8th February 2024

My Journey through Apprenticeships

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I left school with little to no GCSEs and this resulted in not being able to study A-Levels at college so I signed up a Diploma in Photography (one of the few Cs I got was in Art). However, I dropped out before finishing as I struggled, like I had in school, with days worth of classroom-based teaching.

I had held down a part time job for as early as I possibly could because I enjoyed being independent and having my own money, so I decided to stop education and try to get a full-time job. I ended up working in retail part time for a good handful of years before I started to get bored and knew I wanted to progress in my career but with little to no options to do so.

Sometime after this, I discovered my Local Council was offering Business Administration Apprenticeships and I couldn’t believe they offered a living wage which effectively meant I would earn more money than my current job and get a qualification for free, at the same time as working. I did some research on apprenticeships as I only ever knew them to be in more trade-based sectors and paid a lower wage.

In my research I learnt that some offer the living wage, that there is normally a prospect of a permanent position at the end (or opportunity to apply for internal positions) and that I’d have to complete my GCSE Maths and English due to failing them in school. I didn’t like the prospect of the GCSE Maths and English but understood I wouldn’t be able to progress without them, so I had to bite the bullet.

I was lucky enough to get the position and I’ve gone from apprenticeship to apprenticeship ever since – from the Level 2 Business Administrator to Level 3 Business Administrator, then the Level 4 Internal Audit Practitioner and now the Level 5 Operations/Departmental Manager Apprenticeship. Also, the Maths and English weren’t that bad! It wasn’t anything like studying Maths and English in school – they just wanted to train me up on areas I wasn’t confident on and once I had bridged those gaps in my knowledge, I was put in for my exams well ahead of coming to the end of my first apprenticeship.

The apprenticeship journey gave me all the knowledge, skills and behaviours to progress my career as far as I was willing to work towards. I found the blended nature of learning and working meant I could instantly put into practise what I was learning from my tutor led sessions and whilst it didn’t always go right, I had the support of my tutor and manager to reflect and get it right the next time.

I also still enjoy now, learning and resharing that learning with my team – it almost always leads to a great conversation that results in all parties learning something. My apprenticeship was not only developing me, but it was developing my team and organisation.

A surprising additional benefit from my apprenticeship was the networking opportunities that it afforded me – not only from my Training Provider in group sessions and event offerings but also via my employer in the form of working with other apprentices and teams in the organisation. I found I was developing in the curriculum of the apprenticeship, at that time, but also developing my people skills like confidence with talking to groups of people.

Each apprenticeship was challenging – so I’d always suggest speaking to other apprentices if it’s your first apprenticeship as you need to be committed for at least a year, depending on how long your apprenticeship is, to keep on top of your work and learning each week. I can confidently say I’ve never once regretted any of my apprenticeships and I don’t plan to stop after my Operations/ Departmental Level 5 as there are Level 7 degree apprenticeships such as Senior Leader!

Ashley Varley – Business Development Manager

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