The Telegraph Newsroom Apprenticeship Scheme — The Complete Guide

Applications are now open for The Telegraph’s Newsroom Apprenticeship Scheme for 2024. Make sure to put your application in by April 5, 2024 — but do settle in with a cuppa to read through our guide first.

a group of people sit in an office talking
Applications are now open to join the 2024 scheme. (Stock Image Credit: Pexels)

We’ve spoken to a range of people who successfully applied for and completed the scheme — some of whom say they read this guide before their own applications too. And, of course, we got the inside track from the team at The Telegraph too.

We’re not just looking at the application process here, but also what life’s really like as an apprentice in The Telegraph’s newsroom, so you can understand how the scheme might work for you and what you could go onto next.

The Apprenticeship Scheme — How Does It Work?

There is just one scheme to apply for in the 2024 cohort, which is called a newsroom apprenticeship. Generally, there are about six spots available and it takes just under two years to complete the programme.

As well as working in The Telegraph’s newsroom in Victoria, London, you’ll also get a mixture of formal and informal training. “I had mentoring from my senior colleagues, as well as studying one day a week for my NCTJ,” says Rachel Matthews, who now works as the outlet’s Snapchat Editor.

She recalls early tasks including researching for senior journalists, transcribing interviews, and producing magazine content for online. “This was invaluable as I got to learn from watching and hearing others,” she adds.

“You can get experience from tons of different aspects of the newsroom,” agrees Elliott Daly, who has continued in video research and protection roles after finishing his apprenticeship. “Everyone here is very, very supportive. Especially when you’re on the apprenticeship scheme, you can just go over to any desk and pitch a story.”

rachel matthews, jessica carpani, and elliott daly
Rachel Matthews, Jessica Carpani and Elliott Daly all started on the apprenticeship scheme. (Image Credit: Supplied)

The scheme also pairs you up with a former apprentice as a mentor/buddy — meaning Elliot has now gone full circle to mentor Rachel Slater who joined the scheme in the January 2023 intake. “We all got paired with an ex-apprentice who’s now working at The Telegraph full-time,” she explains.”All of them were really great in terms of checking in, especially when we went off to do training, it was really great to have that line back to The Telegraph.”

Rachel also says having a mentor also helped to dispel any feelings of intimidation at joining a national newsroom.

The NCTJ Qualification

All apprentices kick off with an intense four-week learning period, followed by further study for one day each week, both of which are delivered by PA Media Academy. You’ll work towards your NCTJ Diploma, a level five qualification seen as the industry benchmark for journalists. The rest of your time will be spent in The Telegraph’s newsrooms working for the paper.

Recalling his training, Elliott adds: “It sounds a bit cheesy, but [on the course we all] formed a bit of a bond, which was really nice. We ended up having a group chat, and when you did transition back into the office, you were still in touch with people on the same page as you.”

Currently, the modules you’ll study include essential journalism, media law, ethics, and broadcast regulation. You’ll also be supported to put together a portfolio of your journalism, which will also be assessed.

In terms of your day-to-day work, you’ll be encouraged to develop a specialism in an area of journalism production. This could be video and audio, visual journalism, search engine optimisation, social media, or print production.

However, there’s no need to have any experience in any of these sectors before you apply. The Telegraph will help you work out what’s best for you as part of the application process.

This is, of course, a salaried role — even while you’re studying. While The Telegraph doesn’t usually publish salaries in their adverts, this year it has been listed as above London Living Wage. You will be working a standard eight-hour day, which includes an hour for lunch, but as with any news job, you’ll need to be flexible as and when news happens.

Although the scheme is a fixed-term contract, it’s worth adding that if you’ve found the role a good fit, they’ll support you in applying to other roles in the company. As well as our interviewees, other former apprentices include digital editor Jessica Carpani and picture design assistant Neamh Randall.

The Application Process

Before you apply, check that you’re eligible. You can be a school leaver, a graduate, or working in another career. Crucially, though, you cannot have already trained or worked as a full-time professional journalist. There is no upper age limit to apply for the newsroom apprenticeship.

For Rachel Matthews, the apprenticeship “felt like a perfect combination” after being unsure if they wanted to return to education. “I finished school and I was modelling at the time, so worked full-time [on that] for two years after finishing my A-Levels,” they tell Journo Resources. When they decided to stop, they felt the apprenticeship was a better option than an English Literature degree.

A video Daly produced as part of his work at The Telegraph.

Similarly, for Elliott, he’d worked for a year as a waiter after finishing his A-Levels. “I just decided that it might be a better alternative to the university course I wanted to start. I just took the jump,” he says. However, he stresses there were some graduates in his cohort. In short, it’s open to anyone from any background.

The CV & Cover Letter

This year, applications open in March and close on April 5. You’ll be asked to submit your CV and a short cover letter of no more than 300 words. In your cover letter, you’ll be asked to talk about why you want to work in journalism and what you’re passionate about.

It’s not a lot of words, warns Chelsie Henshaw, who joined the scheme in January 2023: “It’s kind of striking the balance between cramming things in, but also trying to be a little selective. You want to take a bit of time to go into things, because simply listing everything you’ve done isn’t the best way to go about it. Pick one of two things that you think make you best suited and focus on that.”

Want some advice on how to format your CV and cover letter? You can see some examples of successful journalism CVs here, as well as some guidance from a former national newspaper journalist about what he’s looking for. There is also advice on cover letters here.

The Video Interview

Applicants can expect to hear if they’ve been longlisted for the role within the next month. You’ll then be asked to take part in a short pre-recorded video interview. Typically, this will have just three questions of about 30 seconds each, but you’ll also get a couple of chances to record each one. It’s more about getting to know you than anything else, so don’t worry about having a good camera or tons of journalism experience.

Chelsie adds that while some people may prefer to write out scripts in advance, it’s about getting to know you, so you don’t want to sound robotic. “My first one just sounded like I was essentially reading off a Wikipedia page,” she laughes, “and I thought it was absolutely awful. From then on, I just had a few bullet points and just [ad-libbed] them on the spot. I think that helped it come across a bit more natural. I think it’s best not to overthink it so much.”

Rachel Slater was also keen to stress that you don’t need buckets of experience: “Aside from student journalism, I had no previous experience. I was a lifestyle reporter for my student paper; I wrote like one article a week on really awful topics (probably). It gave me a bit of understanding, but our apprenticeship is mainly within news and foreign, so I would say I didn’t have tonnes of experience. But in this scenario, enthusiasm trumps experience, always. Even if you know ‘nothing’, if you show a willingness to learn and an enthusiasm for it, that will go such a long way.”

Assessment Day & Interview

After this, shortlisted candidates will be invited to an assessment day in May This will include interviews with senior newsroom leaders at The Telegraph and some activities with other candidates. However, you’ll be given plenty of notice and time to prepare. As well as your own experiences, it’s worth being aware of the news agenda and thinking about why The Telegraph might report on certain stories, and how you could add value to them aside from the reporting.

Speaking of the questions she was asked, Rachel Slater says it is good to think about why you’ve done certain things and be able to back up your thoughts: “I would say they definitely challenged me. They picked stuff out of my CV and said: ‘Why this? Why that?’ So, I would say, come prepared, not only in your knowledge of The Telegraph, but in terms of your experience, what you want to get out of the scheme and your knowledge.”

For Chelsie, her most important piece of advice to anyone at the interview stage is to back yourself (even if you don’t feel it) and try not to compare yourself to others. She says: “I remember I was comparing myself to everyone else. I was like: ‘Oh, they said this and I did that’.

“Even if you’re nervous and you’re not entirely sure of what to say, say something, because you want them to notice you. I was quite aware that there were a few big characters in my group that were all talking — I was just sat that and realised, we’re all being watched right now, we’re all being assessed, I need to get my voice in here, because they’re not going to notice me if I just sit and stay quiet.”

While the points Chelsie made in her group weren’t taken on the final presentation, she urges others not to worry about this, saying there aren’t any wrong answers. Instead she says, “it’s about giving your rationale and reasoning”.

Successful applicants will then start their roles at The Telegraph in September 2024.

What Are They Looking For?

Firstly, we should stress again that you’re not expected to have any prior journalism experience — but you should be passionate about joining the industry and intrigued by how it all works. “I had no journalistic experience prior to the apprenticeship,” says Rachel Matthews, “but I read a lot of news and loved reading features in magazines, which meant I had a lot to talk about in my interview.”

a plate with a cooked steak and a corn on the cob is on a wooden table next to a glass of red wine
Elliot talked about his experience working as a waiter in his interview. (Image Credit: Pexels)

Before you apply, it’s worth familiarising yourself with The Telegraph’s content. Try to look at several different channels the paper uses and compare how things are presented. For example, as well as reading the paper and scrolling through the website, take the time to follow some of their social channels or listen to some of their podcasts.

It’s also a good idea to look at some other news brands to compare differences. Think about what approaches you prefer and any ideas you have about how they could improve their content.

Think About Digital Skills: “Thinking about stories with a digital focus is becoming an increasingly important part of the role for any journalist. What pictures are you going to use? Are there graphics you can commission? And is there any video that you can use to help tell your story? It’s what makes Snapchat so exciting as it’s a visual mobile platform, so we have so much that we can use — and it’s a great opportunity for any young journalist as they will already have so many digital skills.” – Rachel Matthews

“I think being able to demonstrate your understanding of the media world, and come brimming with ideas [would be my advice],” adds Rachel Matthews. It’s advice echoed by Rachel Slater too, who spent some time reading the Reuters Institute’s journalism, media, and technology trends for the year ahead. She then went on to talk about its SEO recommendations in her application and interview.

“We’re built to work on the publishing side,” she adds, stressing this is something applicants should bear in mind when applying. “So look at any way you can add value to the words, that’s what we’re trained to do. So whether it’s graphics, visuals, charts, social media, adding value is a really big focus.”

Elliott also stresses the need to be yourself. “So, in terms of tips,” he tells Journo Resources, “just try and get your passion across and try and get you across. Don’t be afraid to express what you’ve done before and who you are.”

He recalls telling his interviewer about his work as a waiter in the gastropub, including what he’d learnt about wines, as well as answering a question on resolving problems with an anecdote about serving an incorrect steak. He believes these answers helped to showcase his ability to learn, explain in an engaging way, and problem-solve — despite having nothing to do with journalism.

He adds: “Don’t be afraid to mention something that you might not think is [to do with the scheme]. Don’t just say what you think they want to hear. Be truthful to yourself.”

And, Finally…

If you are lucky enough to get a place on the scheme, our former apprentices urge new recruits to get stuck in, talk to people across the newsroom, and speak up if they need help.

“You’ve got to not be afraid of failure,” says Elliott. He says the newsroom values experimentation, adding: “As long as you go in with a plan, if it doesn’t work out, [at least] you’ve tried it.”

Gemma Brown, Niamh Robinson, and Rachel Slater reporting from the King’s Coronation. (Image Credit: Supplied)

He also stresses that everyone will have ups and downs throughout their working lives, especially if you’re relocating or there are things going on in your personal life.

“Just be honest and say ‘Hey, I’m having a rough time’. They’ll help you through it, even if you don’t want to say what’s going on. It’s very, very supportive, but if you’re at a low point, people here will help you.”

Both agree that you should use the time to speak to as many people across the newsroom as possible — and don’t be afraid to put yourself forward for things.

“Some of the best days I’ve had in my career are from those two years,” concludes Rachel Matthews.

This article was supported content and made possible by The Telegraph. It was compiled by Jem Collins. This piece was last updated in March 2024.