March of the apprentices
An apprenticeship is often the fast track to career successLoulla-Mae Eleftheriou-Smith
“If apprenticeships are going to be taken seriously, they can’t just be seen as the option for kids who aren’t that academically bright.” Those were the words of Euan Blair, son of former prime minister Tony Blair, as he launched his training company for apprentices last year. As we can see from these elite apprentices, that day may already have dawned.
Andrew Anderson, ICBC Standard Bank
Andrew Anderson was forced to re-evaluate his career when he suddenly found himself unemployed during the financial crash in 2008. “I had just a sniff of it,” he recalls, but, instead of being put off, the situation made him want to get into the industry more.
Originally from South Dakota, Anderson, 31, graduated from King’s College London with a degree in religious studies and an ambition to get into banking. Fast-forward ten years and Anderson has been enjoying a successful career: he’s been a research analyst at HSBC; worked with the client onboarding team at Credit Suisse; and is now team lead of client onboarding at ICBC Standard Bank.
In 2017, his manager suggested he go for the Level 5 apprenticeship and, as Anderson had always wanted to go into a management role, he jumped at the chance. “The apprenticeship came at the perfect time, really,” he says. “There are genuine learnings that I can apply straight away.”
“In today’s very fast-paced society, people can jump jobs every year or so, especially in finance. Things move quick,” he says. “If you feel a company is invested in you and they’re looking out for you, of course you want to give back.”
Oana Apostol, NG Bailey
Oana Apostol manages 145 people across several rail sites. She handles everything from salaries and holiday to promotions and employee relations, and says being able to speak languages such as Italian and Romanian gives her an advantage with many workers.
The job can be testing, especially as Apostol works in a male-dominated industry and is the only woman in the senior leadership team. But she relishes the challenge.
And doing the Level 3 apprenticeship (which she will finish early) has given her more authority in difficult situations, such as when she has to discipline experienced male labourers, who are often older than her. “Nobody teaches you how to manage people,” she says, “and I wanted something to back me up.”
What have been the most valuable skills she’s acquired during the Level 3 process? “Having a structure to how I manage people and how I set my own objectives in professional situations, such as meetings.”
Olivia Smith, Unilever
Olivia Smith is doing a unique rotational degree apprenticeship programme delivered by Pearson Business School. It combines apprenticeships across three leading organisations with studying for a degree at the same time.
Since starting, Smith has worked in the supply chain at Tesco and the water innovation team at Unilever, and she’s soon to be embedded within the Watson customer engagement team at IBM.
Read more: Olivia's journey at IBM
Olivia Smith is assistant brand manager at Unilever, doing her Level 6 CMDA with Pearson College London. The CMDA offers world-class business education, work-based learning and ongoing professional development that results in the prestigious Chartered Manager status
Afam Sadiku, Barclays
While at sixth form in Liverpool, Afam Sadiku realised that working in business is what he wanted to do.
“I thought: ‘University? All that’s going to do is cost me £9,000 a year and it’s just going to be writing a load of essays,’” he says. He realised he wanted to gain practical business knowledge and be able to study at the same time. That’s what made him decide to leave college to join Barclays as an apprentice.
He’s taken his Level 3 advanced apprenticeship, becoming a Premier relationship manager, and is now completing a higher apprenticeship.
“What you find with this kind of programme is that it makes people mature very quickly,” he says. “It’s been a tough six years”, but he wouldn’t change the experience for the world.
Afam Sadiku is currently working as a channel development manager in Premier Banking at Barclays UK. He’s doing his three-year Barclays higher apprenticeship programme in leadership and management (CMDA) with Anglia Ruskin University
Stacey Cooper, Ministry of Defence
Stacey Cooper landed a job in the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) straight after her A-levels and, after eight years in the department, accepted promotion into the Ministry of Defence (MoD) as manager of a group of Army Education Centres covering the West Midlands and Wales.
In order to be more effective as a leader and manager, she decided to go for the Level 5 apprenticeship, usually undertaken by staff who are a grade higher than her current role.
“As a newly promoted manager, I had a lot to learn,” says Cooper, 32. “But I’m very fortunate in that part of what is taught in army education is command, leadership and management (CLM). It is the perfect environment to be in to observe and learn from experienced colleagues.”
During the workshops that are part of the Level 5 apprenticeship, Cooper has been able to network and learn from other industries operating in the private sector. “It really does open your eyes,” she says, helping her see the bigger picture of how teams in different contexts work together. She introduces practices, processes and concepts that she feels would be of benefit to her group and the wider army.
Linnet Kaymer, British Heart Foundation and Macmillan Cancer Support
Linnet Kaymer was never going to get grief from her family for taking an apprenticeship, as her father did one. “My dad did an old-school apprenticeship. He left school at 15 and trained to be a sewing machine engineer,” says Kaymer, 24.
Kaymer has taken an unconventional route, from a degree in history at Oxford University to enrolling in an apprenticeship scheme with the British Heart Foundation and Macmillan Cancer Support.
Kaymer is spending time on rotation between the two charities, and has been involved in everything from high-value fundraising to service development and community engagement.
One of the most valuable parts of Kaymer’s Level 3 programme is learning tools and skills that are directly applicable to her role. One example was learning how to write a business case, a skill that Kaymer picked up a month before needing to produce one for work. “It was so much better thought-out and supported because of that work with my tutor,” she says.
For more information on apprenticeships, visit managers.org.uk/apprenticeships-and-epa
And for the full rundown on available management qualifications, visit managers.org.uk/individuals/qualifications/qualifications-explained
Image: Ben Wright