In 2017, 814,800 bright young minds started their journey into the working world by participating in an apprenticeship. Each individual person will undoubtedly have their own unique story to tell, and seeing as it is National Apprenticeship week, what better time to relive my own highlight reel?
Hello everyone! I’m Reece, now Marketing Executive here at Natural HR. Without question, my apprentice roots have not only provided the perfect platform to ignite my career, but have shaped me into the person I am today. While the journey was turbulent at times, you won’t find a greater advocate for the apprenticeship scheme than me!
Where it all began
Rewind time three years ago, and a fresh-faced, boy from the Black Country was excited at the prospect of new ventures after completing his A-level studies in business and IT.
But much like any school leaver, the expectation of completing your academic education and heading off to University was instilled into every student. However, the thought of landing myself in financial debt while earning a degree which may not be useful scared me.
The idea of wasting several years on pointless assignments made me realise that I wanted to learn valuable and in-demand skills. All these signs were telling me that the apprenticeship route was where my career would begin.
The foundations of my career
Continuing the timeline in 2017, over in the heart of Birmingham, an aspiring tech company by the name of Natural HR were about to embark on their own voyage. Jason Dowzell (CEO) and Sarah Dowzell (COO), had never gone down the apprenticeship route before, but had high anticipation over the possibility of providing the next generation with the perfect platform to learn new skills, hone their talent and grow as individuals.
Simultaneously, I in was regular contact with my soon to be apprenticeship provider, 3AAA. After heading into their headquarters to sign off the paperwork and plough through the initiation stages, the waiting game began.
Despite walking away from several interviews with a feeling of mixed emotions, I turned down two opportunities, hoping the ideal fit was just around the corner. In hindsight, it was the right decision. Later that month, destiny had crossed the T’s and dotted the I’s, and I had left my latest interview with high hopes. The same day, I received a call explaining Natural HR wanted to offer me an opportunity to complete a level 3 Digital Marketing Apprenticeship with them.
Fast forward to the present day, I have gained a level 3 and 4 qualifications in Digital Marketing, learned countless skills under the right guidance and earned a full-time position, cementing my place in the Natural HR family.
However, with every success story, there are always obstacles in the way. In 2018, a scandal involving one of the country’s biggest apprenticeship providers (which happened to be the one my apprenticeship was provided by) was under investigation for allegations of fraud and ‘serious wrongdoing’ which saw the company fall into compulsory liquidation.
This meant around over 500 staff members had no stable income and were left jobless, while myself and 4,500 other learners had been left in the dark, desperately seeking to find a new training provider.
Unfortunately for me, on the day I was meant to submit 13 months’ worth of work, the closure took place. This made it extremely hard to find a new apprenticeship provider, as companies would receive less funding for an apprentice so close to their completion date.
To the credit of Natural HR, they once again showcased their immense morality and family culture, continuing to employ and support me despite having no training provider to finish my course with.
In the midst of no guidance or information to employers and their apprentices, my old tutor, Yousuf secured a new role at South Staffordshire College, and provided me with the opportunity to see out the remainder of my qualification.
Upon completion, I had the chance to further progress myself and strive to achieve my level 4. While I was getting accustomed to the course’s guidelines and targets, I found myself completing the qualification in a remote environment. By this point, COVID-19 had struck, and like the rest of the world found, adjusting to the new normal was challenging, but nevertheless, the course was completed.
The next steps
The million-pound question: where do you see yourself in five years? Although a full-time position has been secured, there’s no time to be resting on my laurels. As many marketers know, you have to wear multiple hats and there are so many skills to master.
If anything has been proved in this pandemic, digital is the way forward. While I’m comfortable producing content, designing artwork, dabbling in lead generation and much more, I hope to further enhance my web design and SEO skills.
I’m also looking to start my CIM (Digital Marketing Institute) Diploma in Professional Marketing Level 6. This way, I’ll gain vast knowledge on how to progress my strategic vision, helping me to climb the career ladder further down the line.
A word of advice
There’s a phrase that has always stuck in the back of my mind, ‘It’s not how you start that’s important, but how you finish!’. I think that quote can be directly related to an apprenticeship. No matter your age, background or upbringing, apprenticeships provide the opportunity to explore what career you want to chase after and in turn, that will shape you to become the best version possible of yourself.
What did my peers have to say
With it being National Apprenticeship week, what better way to round up the topic than by getting a few words of wisdom from the people I was working side-by-side throughout my journey so far.
Yousuf Mohammed, Digital Marketing Trainer, South Staffordshire College:
Yousuf has been my mentor since my early days at Natural HR. He has always gone the extra mile to provide the best advice, whether it be work-related activities, or feedback specific to my course. From apprentices’ point of view, it’s so vital to have an assessor who is passionate about their role and goes beyond their criteria to ensure the full development during your time on the scheme.
Chris Bourne, Head of Marketing, Natural HR:
Chris has only been Natural HR for a proportion of my apprenticeship; however, I’ve learned a substantial amount under excellent leadership during this period. While my apprenticeship course indeed laid the foundations for my career, you also need people to take you under their wing, and I certainly wouldn’t have learned half the skills I have, if he hadn’t joined Natural HR.