Engineering Graduate Schemes Explained

What Are Engineering Graduate Schemes?

Engineering graduate schemes are structured programmes of learning and development, usually offered by large and medium-sized engineering companies. They usually last around two years, but this can vary, with some programmes lasting just one year and others lasting three years. Engineering graduate schemes aren’t always the guarantee of a permanent job, but many engineering firms do tend to keep on most of their trainees once the programme finishes.

Engineering graduate programmes are an excellent way of developing a good grounding in a range of different areas, as you’ll be working with a number of teams before taking on a permanent role in a specific area of the company. It’s the opportunities for training and development that attract candidates, as well as the chance to work for some big players in the engineering industry. Then there’s also the fact that you get paid!

Engineering schemes come in all shapes and sizes and can be found in most areas of engineering. Generally speaking, some have a more technical bent; others might be designed for those who want a more commercial focus.

As part of the scheme, you might work towards a specialised or profession qualification, such as achieving chartered status. Training will usually consist of workplace training, and some companies will offer off-site training or have their own in-house training schools.

How Do I Choose Which Graduate Scheme is Right For Me?

It’s not the case of throwing yourself at employers and begging them to employ you. It’s a mutual process: you’re interviewing the employer as much as they are assessing you. Researching the company and scheme before you apply is crucial; you need to figure out whether its right for you.

Pick the employers and schemes that interest you and will allow you to work in an area of engineering that you’re passionate about. If you can demonstrate that passion and interest in your graduate scheme application, then it will trump dozens of generic applications.

Equally, have an open mind. There’s a huge range of graduate programmes out there with companies that you might not expect. Within one company, there might be a myriad of graduate programmes for different areas of engineering.

Look out for campus events too, such as careers fairs and employer presentations, where you can talk to company representatives and find out more about their company and their graduate engineering opportunities.

How Do I Apply For An Engineering Graduate Scheme?

Recruitment for large engineering companies tends to start in the autumn. Smaller companies might recruit on a more ad hoc basis. It’s important to get your applications in relatively early, as some companies will close their applications before the official deadline if they fill their places.

Applying for an engineering graduate scheme is not the case of turning up to the office, getting down on your knees and waving your degree in their face. If only it were that simple. No, most large engineering schemes will have a slalom of tests, interviews and online applications that you’ll have to navigate.

Before you start, make sure you’ve researched the company and graduate scheme carefully to ensure you know what they are looking for in a candidate. For the big graduate schemes, the application process can be quite lengthy.

It might involve sending in your CV and an online application form, completing some online tests, doing a telephone interview and attending an assessment day. Otherwise, companies might adopt a more traditional approach, asking you to send in a CV and cover letter, and then simply inviting you to attend a series of interviews.

What Are My Alternatives?

Of course, graduate schemes aren’t the only option; around 40% of graduates find work with SMEs six months after graduation. What’s more, the opportunities for engineering graduates at large companies aren’t always attached to a graduate scheme.

Specific engineering job opportunities are pretty much equal in value to engineering graduate schemes, so you needn’t limit yourself to only applying to structured programmes. Some people thrive on large graduate schemes, others prefer obtaining a specific entry-level role or working for smaller companies.

If you want to work for an SME, it’ll be up to you to put the work in. Start making enquiries at smaller companies, search specialised job boards and send in speculative applications.

Who Offers Engineering Graduate Schemes?

Some of the big companies offering engineering graduate programmes include:

Aggregate Industries



British Airways





Jaguar Land Rover



MW Kellogg

Mott MacDonald

National Grid



Rolls Royce

Royal Haskoning


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