Apprenticeship stories

Apprenticeships are open to all age groups from 16+.

The stories below are from some of our local young people starting out in their career as well as others who are upskilling or reskilling through the apprenticeship route. 

There are also some national success stories across different sectors highlighting why the apprentices chose this route. 

The stories show what has been gained and share advice to help you make an informed choice for that first or next step in your career.

Fantastic Futures student Naimat is reflecting on her offer of a Degree Apprenticeship, studying Cyber Security at the University of Gloucester with St James’s Place.

“I still can’t believe it, it hasn’t quite sunk in yet!

Initially I was unsure of apprenticeships. I had a lot of misconceptions about what they were and thought they might limit me more than university.

That completely changed when I went to an information evening with Nationwide, where all the different options were completely broken down and explained to me.

After that, I knew a Degree Apprenticeship was what I wanted.”

With the support of her mentor Julie, Naimat took to researching different companies and began the process of applying.

“The digital interviews were really daunting to start with, I’d never done anything like them before.

My mentor Julie helped me to prepare for what to expect and I practiced a lot beforehand.

During the interview you’re also given the time to prepare each answer as they come, and it wasn’t as scary as I had expected.

I actually really enjoyed the assessment centres! They are a great opportunity to meet other candidates, and see people working in a professional environment.

Everyone there wants you to do well, and are so supportive.”

The application process for such competitive positions can be tough at the best of times, but this was made even more difficult in March with the Covid-19 pandemic.

“It was a really frightening time, I was so unsure of what I was going to do” explained Naimat. 

“All of the assessment centres were either delayed or cancelled, and I was really worried about the impact this would have on my plans for the future, on my career.

As time went on, I felt sure that I would just have to go to university, though that wasn’t what I truly wanted.”

Naimat reached a breakthrough when she made a last minute application to St James’s Place.

“I applied on the final day, which I absolutely would not recommend! There’s so much work to do for an application, so it was fairly stressful.

I’d lost all hope for getting an apprenticeship, so it was such a shock when I got to the next stage.”

And ultimately, Naimat passed all the stages to be offered a role with the organisation.

“I felt so strongly during the assessments that my personality fitted their culture. They really value each other and were so friendly.

I knew it was where I wanted to be, and thankfully they saw it too!”

Looking back on her experience, Naimat has some pearls of wisdom for students thinking about applying for an apprenticeship.

“Do your research! From learning about the company to understanding the different tests available, it’s really important that you’re prepared.

You’ll start to see patterns in the tasks they set you, which means you can prepare for each assessment with some expectations of what will happen.

My number one piece of advice would be to be yourself. They can see through you when you try to pretend, and ultimately you want to work for a company that matches your culture, and your values.

So be yourself, be honest, and you will find the fit that’s right for you.”

Naimat is excited to start her new role in the autumn and take her next step in her career as she leaves school, and the Villiers Park programme.

“I just want to say thank you to Villiers Park, and especially to my mentor Julie.

It meant so much to have someone outside of the college environment to talk to and support me through the whole process."

Nathan Youssiff

“As a mid-20 year old with qualifications from college under my belt, the idea of starting an apprenticeship sounded like a step-back when I was approached for an interview as a housing apprentice at Swindon Borough Council (SBC)."

"After nearly two years working in multiple teams, having the opportunity to help out with projects and improvements to customer services and having the freedom to use my initiative and take my learning into my own hands, I couldn’t have wished for a more productive and rewarding experience."

The support and attitude towards the apprentices shook off any doubt towards my choice in becoming an apprentice at SBC. Non-stop support and guidance, more opportunities to move on and progress than I thought possible in a work place, and now, as a reward for my hard work and learning,"

"I have secured a permanent position working with the Lettings Team that I will be starting in the New Year. This brings together the knowledge and experience of two years and seeing the 'behind the scenes' operations of the different teams within housing, which gave me the edge compared to outside applicants."

"I also now have a recognised Housing Qualification which will help me progress further in my career."

Amy Wright

In the following video, Amy she shares her experience of her apprenticeship:

Chloe White - Digital Marketing 

Chloe is a digital marketing apprentice at New College Swindon, and in the following video she shares her experience of her apprenticeship.

Laura Rossi - Marketing Officer

Former apprentice Laura shares a reflective account of her life in lockdown.

Hello! My name’s Laura, I’m currently the Marketing Officer – Events at New College Swindon, where I joined 4 years ago as their marketing apprentice.

I am also a Young Apprentice Ambassador for the South West Young Apprentice Ambassador Network and support with their marketing.

Usually in my role as a YAA, I would attend careers fairs and school events, sharing my apprentice story and inspiring the next generation of apprentices. Though we haven’t been able to attend physical events, there have been various webinars run by the network, and we have also recorded videos of our apprenticeship stories to send to schools.

Reflecting on the months of virtual working and social distancing, it has certainly had its challenges; though it’s fair to say there have been a fair few triumphs too!

I feel lucky that I’ve been given the opportunity to carry on working from home. Prior to the first lockdown announcement, the college had already been preparing contingency plans for the transition to remote learning/working.

We completed a trial day, to make sure everyone was comfortable using the equipment and software. Most of my day-to-day tasks are completed digitally anyway, so I haven’t had any problems with working remotely.

The biggest challenges have been the lack of social contact and the uncertainty of it all. In the office. I would usually interact with many people from all different departments across the college.

It’s been great to see that everyone is still working collaboratively and supporting each other from home. I really appreciate that my line manager and head of marketing have tried to keep things as ‘normal’ as possible, ensuring we still have a routine to follow and don’t feel isolated at all.

We have regular team meetings and my line manager encourages us to call if we’re struggling which really helps mentally; being able to have that ‘face-to-face’ conversation, despite it being via a webcam. We’ve also had to adapt our marketing material and content, particularly for the courses for adults, since there is a stronger focus on distance learning and achieving a qualification at home.

Working from home has its benefits; it means that I get an extra couple of hours every day, where I would usually be travelling to and from work. I have also been able to complete additional training, requesting recordings of online sessions and watching at a time that suits me.

I’m trying to stay positive and have been using the extra time to do things that I’ve always wanted to do, but never find the time for. I love gaining new skills and knowledge and consider myself to be a ‘lifelong learner’ – there will always be more to explore and I enjoy the sense of fulfilment that comes with it.

Since the first lockdown, I have completed an Advice and Guidance qualification with the college, as well as learning new skills such as how to run a virtual event.

Though I am no longer an apprentice, the Young Apprentice Ambassador Network (YAAN) have been fantastically supportive! They understand that not everyone works in a big team, or has the opportunity to speak with colleagues throughout the day, so they set up a series of ‘Tea break Talks’ for the YAAN to connect with each other.

They have also been sending newsletters with Top Tips, recommendations, isolation activities, useful links and advice on how to cope with the current situation.

I do feel like I have a lot of things to be thankful for. Particularly at this time; a great support network of friends, colleagues and family and a job that I am able to do from home! Though it is unclear when things will return to ‘normal’, I am learning to appreciate other things and make the most of what I have.

I hope that everyone else is able to do the same and continue to support each other in these uncertain times.

Mi-space (Oakfield’s construction partner) has employed two apprentices, Ollie Farmer and Brandon Snary, to work at Oakfield.

Ollie is a trainee quantity surveyor doing a degree apprenticeship and Brandon is a trainee site manager doing a higher apprenticeship; their study is funded through the Apprenticeship Levy.

Ollie and Brandon tell us more about their experience of their apprenticeships so far.

What attracted you to the apprenticeship?

Ollie: I noticed Midas’ commitment to trainees, by providing them with lots of development opportunities, was very attractive compared to other companies.

They give you a sense that they would look after you in the future.

Brandon: I agree. They focus on training people up on their ‘Launch’ trainee programme for you to stay long-term.

What is your day-to-day life like as an apprentice and what skills have you developed?

Brandon: Being an apprentice is fun. We have a close-knit team on site – even with the social distancing! There doesn’t feel like a hierarchy as everyone is so approachable and we can ask as many questions as we need to.

I’m a visual learner so find it’s much easier to see the work being done in front of me. We learn as we go but also have a laugh along the way. I got stuck in the mud yesterday which was hilarious!

How will your apprenticeship have benefited you in the future?

Ollie: By doing the degree-apprenticeship I will be able to move up in terms of job role, but also focus on my personal development.

Brandon: You get a good sense of achievement when you work up through the job levels. I could work up to a site manager or a project manager.

What’s been your best day or moment since starting?

Ollie: Everyday!

Brandon: I love the sense of achievement which I get every day.

What recommendations would you give to someone looking at applying for an apprenticeship?

Brandon: Go for it! I was nervous at first as I felt that I didn’t have the best grades, but I have worked on them to get the grades I needed to keep it all going.

Ollie: If you’re considering doing these courses at college – you get paid for doing an apprenticeship and get hands on experience. It’s a win-win.

My name is Chloe and I am the Marketing Manager for St. Joseph’s Catholic College and its subsidiary, Romero Services. I completed my first apprenticeship in Business Administration at St. Joseph’s, and this qualification set me up nicely to move forward with confidence in my career.

I completed my second apprenticeship, again at St.Joseph’s, six years later. This was an advanced apprenticeship in Digital Marketing, which I firmly believe was one of the most important points in my career so far.

This qualification involved creating a portfolio of evidence whilst I was in the workplace and also travelling to different areas in the U.K. Thi was to complete ‘classroom weeks’, where myself and fellow apprentices would learn more about different elements of digital marketing.

My colleagues were very impressed with the knowledge I was gaining during this time, as I was able to implement it into my daily role, and my employer was able to benefit from this.

Whilst my apprenticeship experience has been entirely positive, it has not come without challenges. From problem solving, to learning new skills and meeting new people, it has been a constant learning curve that I know has shaped my career moving forward.

I thoroughly enjoy being a part of the Young Apprenticeship Ambassador Network (YAAN) and speaking to Year 10 or 11 students about apprenticeships. I feel very strongly about the positive impact that they can have on young people.

My first apprenticeship started just after I left college, a time when I was very unsure about my future prospects. It essentially set me on the right path by enabling me to gain another qualification whilst at work, as I had only left college with one full A-Level in photography.

I particularly enjoy speaking to the students at St. Joseph’s as part of their careers education because I think that they can relate to me more, by seeing me in the workplace.

This year, the combination of my apprenticeship qualifications, workplace experience and life-long love of photography have enabled me to reduce my working hours at St. Joseph’s. This has allowed me to pursue my own photography venture on a freelance basis.

I specialise in product photography and branding portraits for small businesses, whilst also offering website design services. I’m really passionate about these areas as I love the creative element.

I hope I can continue inspiring young people to follow their dreams through apprenticeships too!

There are a huge range of digital apprenticeship available in a variety of different areas, such as digital marketing, cyber security and web development.

In the following video, apprentices share why they chose an digital apprenticeship.

Abi shares her story of an apprenticeship in HR.

I joined Fundamentals in 2019 as an HR Administrator. Being new to HR, I knew that I wanted to further my career by completing the CIPD Level 3 Certificate.

My employer gave me the option to do this as part of an apprenticeship, which I was unsure of at first. I already had a degree in Psychology, and I didn’t know that doing an apprenticeship was even an option for me!

I decided to go ahead with the apprenticeship, and this turned out to be a really good decision. I now have two qualifications under my belt, as well as a portfolio of evidence of my skills and experience in HR.

An apprenticeship is a great option for upskilling in a current job.

The support from both my employer and the college has been great. My employer has given me the opportunity to get involved in different HR processes and projects. This has allowed me to build my knowledge and put my classroom learning into practice.

My college assessor was always available to give me feedback on coursework and to guide me through the different stages.

Amy and Sarah are both undertaking marketing apprenticeships with Swindon and Wiltshire Local Enterprise Partnership (SWLEP).

Amy Wetherill, Digital Marketing

I am currently doing a Level 3 Marketing Apprenticeship, which is equivalent to A Levels. My apprenticeship for 15 months and it means that once completed, I could apply for jobs including a Marketing Assistant or a Marketing Executive.

As a Marketing Apprentice I am required to understand which platforms suit the subject matter that is being published and reach the correct audience. This is whilst adapting the content to benefit the customer.

What was your journey into this apprenticeship?

I completed my A Levels from 2019-2021, involving Graphic Design, Sociology and Photography.

I have always liked the idea of combining the likes of social media and graphic content which, when researched, is the basic idea of Marketing.

Once completing my A Levels I realised that an apprenticeship was what I wanted to find as an entrance into the world of full time work. After working part time as a retail assistant and a nursery assistant, I decided it would be time to choose something I could see myself doing full time.

I chose an apprenticeship as I believed it was an amazing way to combine learning new talents, working full time and receiving an income. It also meant I could work as part of a team and learn skills on the job, whilst balancing work and college work.

I applied for my Marketing Apprenticeship through the website, after looking for a few months. I knew that Marketing was an interest of mine and would take me out of my comfort zone as I had no previous experience in this field.

I filled out the application form and was greatly contacted with an invitation for an interview. This was another skill I had learned and gathering knowledge of the SWLEP and what they did was part of this process. I then had an interview meeting my now boss, the Growth Hub Manager and Skills Advisor.

I was delighted when I received the news that I was successful and since then I have been working for the SWLEP alongside another Marketing Apprentice. This has been an amazing journey so far.

What does your job look like on an average day?

On an average day, I carry out a range of tasks. I check socials most mornings; retweeting, liking content and replying to any messages. Once I have done this, I check my calendar to see if I have any meetings or need to schedule meetings from emails.

I check emails regarding any work sent to me or finish any outstanding work from the previous day. I then check the GOV.UK website for news stories, and I schedule posts on Hootsuite which are relevant to our audience on the Growth Hub Website.

I converse with the other Apprentices regarding tasks, check with my boss concerning any queries or questions I may have. I also check my to do list for the week.

My day can consist of content including, uploading to the website or socials, promoting workshops or webinars and sending emails to specific customers regarding upcoming events. It also consists of emailing external individuals with work or content we need created.

Do you get a qualification and progression?

Once my apprenticeship has finished, I will have completed the course and receive a Level 3 qualification as a Marketing Assistant. I may be offered a permanent place at the SWLEP or could progress to another job in the creative field.

I will be able to explore the field of digital marketing to another level and could look at becoming a Marketing Assistant or Executive and take my skills further.

This apprenticeship has been an amazing opportunity to increase my knowledge in marketing. I now know how important it is to know your audience and what platform is best suited to target the customer.

I highly recommend an apprenticeship to anyone who is looking to develop their career or who is looking to learn whilst working.

Sarah Pearce, Marketing Assistant

I am currently doing a Level 3 Marketing Assistant apprenticeship with VQ Solutions and SWLEP. The course is 15 months long and involves online learning, with assignments submitted over the duration regarding a multitude of topics.

I also attend workshops online about the topics we cover. At the end of these 15 months, I will be examined based on a test, and a project.

What was your journey into this apprenticeship?

I like to think my journey started in 6th form (leaving in July 2019). At this time, I knew that the end of school was just around the corner and all my friends were applying for their universities. I had always known that I didn’t want to go to university for myself.

I hadn’t put all my effort into my A-Levels, regrettably, and by this point I knew that this type of learning environment was not working for me. I had only previously considered going to university for the social aspects and the freedom of moving out, making new friends, and doing the same thing that all my close friends were doing.

Essentially, I didn’t want to be left behind. When the time came for the end of school, I was stressed about what direction I needed to head in now that university wasn’t an option for me.

Apprenticeships hadn’t been promoted to me at 6th form. Whether this is because people only associated apprenticeships with laborious jobs for boys, or whether they thought university was the best route to take, I’m not sure.

During the summer that school had ended, I searched for full time jobs. I wanted to move away, to gain the experience of moving out like everyone else was getting. I thought the best way to do this was by getting a job in Cardiff.

I managed to find a support assistant role for a big brand in the centre of Cardiff. I had plans to stay with family for a couple of months whilst trying to find a flat that was affordable on my salary. However, this didn’t seem possible.

A couple of weeks before I was due to move to Cardiff and begin this new chapter, I was spotted by a modelling agency in Bath whilst with a friend.

I travelled to London (accompanied by my parents, who were sceptical that it was legitimate), and found that it wasn’t a hoax as we had believed. I was quickly signed with this agency which was an easy choice for me to make. The prospect of going to Cardiff (for a job that wasn’t in a career that I had ever considered), wasn’t a match for an exciting, potentially high-paying, and easy option.

It had been handed to me on a plate, and I was excited to roll with it, as what else did I want? I didn’t yet know.

For the next few months, I floated along, commuting back and forth to London for photoshoots to build a portfolio. I had the fortune to meet a diverse range of people with amazing talents that opened my eyes to a whole world of creative work.

When the pandemic hit, this stopped. There was no opportunity for work for me as it had all been face-to-face. Even before this, I knew I had not really been enjoying myself. A re-occurring thought was that I could not see myself doing this job in five years and enjoying it.

I had no mental stimulation, other than planning my commute and thinking about my money. I realised that I needed a balance.

So, during 2020, amidst all the lockdowns, I began to think. I had the time to, so it took some of the pressure off.

Knowing that I needed to find a balance was where my search began. I was still signed with the agency, still in this job but it had just slowed down.

I made the decision in early 2021 to end this career. I was craving a degree/qualification that I could use in a career that I genuinely enjoyed, but without going to university. I was solely focussed on beginning a career path that I could see myself working in long-term, progressing and developing my skills.

I got a part-time job working as a breakfast waitress in a local pub/B+B. This gave me more confidence financially, and by this point I knew that to fulfil the balance of creativity and logic that I was looking for, I needed to look at marketing.

Media, advertising, and marketing had always interested me, even in primary school. It was just the right option for me. Furthermore, to find the balance of getting a qualification whilst having real experience, it was clear that an apprenticeship was the perfect fit.

I applied to a few marketing apprenticeships, and fortunately, SWLEP chose myself and another apprentice for this role. I was thrilled with the news and excited for the journey ahead. This feeling has continued as my time here has been wonderful and I feel I am learning more and more every day.

I am excited to continue, and I am much more hopeful for my overall career development.

What does your job look like on an average day?

As cliché as it is, there is no average day! With launches on the horizon, a lot of focus is going into the development of marketing materials, growing social platforms, creating paid campaigns, filming and editing video content. 

I am also contacting outside agencies with a specification for a variety of work (this includes business cards, roller banners, website pages, design of reports, creation of film for promotional value). 

Everyday activities such as general posts and promotion of webinars and workshops, as well as posts about local business developments and updates from government organisations and grants, are also part of my role.

I analyse statistics, as these are vital in this area of work. Furthermore, we send emails to promote events and services, as well as creating surveys (for example, internally to contribute data for our commitment towards the SME Climate Hub).

Alongside these examples, I have assignments to complete for my apprenticeship. These are not counted towards a final grade however, they are crucial in the application of what we have learnt and skills we have developed whilst on the job.

I also attend workshops to support this. We have regular meetings to stay up to date with each other, and to discuss projects that are upcoming. Generally, throughout the day, myself and the rest of the marketing team work closely to produce this work efficiently and at a high quality.

Do you get a qualification and progression?

At the end of my 15 months in this course, I will receive a Level 3 qualification as a Marketing Assistant. This is equivalent to A-levels and will allow me to progress further in this career, whether  pursuing a higher level of qualification in another apprenticeship in this career, or finding a job as a marketing assistant/marketer using this qualification.

I am certain that the skills I have already been developing will only progress further, and I am motivated to continue within this career path- something I could not say this time last year.

Doing an apprenticeship is something I could not recommend more. With real life experience truly reinforcing the learning aspect of the role, I find myself being sincerely supported from all aspects, whilst pushing myself to accept challenges and overcome them.

In my opinion, and the way I learn most effectively may affect this, apprenticeships are genuinely highly valuable in developing skills that are both needed for work and for life.

Apprentices Building the Future - local employers talk about the benefits and their experience of recruiting apprentices.

Abi Duncan, Fundamentals Ltd

"From an employer’s perspective, I think that apprentices are a great addition to any business. Having apprentices in the business allows experienced employees to pass on their valuable knowledge, as well as bringing fresh ideas to their work."

Tim Burghes, Digital Marketing Manager - Swindon and Wiltshire Local Enterprise Partnership 

"We’re quite lucky to have a rolling apprentice position at the Swindon and Wiltshire Local Enterprise Partnership (SWLEP). Initially we wanted to give young people a chance to develop themselves, learn new skills and get onto the career ladder with the best start they could.

We’re very engaged with the skills agenda, we know it’s also a great way to recruit new staff into developing areas of the business and a chance to fresh ideas and enthusiasm. You just can’t buy that.

With much of the staff at Swindon and Wiltshire Local Enterprise Partnership already engaged with apprenticeships it wasn’t hard to get everyone to buy into the idea. We’re all aware of the huge benefits of bringing apprentices into the business."

Read more from Tim on the advantages of taking on an apprentice: Apprenticeship Employer Case Study - Tim Burghes

Carol Willis, Voluntary Action Swindon

“As the Council for Voluntary Sector (CVS) in Swindon, Voluntary Action decided to recruit an apprentice to enable us to promote and support other voluntary sector organisations through the process and encourage the recruitment of apprentices. We are using Swindon Borough Council’s levy to pay for the training, and have taken advantage of the current government incentives.

The recruitment process provided a high number of applicants for the position, with a high calibre of young people being interviewed that we could have offered the apprenticeship to.

Unfortunately we only had a vacancy for one position, and Rachel started in January. She is proving to be highly motivated, and although having to start her first role in admin working from home, has adapted well and will be an asset to Voluntary Action throughout her apprenticeship.

Rachel is keeping a blog of her time as an apprentice, which can be accessed through our Voluntary Action Swindon website. The process has been relatively simple to set up with the support of Swindon Borough Council and New College (the training provider) being very supportive.

The helpline provided by the National Apprenticeship Service account has answered any questions I have had about my online Apprenticeship Management Account. All together a positive process”

Discover some amazing apprenticeship stories across the South West, featuring Swindon JobFest 2020 and two of Swindon’s Young Apprentice Ambassadors, Laura Rossi and Olivia Dobson.

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