When I left school less than a year ago, I was pretty certain that I didn’t want to go down the traditional route of college and university. Having grown tired of writing notes in a classroom, school felt like simply learning to remember facts as opposed to developing and using the skills in a real life scenario. Around this time last year, I started looking into apprenticeship schemes and seeing what was available in my local area. As I was only 15, nearly 16, I assumed that there wouldn’t be many places willing to take a chance on me; after all I had yet to receive my GCSE qualifications and had no experience in a work scenario – except for my weekly paper round which my Dad drove me around for, so you could hardly call it work!
With the prospect of another two years in full time education looming, I decided to take matters into my own hands and look for some work experience. I saw this as a great opportunity to not only get a small insight as to what the working environment was like, but also a chance to put my name out there and expand my CV. My careers advisor at school put me in contact with a few local companies, Jacksons being one, who regularly offer work experience and already have a large number of apprentices working with them. During my work experience, I was impressed by the nature in which Jacksons welcomed me and their interest in the unconventional route that I was hoping to pursue. After speaking to the Head of Finance, Amie Callan, it became clear to me that this was a place that invested in people, as well as being a company that was willing to take a chance on younger staff and help them realise their potential. This idea was further reinforced when a couple weeks after my placement, my school received a call from Jacksons inviting me in for an interview in which Amie and Jane Armitage, Managing Partner, said they would like to offer me a place as a Finance Apprentice. I was not only immensely proud but overwhelmed with how flexible and understanding they were in moulding my apprenticeship around my career aspirations.
My first week can be described as something of a shock to the system! Gone were the days of 9am to 3pm- this was real work. I remember being so tired but also appreciative that I had been given the opportunity to start my journey of learning not only skills in finance, but real life scenarios that you could never get from sitting in a classroom. Being an apprentice certainly opens your eyes to a world in which you have to be proactive; you have to think on your feet and you have to have an attitude where you are willing to try your best. At the end of the day you are not just working for yourself, but for others too.
For me, one of the best things about being an apprentice at Jacksons is the support network. The respect that my colleagues have shown me as well as opportunities to get involved in as many things as possible has been quite overwhelming; after all I had half expected that working my way up from the bottom would mean much of my time would have been initially spent making cups of tea and shadowing people. The reality is that I have weekly meetings with my Manager in which we review my college work and set targets as to what I’m going to do for the rest of the week. This college review is a real help as it helps Amie know what I’m learning, which then allows us to discuss how the theory applies to practice. These discussions have also proved really helpful when it comes to taking the exams as part of my AAT level 2 course.
At Jacksons, there are 8 apprentices. Further investment in our combined learning is demonstrated by the monthly sessions which are offered to provide us with practical lessons on general workplace topics such as work attire, protecting yourself against fraudulent emails and hackers, and general knowledge about the company (for example the role of each department and learning which department deals with specific issues). Being a part of these sessions has allowed me to get to know my apprenticeship colleagues better and have a greater understanding about Jacksons as a business. I now have a greater understanding around various procedures and expectations and it provides a useful forum to clarify, as a new person ,any questions that you may be unsure about.
Community is a big thing at Jacksons which comes across in the magnitude of charity work they do. When you join the company, you soon get to appreciate the company’s ethos that it is good to do something for others and give back to those less fortunate than us. As apprentices we have participated in two charity challenges; one was a ‘guess the sweets in the jar’ and the other was a cake bake sale. We have raised over these two events well over £100 for the nominated Charities Dragonfly Cancer Trust and the RVI Sick Children Hospital.
So to finish – my advice to others out there who may be considering an apprenticeship – Go For It! You will be amazed at the opportunities and experiences that are out there.
Tom Dorgan, Apprentice