March of the apprentices

18 July 2018 -


An apprenticeship is often the fast track to career success

Loulla-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.”

Andrew Anderson is client onboarding team leader at ICBC Standard Bank, doing his Level 5 apprenticeship with Corndel

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.”

Oana Apostol is labour and training coordinator, London engineering and rail, at NG Bailey. She is doing her Level 3 apprenticeship with Babington

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.

Stacey Cooper is manager at 20 Army Education Centre Group, and is currently doing a Level 5 leadership and management apprenticeship with QA

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.

Linnet Kaymer is currently studying a Level 3 apprenticeship with Corndel. Find out more about her charity project at

For more information on apprenticeships, visit

And for the full rundown on available management qualifications, visit

Image: Ben Wright

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