"I was an Apprentice" Q&A with Jacquelene Scanlan

Fay Daniels
Marketing Manager - Contracts | Business West
5th February 2024

As part of National Apprenticeship Week, we have taken a moment to talk to Business West colleagues about their experiences starting their careers as an apprentice.  

We chatted to Jacquelene Scanlan, Project Coordinator at Business West, about her own apprenticeship experience, why she chose to go down that route and her advice to future apprentices.

Why did you chose an apprenticeship?

I was very keen to have a gap year after my A levels, so not getting the grades I needed to secure a place at university didn’t feel like a disaster. I spent 3 months on a youth expedition, then took a series of ‘odd jobs’ – waitressing, lab tech in a school. PR assistant handing out leaflets, admin at a charity. At the end of the year, I had discovered a lot of jobs I didn’t want to do … then I went for a day of work experience at the local newspaper. I knew a reporter because of the publicity around the youth expedition, and she gave me the break. After a couple of weeks making tea and doing the filing, I must have shown some promise because they asked me if I wanted to be an apprentice journalist. My parents told me that is what I had wanted to do when I was very young – but my careers teachers had given me the impression that if I didn’t have friends or family in the profession then I should look for something else.

What was your experience?

My apprenticeship was a lot of on-the-job experience – going to court and council meetings, attending flower shows and other community events plus 2 block-release courses at college learning about law, local and national government, newspaper practice and shorthand. At the end of the apprenticeship, I had a recognised industry qualification and I went on to work in regional papers in the UK and abroad, moving from reporting to production roles. 

What skills did the apprenticeship give you for your working life?

My apprenticeship was just a beginning – I later put myself through university to study law (university lectures during the day and sub-editing news pages at night), and then an MA in Mass Communications. Although I haven’t worked as a journalist for 10 years, I’m still a stickler for deadlines, grammar, spelling and punctuation.

What is your advice for future apprentices?

If there is something you really want to do, don’t let your lack of skills or qualifications stop you. University isn’t the only route to a great career. An apprenticeship could be just the start you are looking for – a different path to the same destination.

My father did an engineering apprenticeship in the 1950s – he tells me he always wanted to be an engineer and an apprenticeship, with night school twice a week, was the only route open to him. He stayed with the same company his whole working life and retired as a senior manager.

My son applied for an IT apprenticeship alongside his university applications – then chose the apprenticeship. He is now doing a sponsored degree.

And my daughter decided university wasn’t for her. She took a year out and worked in recruitment before applying to do a finance apprenticeship. She finished that late last year and has just started a CIMA course, the equivalent of a master’s degree, paid for by her employer.


Jacquelene is picture with her son Tom and daughter Lily, with her father Alan Cotton’s Record of Apprenticeship from the 1950s.

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