The apprentices' view

7 March 2018

For the inside track on how to nurture a hard-working apprentice, we asked some apprentices for their stories

Danny Costello, Legal Apprentice, Ward Hadaway – on the value of career progression

Danny is three years into working with Manchester law firm Ward Hadaway. He joined as a Business Administration Apprentice, but just completed his two-year legal apprenticeship. Shortlisted in the Apprentice of the Year category of the Made In Manchester Awards 2018, he is now hoping to start his five-year Higher Apprenticeship in Legal Services in September.

“By stepping from one apprenticeship to another, I’m developing my career. It’s been a great opportunity to put everything I’ve learnt into practice and gain valuable experience,” he says.

“I was expecting it to be hard work, but I wasn’t expecting the level of resources available – and the level of commitment from my employer. They’ve been great. They’ve given me the opportunity to balance my work with study, and the confidence that if I have any questions they are willing to help.”

“I’ve seen myself develop and progress in a way I’ve not been used to,” he explains, adding that he values being part of a knowledgeable team and contributing to it.

Mixing with his peers on his course has also given him more determination to work hard and progress – as well as providing him with the foundations for future networking with those on a similar career path. 

“I’d 100% recommend it to a friend – or a colleague.”

Jasmin Kaur, Higher Apprentice in Marketing, Lloyds Banking Group – and why work culture matters

Jasmin works on product communications for Scottish Widows, and opted for an apprenticeship after A-levels as it “beats going to a lecture hall every day”.

“The thing that’s surprised me most is the work culture,” she says. “I thought it’d be very formal and corporate but actually everyone’s very relaxed and approachable, willing to give you support. Forget the stereotypical image of how apprentices are treated – as soon as I joined, I realised it was a myth. I’m treated as an equal colleague – the same as everyone else. They’re dead serious about helping us get the skills and knowledge for us to go up against graduates and do as well as them.”

She values the flexible working policy that means she doesn’t worry about letting colleagues down by not being in the office. “It helps me to perform so much better in my job.”

And she argues that supportive managers and mentors can really make a difference.

“They’ve been key in helping me discover more about myself and how I want to develop. My manager in particular is always here to support me. We have regular one-to-one meetings, where we talk about my strengths and my development. She invariably has work lined up that helps improve my skills, and she encourages me to get active in events going on outside my day to day job.

“In doing so, I’ve gained a broader view of the business, and grasped how important it is to do these extra things so that I can develop in other ways, meet new people and discover new opportunities.”

Jasmin’s defining moment, however, has been receiving a Value in Action award – only given to six people across the group each quarter – for the work she’s done on the Lloyds Banking Group Apprentice Ambassador programme. “I never thought an apprentice would ever win an award like that because the standards are so high and the competition is so intense. But it goes to show that the group really does value its apprentices, and it’s ok for me to say that I fully deserve my place here – and my award.”

Molly Fensome, Business Administration Apprentice, Opus Energy – and the importance of being treated as one of the team

With apprentices in the family, Molly knew she wanted to go straight into work after GCSEs as she feels she learns better by being more practical – as well as being happy to enjoy the benefit of earning while she does it. She started off as a recruitment apprentice but joined Opus Energy as a business administration apprentice six months ago.

“I was attracted to Opus Energy as it is a growing company, and I wanted to do something somewhere I knew I could progress,” she says. “Six months in and it’s better than I expected. I thought people would treat me differently because I was an apprentice, but everybody is so supportive. There are just so many opportunities – and so many more to come.”

But what she’s enjoyed most is the team spirit. “Opus is a really friendly business and I’m meeting new people and working with different people of different ages. And even though I’ve just left school, I don’t feel any different from any other employee. The apprenticeship team is really close too and we help each other out.”

She also appreciates the support she gets from the Early Careers team and her mentor. “They make us feel comfortable and have helped us get the balance right between work and study. If I have a problem, I’m not sitting there worrying about who to go to.”

“I would definitely recommend doing an apprenticeship to others – and already have done to my sister,” she adds. “Compared to someone who comes out of university after three years with a qualification but no experience, I’ll have both. That’s really important to employers and I think it should be more recognised.”

Ashley Barnes, Sales and Administration Apprentice, George F White – on building confidence

Ashley Barnes had worked in bars but wanted to get into sales – and started with an apprentice with property consultant George F White to get the experience she needed. She’s just been offered a full-time position with her team, based in Bishop Auckland, County Durham.

“The apprenticeship has met my expectations. I’ve learnt a lot and I’ve grown personally too,” she says. “I’ve enjoyed the job, meeting new people and learning new things every day. It’s really exciting to have these opportunities and to know that the company wants to see you progress.”

Her manager, Lindsay French, has valued having an apprentice that she could mould, and who didn’t have the bad habits of someone joining from another company. “In just over six months, I’ve seen an apprentice who had no office experience and was very nervous blossom into a girl who can deal with anyone and hold her own in difficult conversations.”

Billy Amor, Business Administration Apprentice at Middlesex University tells a similar story. It took him a bit of time to get used to everything, but with a team that’s great to work with and by doing different things every day, he says he’s become more organised and more confident talking to people he doesn’t know.

“It’s helped me in both my work and personal skills,” he explains.

Holly Grinrod, Housing Apprentice, Bolton at Home – and the value of being trusted with responsibility

Holly needed an operation following a horse riding accident which also prevented her from continuing with a previous job. She was unemployed for two years and, at the age of 30, was struggling to move into a new career. But her age and life experiences turned into an advantage when she joined Bolton at Home, starting as an Apprentice Housing Officer, with the Tenancy Sustainment and Support Team, working with both vulnerable adults and young people.

After a couple of months, the tenants started to request for Holly when telephoning in any issues or concerns. They had identified that Holly could not only provide sympathy or signpost to other services, she could also explain how to navigate any difficulties that might arise as she had had first-hand experience. After 9 months, she successfully accompanied the CEO on a day of tenant visits when the Housing Officer who was supposed to do it fell sick. She also became the champion for TSS team providing training and support to all other staff on a new database support system.

On completion of her level two qualification, she applied for a 12-month secondment to a part-time Housing Officer post covering for maternity leave, two grades higher than her apprenticeship. She performed better in the interview than other permanent staff – getting the job, and working on it alongside her level 3 apprenticeship position. She did the same 12 months later, this time securing a contract as a Sustainable Tenancy Advisor within Elderly Services.

But now with a permanent role back within her old team, Holly says: “I feel like I’ve achieved something and I’m using my qualifications and life experience to the best advantage of the organisation.”

Michael Schofield, Construction Apprentice, ENGIE – and not feeling like having to settle

Michael Schofield, a former Jockey from Swindon, relocated to Darwen in Lancashire to be closer to his grandson after retiring from the sport last January.  Aged 50 and with a very particular skillset, Michael faced unemployment and limited career options. He initially rejected the concept of an apprenticeship as he felt they were for ‘young people’.  But after walking past a construction site near his home, where ENGIE is building a new development, Michael was inspired to obtain a Construction Skills Certification Scheme card and explore a path in construction.

Within months, he had secured the relevant certification to begin an apprenticeship and was offered full time training with ENGIE’s regeneration business (formerly Keepmoat Regeneration), where he continues to work on the project that inspired his new career.

“It’s funny because I started off my professional life as an apprentice rider at 15 and I didn’t think that 35 years later I’d be embarking on another apprenticeship,” says Michael. “The reality is – I’m only 50 and so that’s roughly another 20 years I could still be in work, so why settle for any job that will pay the bills, when I could do something that I love and still progress.

“There are so many people that are out of work or, like me, had a job that you can only feasibly do for a certain period of time; so I think apprenticeships are a fantastic way of not just getting people into the working world – but getting them back into work.

“I picked construction as it seems like one of the few jobs where you really do climb up the career ladder and progression is fast.”

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