It's National Apprenticeship Week this week and as an apprentice myself, I'm eager to shout about it!
Whilst I was in college studying Drama, Dance, English and Media Studies, without particularly enjoying it, I dreamed of getting out in the real world and finding an office job. I wasn't really sure of my options though; when I was at college I never considered doing an apprenticeship as it seemed to me that it was always considered the last option for people without any qualifications. But the more I looked into it, the more I was interested.
I actually had the unusual experience of being the first apprentice to ever be taken on by my employer, Thomsons Online Benefits, a global provider of benefit and reward programs (I know, I never knew careers like this existed either!). To secure my place,I had four interviews in total; one with the apprenticeship agency; a phone interview; a face-to-face interview with Harriet, who heads up the apprenticeship scheme and Karen my line manager; and then an interview with Michael Whitfield, CEO of the company - that was a bit nerve-wracking!
From the moment I turned up for my interview, I knew I really wanted to work at Thomsons. I had been to a couple of interviews at companies in Canary Wharf but I knew when I stepped into Thomsons' building that here was somewhere where I could just really be myself. For a start, everything in the building is pink - and all the people were smiling and friendly, a world away from the corporate atmosphere of Canary Wharf. I secured my apprenticeship at Thomsons Online Benefits in May 2012.
I think as a young person starting their first job, a smaller company is a great setting to work within because you really feel like part of the team. From my interview with the CEO to my inclusion in day to day operations, I have felt like a valued member of the Thomsons team. My job involves assisting clients and their employees with any queries they might have with our technology. It's been a great experience to have the opportunity to communicate with clients on a daily basis, helping to solve important issues over the phone and email, and dealing with providers regarding certain benefits. I feel like I really have a part to play in the business.
The job is really interesting but the best thing about the company is the people; I'm treated as an adult and given responsibilities that have made me grow up and mature. I also feel well supported by everyone and if I ever have any problems, I can go to Harriet, my line Manager Karen or my tutor at the training agency, which is partnered with Thomsons.
Alongside working here at Thomsons, I am also studying for an NVQ in business and administration, but unlike college, it is far more about on-the- job training than academic study. I am really glad I got involved in the apprenticeship scheme rather than going down the university route like most of my friends as I do believe that I will get where I want to be much quicker this way. Although I am still figuring out where my future career lies, I've always wanted to go into business so this is a great stepping stone and I am learning so much about my own skills and the business world. This apprenticeship has also taught me that there is a far wider variety of careers available than I ever learnt about in college!