Why I chose the apprenticeship route into communications

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By Ellie McWilliams, Employer Brand Coordinator, City & Guilds Group

The saying that ‘time really does fly by’ in my opinion, is completely true. I find it hard to believe that nearly three years ago my 18 year old self was sitting my A level exams and deciding what I wanted to do for the rest of my life.

After studying A levels in English Language, Communications Studies and Psychology I knew I had a love for writing and there was something I quite enjoyed about understanding people. Up until this point I had my heart set on becoming a primary school teacher, and expected to take the very traditional route into employment, that was drummed into us at sixth form – going to university and getting a degree. My teachers made it sound as if it was the only option. I won’t lie and say I never wanted to go, because I did. I’d picked my universities, I’d thought about my accommodation and I’d even applied for my student loan.

But over time I thought about it more and more. I didn’t want to become a teacher anymore and I liked the idea of the marketing and communications world. Did I need to go to university for this? Was it worth three years of debt when I could start earning now? What were my other options?

And that’s when I decided to start looking into apprenticeships. I was pretty set on getting a job but with no experience behind me it was hard to even get an interview. An apprenticeship seemed like the perfect option – I could get the job that I wanted and carry on my learning, while earning.

After a few interviews I was offered a position at the City & Guilds Group as the Group Brand Engagement Apprentice. Fast forward two years, and here I am working in a full-time role as Employer Brand Coordinator.

Taking an apprenticeship has had lots of benefits for me both in a work and personal sense. The transition from school to work is huge and quite often I think employers can forget this. Students coming straight from school aren’t used to working nine–till-five for a start. But also that idea of having freedom can be quite daunting. I was so used to doing things the way I was shown by a teacher and rarely challenging anyone. But in the working world, and particularly in my job, I now have the freedom to put forward my ideas and have my own stamp on how things are done. It’s exciting to be able to come to the table as a fresh set of eyes and think about how things can be done differently, or to see how your ideas progress and develop.

On a personal level, an apprenticeship has helped me to build my confidence. I was provided with just the right amount of support I needed for a first time job. I think it’s important for employers to be empathetic and put themselves in the apprentice’s shoes. This is all new to them – new environment, different people, a whole new different way of life. Working is something we will do for a very long time (especially as a young person with the retirement age and life expectancy increasing), so it’s important you enjoy what you do and where you work. Having the right guidance and support can make such a difference. Like anything, those first few days can really build your opinion of an organisation.

My apprenticeship has also been the building blocks to help me start my career and think about where I want to go next. It’ a good opportunity to explore a job. How can you know what you want to do if you haven’t tried it before? So I think that short period of time you are an apprentice gives you a much better understanding of whether the role, industry or sector is right for you.

Luckily for me, I made the right choice, and I am currently studying for a Specialist Certificate in Internal Communications. I’m still keen to learn and would one day love to reach a degree level qualification. But not through the traditional way; I want to do this my way.

When I look back on the last few years, I am proud of the journey I have been on, and excited for my future.

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