To celebrate National Apprenticeship Week (5-9th March), we’re looking closer to home to bring you the success story of our very first apprentice.
Whether you’re a judge, entrepreneur or partner, you’ve probably come across our Community & Events Executive, Chloe Johnson. Now an integral part of the NatWest Great British Entrepreneur Awards team, Chloe actually started at the company in August 2016 as an apprentice.
At the age of 18, Chloe embarked on a 15-month apprenticeship which gave her qualifications equivalent to a foundation degree while earning valuable career experience and a wage. It was a route she chose because she didn’t really know what she wanted to do.
How long had you felt unsure about which career path you wanted to take?
Chloe: University never really appealed to me, most people saw it as the obvious choice after A Levels. I was unsure of what path I wanted to take, but I knew university would not suit me. I wanted to explore the world of work, but the thought of it was extremely intimidating to me.
Did you feel pressured to go to university, even though you weren’t sure what you wanted to do?
Definitely! When you’re 18, not sure what to do, and all your class mates are being accepted into university, you do feel an enormous amount of pressure because time is running out.
Feeling this pressure, I applied to my local university for a Primary Education course. Although I wasn’t keen on university, it’s something I could see myself doing. But my heart wasn’t in it, and I was declined a place due to a lack of experience.
At the time, I was devastated but looking back, it was a huge blessing in disguise!
When did an apprenticeship become a realistic option for you?
When everyone around you is doing it, the thought of not attending university, and not having a degree terrified me. I felt like I would not have a successful career without a degree, and that played on my mind for a while.
Looking for full-time employment, in an industry I thought would challenge and excite me, was a struggle given my lack of degree and experience.
It was actually my careers adviser who guided me towards the possibility of an apprenticeship in the creative industries, having evaluated my skills and interests. I hadn’t considered an apprenticeship before, because the perception is that it’s only for things like plumbing, engineering and beauty, for instance.
I didn’t know there were apprenticeships for this type of job and industry. And when I learned that I’d be able to obtain qualifications while earning a wage and gaining valuable work experience, it became a really attractive pathway for me.
What was the biggest appeal for an apprenticeship?
There were so many pros that stood out to me. As someone who felt like they needed a degree to succeed in the future, but didn’t want to go to university, it gave me the best of both worlds. I was able to obtain a diploma, I didn’t have to go to university, I could earn a wage and experience. That was the biggest appeal.
This apprenticeship has allowed me to step into the real world to focus on my career whilst completing a qualification that is equal to a foundation degree. I am extremely lucky to be in a job that I love and am passionate about. I never thought that I would end up working as an apprentice, let alone in the creative media industry.
Now that you have completed your apprenticeship, what advice would you give to those considering an alternative to higher education?
The biggest takeaway for me is the realisation that you should always seek out other opportunities and look for alternative directions rather than settling for something that you know deep down isn’t right for you. You don’t have to follow everyone else because it’s the ‘norm’ or the expected thing to do. It’s so important to do what is right for you. There are other options available.
Do you feel like your career has progressed quicker as a result of the apprenticeship?
Definitely! I’m 20 years old now, so if I had gone to university, I’d still have at least another year of studying left, with no promise of a career opportunity at the end. By the time I would have graduated, I’ll have nearly three years of valuable, real-world work experience.
I feel extremely lucky to have secured a full-time permanent in an industry that I love.
What have you enjoyed most about working with Great British entrepreneurs?
Working with Great British entrepreneurs has given me a great insight into the world of business, and I have truly enjoyed working alongside such inspirational and enthusiastic entrepreneurs. Seeing their drive and ambition on a daily basis, celebrating their successes, acknowledging their hard work, and hearing their inspiring stories has been a pleasure, and an exciting group of people to work with. I really have learnt a lot from them!
Since working on the NatWest Great British Entrepreneurs Awards, Chloe and Awards & Projects Manager, Adam Stacey, have struck a terrific working relationship which translated into a hugely successful Awards programme in 2017.
Adam, why has Chloe’s apprenticeship been so successful?
Adam: I think a lot of it has come down to the fact that we work so well together. As a young(ish) person myself, I did feel a little trepidatious about taking someone under my wing! It worked out great though, as we had the opportunity to work with Chloe at the very start of her career and give her some first-hand experience of what the world of events is like.
As soon as Chloe and I started working together, I knew we were on to a winner – as Chloe says, ‘We’re the Ant & Dec of the events world!’
What benefits has the apprenticeship given the team and you as a manager?
I think the main benefit would have to be Chloe herself. I could tell straight away how talented Chloe was, and I knew that she would quickly become an integral member of the team and someone that I could really rely on. That makes my job so much easier.
I think the whole situation has also given me a little bit of a confidence boost. I knew from the outset that this would be a great opportunity for Chloe, but I didn’t have any idea of the effect it would have on me!
What was your perception of apprenticeships before Chloe joined, and how does it differ now?
To be honest, I had never given much thought to apprenticeships, as I went down the traditional route of education – secondary school, university and then a career. However, after seeing how far and how much Chloe accomplished throughout her apprenticeship, I would definitely recommend them to anyone.
I think the benefit of ‘learning on the job’ should never be underestimated – I wish that I had been given more work experience opportunities during my time in education to better prepare me!
What advice would you give to those considering going down a work-based learning route rather than traditional academic path?
Again, this is a difficult one to answer as everyone is different. I think that my advice would have to be just go with your gut – as long as you have a great team and support system around you, and you feel like there is a real opportunity to learn and grow as an individual (which is something I believe that we really championed for Chloe), then you could be on to something really great.