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 Lauren l.Holmes, Business Engagement Lead in the Local Skills Improvement Plans team at Business West, who started her own career as an apprentice in a well-known bank. Lauren talks about the key skills she learnt during her apprenticeship, why she chose to go down that route and offers advice to other apprentices starting their journey.
Why did you choose an apprenticeship?
I first went to University and when I realised that it wasn’t the right learning pathway for me, I withdrew from studies. I recognised that I still wanted to undertake further qualifications and saw greater value in the ‘earning whilst learning’ model that an apprenticeship provides. I researched courses in the areas that I was interested having a career in and through Indeed found an apprenticeship in Level 3 Business Banking and Finance. At the time the bank wasn’t offering degree level apprenticeships otherwise I would have preferred this as an option.
What was your experience?
I enjoyed working in a recognised ‘real’ job role and being treated like an employee rather than ‘just an apprentice.’ I also enjoyed the off-the-job days where I got to learn in the banking head office in Birmingham and participate in senior management board meetings. The experience helped shape my understanding of how a global business operates and allowed me to think about the type of career I wanted to have once I had completed my apprenticeship.
What skills did the apprenticeship give you for your working life?
I learnt such a lot from my apprenticeship. Some of the key skills were:
- Business relationship management skills, such as effective communication, professionalism, diary management, problem solving and conflict management. I quickly had to understand that businesses were coming to me for financial advice and so I had to ensure that the products and services I was offering were appropriate and proportionate for their needs which often didn’t match the expectations of the business owner.
- How to organise and host business roundtables and networking events.
- How to read balance sheets, cash flow forecasts and other financial statements, and using a lending matrix, determine the profitability of a business and understand the potential risks posed, not just financially but reputationally, if choosing to invest in them.
- How to use CRM tools and the importance of keeping up-to-date data which is stored correctly.
- The value of money, and everything involved in financial wellbeing, knowing how to budget, be in control of your finances and expect the unexpected.
What’s your advice for future apprentices?
There are now so many apprenticeships on offer at varying levels it’s important you do your research on the course content and the employer to ensure you’d be getting the best learning experience out of it. Apprenticeships not only provide you with recognised qualifications and on the job learning experiences, but you also start building your network and developing the skills in the areas you are most passionate in having a career in without the worry of being saddled with university debt. More often than not, upon successful completion of your apprenticeship you will be offered a permanent position within the company! Win – Win!