#NAW2022 – My Apprenticeship Journey

#NAW2022 - My Apprenticeship Journey

As part of National Apprenticeship Week 2022, I thought it would be a good opportunity to write about my apprenticeship journey as well as highlight higher apprenticeships, something which can often be overlooked for the more traditional Level 2 and Level 3 courses.

My journey, my story, if you will, begins as a fresh-faced 17 year old, just finished my Level 3 in Creative Media Production (TV and Film) and I was unsure what I wanted to do with my life. I’d been searching unsuccessfully for two years to find a job, and my plan at the time was to take a gap year before heading off to the University of East Anglia to study Politics and Media.

This, I can tell you now, never happened. I do often wonder what life for me would be like if the original plan had stuck. I know I’d have had to graduate the year COVID struck, so that would’ve been an experience.

Instead I fell into a job with my first employer, Blink SEO. At the time, Blink SEO were still quite a young company focusing on a broader spectrum of SEO services than they do now, and took me on as a Junior Content and Search Executive studying my Level 2 in Business Administration.

This Level 2 was delivered before the complete restructuring of how apprenticeships are delivered, and I had pretty much the entirety of my course content handed to me on a plate for me to rewrite in my own words in assessments. This apprenticeship and working with Blink SEO opened me up to a whole new world of employment and of course, introduced me to what SEO and Digital Marketing is and involves.

I was with Blink for just over three years, with them allowing me to study my Level 3 apprenticeship in Digital Marketing. This was delivered according to the more modern apprenticeship standard, which involved dedicated classroom learning time, dedicated off-the-job learning hours, and the submission of three summative portfolios before being put through end point assessment.

Apprenticeships these days include an end point assessment gateway, which when your apprenticeship and course contact believes you are at the right stage for, you then complete a dedicated course assessment period which can take up to 5 days to complete and needs to be completed during worktime hours. You also have to attend an end point interview, where with an assessor you discuss your learning, what you included in your end point assessment exam, and sum up the work you completed during your course.

My apprenticeship, as well as the end point assessment gateway, included three units where I covered principles of marketing, coding and analytics. This course gave me a great baseline understanding of further marketing techniques as well as qualified me as a digital marketer.

It was only as I was nearing the end of my course that I was handed my redundancy and left to finish what was left by myself. I initially thought this redundancy was the be all and end all, and I was to never be given another chance as a digital marketer again.

I took on a job from this redundancy as a domiciliary carer, looking after the elderly and less able. This was a stressful and uncomfortable few months experiencing something completely new. Although, I do believe that this three month period as a carer has made me a better employee overall. You learn a lot about your specialisms and yourself when you are taken out of your comfort zone and thrown into a new environment. I wont lie either, I was one hell of a great carer and I still do the odd shift here and there when they are extremely short staffed.

However, when I was offered my role as Digital Marketing Executive at KH Digital I was also asked if I would like to begin my undergraduate degree on a higher apprenticeship course. Higher apprenticeships are a lot different to the traditional Level 2s and 3s, and require more dedication and learning.

Completing an undergraduate degree as an apprentice requires 4 years of dedicated learning time, while also working your role as an employee full time. For my course at least, this is delivered as a distance learning course and I have to visit the university 5 times a year for relevant workshops and classroom learning.

You are essentially completing a traditional university course online while working full time – which requires a lot of time management, planning and organisation.

However I truly believe an undergraduate degree, higher apprenticeship is something more people should consider to further their careers. It’s a great opportunity to receive a full undergraduate degree qualification (yes, the exact same qualification ‘real uni students’ earn) without having to pay a penny of the course fees yourself.

For employers, there’s often the option to apply for and receive bursaries and grants towards the cost of the course fees so that you either pay very little or not much at all.

At KH Digital and as a higher apprentice, I am one of the first to receive the Co-Op and Mastercard grant towards my fees for this course and that’s quite the honour.

Available higher apprenticeships are slightly more limited in variety than Level 3 apprenticeships, but there’s more courses being developed and provided all the time and I’m a big believer that one day they will be a great alternative to the traditional degree pathway and open up the opportunity for those from lower income backgrounds who can’t or don’t want to take on student debt, or can’t afford to move away from home to study the course that will help elevate their careers.

Even though I’ve only been studying my undergraduate apprenticeship since January of this year, I already have learnt so much – and I’ve met some great people too. I get to explore different cities with every time I have to visit my university campus and integrate with those on different levels and from different jobs and backgrounds, learning more and gaining their insights and experiences to bring to my own role.

I most recently got to visit Cambridge for the first time, a beautiful city in a gorgeous setting. If I had more time and it wasn’t in the dead of winter, freezing cold I would’ve spent more time after my workshop day to explore further into the city.

As a higher apprentice, I get access to everything that a traditional university student does including course materials, campus libraries, and even student discount through my student ID, UNIDays, and StudentBeans.

For more information on higher apprenticeships, visit the UCAS website or Google ‘higher apprenticeships‘ to find courses on offer to you. You don’t need to have previously studied a Level 3 apprenticeship either – just an equivalent course.

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