Reflections of a Degree Apprentice

As Brathay’s very own apprentice, Jenny sees both sides of the coin when it comes to apprenticeship programmes. For National Apprenticeship Week she describes her experience to date and gives some pointers for apprentices and employers alike.

It's the end of National Apprenticeship Week and as I'm Brathay's very own apprentice I thought I would introduce myself and share some of my thoughts on the realities of being an apprentice. The nature of my job and the work Brathay does means that I am in an unusual position of providing support for apprentices whilst being one myself.

So who am I and what do I do?

Name: Jenny Rhodes. (That's me, up front and centre in my trademark bobble hat)

Age: 24

Role at Brathay: 'Commercial Trainee: Business Development'- I am one of the first points of contact at Brathay for those interested in the development of their employees and support our consultants to ensure we deliver impactful programme that create change for organisations. I am also part of the digital and marketing team, as well as working on projects such as process optimisation and new product development.

Apprenticeship: Year 2 of Chartered Manager Degree Apprenticeship - Level 6

What's been my experience so far?

Personally I think apprenticeships at all levels are an incredible idea that present an opportunity to boost your CV, earn and learn (and not end up in a heap of debt), and gain new skills in a professional setting.

Apprenticeships are a great way of developing skills at any stage in your career and aren't just for those leaving education. There are people of all different backgrounds and ages on my course and we all benefit so much from the diversity of experience in the room. Not only that, it is a really good networking opportunity and a chance to learn more about industries other than your own.

The downsides to doing a working degree? Yes my schedule is fuller and I need to be more organised with my time, but ultimately I quite enjoy being busy and feel as if it's fast tracking my career more than if I were to learn these things by progressing through different roles.

Though at times it is tough to keep a work-study-life balance, the pro’s far outweigh the cons. Had I known more about what apprenticeships were available I would have definitely chosen that route after finishing school. You can find out what apprenticeship opportunities there are available now at: https://www.apprenticeships.gov.uk/

Top tips for my fellow Apprentices

  • GET ORGANISED

As much as I hate how much everyone will tell you it’s all about time management and prioritising…it is and it’s not always easy. My advice for the studying workload is to do little and often and avoid leaving things until the last minute (though I struggle to follow this myself sometimes). Make sure you pop all deadlines in your email calendar or physical diary so you can’t forget them.

  • FIND AN OUTLET

Since starting my job and degree I’ve taken up outdoor swimming year round and often go out on a lunch time in my cozzie and bobble hat. Now I’m not suggesting this will be everyone’s cup of tea but it’s so important that you find something that allows you to switch off and re-energise to avoid burn-out. Plan time to see friends, go to the gym, take up salsa dancing….whatever floats your boat but make time for yourself and your well-being.

  • BE BRAVE

The time commitments, workload, work-life balance and new experiences in general can be daunting. However, you will undoubtedly get more from the experience by talking to new people in your organisation, being critically inquisitive and putting yourself up for projects and tasks you might not normally engage in.

I’ve found since starting my apprenticeship that I have a whole host of skills in areas I never thought I’d be interested in, such as process optimisation and data configuration (sounds thrilling right?), and since expressing interest in learning other departments and roles have been invited to get involved in all sorts outside of my degree. Be brave and say yes to the whole host of opportunities that will come about...who knows what it might lead to.

A NOTE TO APPRENTICE EMPLOYERS

  • RECOGNISE THEIR TIME COMMITMENTS

An apprenticeship is more than just one day a week at university and college, we have assignments and homework and it all needs doing either in work on an evening/weekend.

I am really fortunate to work for an organisation that fully understands this and it means I can work better with colleagues to ensure I don’t have too many conflicting deadlines. Even a few hours on a Friday afternoon for them to work on an assignment, additional reading etc. can help ease the pressure and help your apprentice balance work, study and home life better.

  • BE THEIR CHAMPION

Enable your apprentice to get the business knowledge and information they need for their studies. My current degree covers a vast range of topics such as finance, operations management, marketing and project work which means I need to talk to lots of departments about what they do and how. Introduce them and help set up meetings with people across your organisation ... you never know what capabilities and interests you might uncover.


Find out more information about apprenticeships at: https://www.apprenticeships.gov.uk/

If you’d like to hear more about Brathay's full Leadership & Management Apprenticeships or how we can support an element of your own program drop us an email or call 015394 39700 .