vetting (DV) just after you join.

 

For Logistics, Building Surveying, Technical Engineering and IT, you’ll need Security Check (or SC) vetting before you start the role, then Developed Vetting (DV) later on in your apprenticeship, before you can take on more responsibilities.

 

So, now that you know which ones you’ll need, here’s how it works. If you need SC vetting, it means UK Security Vetting (UKSV) will look at your character and personal circumstances, starting with a written questionnaire.

 

If you need DV clearance, you’ll go through a more thorough method of security vetting. You’ll begin with a written questionnaire, then UKSV will complete criminal records and security service records checks, then you’ll also sit down with an interviewer who’ll ask questions to build up a complete picture of you.

It starts with making sure you’ve got all the right personal details ready to enter into the questionnaire. The United Kingdom Security Vetting body have put together documents to help you do that.

Guide for Developed Vetting

Guide for Security Check

A vetting interview will look in real detail at all aspects of your life: your family background, your relationships, habits, financial affairs, hobbies, travel, interests, etc. Some of the questions will feel very personal and intrusive, but it isn’t an interrogation and you haven’t done anything wrong: your interviewer will be checking whether you’re vulnerable to pressure.

 

UKSV are also looking for complete honesty. Your Vetting Officer will be highly experienced, and there’s nothing you could say that would shock or surprise them.

 

To find out more about vetting interviews, see the Ministry of Defence page here.

Vetting has to be thorough, so it can take time. We’ll keep in touch with you throughout the process, but it can take up to an average of one month for SC clearance, and an average of six months for DV clearance.

Hopefully that won’t happen, but if you do need to make a complaint about any part of the vetting process, you can do so here.

Latest roles

Want to join FCO Services but can’t see a live role to suit you? Great news: you can sign up for job alerts or add your CV to our talent pool and we’ll be in touch when something comes up.

Financial Accountant

Hanslope Park
£36,940 – £45,870 plus £1750 location allowance

Head of Reporting

Hanslope Park
£49,660 – £62,250 plus £1,750 location allowance

Quantity Surveyor

London KCS
£51,500 – £65,000