The Institute talks
The Institute talks…about autism and apprenticeships

The Institute talks…about autism and apprenticeships

April 2, 2021

As part of our apprentice panel podcasts, Joel Roach our apprentice panel host interviews new member Rhiannon Rees-Jones.

Rhiannon is a former level 3 business admin apprentice at Northamptonshire County Council.

In the podcast, Rhiannon talks about her diagnosis of Asperger’s in her late twenties and the challenges she has had to overcome and why she wanted to join the apprentice panel

On completion of her apprenticeship, Rhiannon achieved an overall grade of Distinction.

She also achieved two Northamptonshire Health and Care Partnership awards, the Apprenticeship Award for ‘Behind the Scenes’ in Adult Social Care and ‘Apprentice of the Year’ 2020.

Transcript

Joel Roach

Hi, i'm Joel roach an apprentice at Microsoft and i'm also an apprentice panel member and I'll be hosting today's podcast for the apprentice panel podcast today. I'm joined by Rhiannon rees-jones welcome Rhiannon would you like to introduce yourself.

Rhiannon Rees-Jones

thank you so my name is Rhiannon Rees-Jones I work as a business support officer for the learning disability team part of what is currently Northamptonshire county council but as of the first of April we're going to be splitting into two unitaries and I'll be part of the west Northamptonshire council.

Joel Roach

well thank you so much for joining me today we'll dive straight into it so I want to ask first of all a couple of questions about your apprenticeship so what is your apprenticeship? what level was it?

Rhiannon Rees-Jones

I recently completed the business administrator level 3 apprenticeship last November.. which was brilliant because it really expanded on my skill set.

Joel Roach

so how did you initially find out about the apprenticeship um and about the fact that there was an opportunity that was open to you?

Rhiannon Rees-Jones

I think the first time was coming across an email from the learning resource hub so they had an information day so I thought i'd wander down and see what all the stores were, saw the apprenticeships and business have been on there i think at first i kind of wandered past a bit and then got called over so i thought well i'll get the forms and then after a while i was still umming and ahhing so i wasn't sure whether i'd be able to handle what was involved and whether i'd be have the qualifications to actually apply for it and then i had another email come round from my line manager's manager with the same information and then i thought why not i might as well do it i'll pursue it and my line manager my colleagues actually encouraged me as well and i'm actually glad i did because it gave me the motivation i needed to excel in my current role as well

Joel Roach

no that's amazing to hear um it's great there was so many people around you that were encouraging you to do this as well

Rhiannon Rees-Jones

yeah i think how a good support network is vital

Joel Roach

now you came into your apprenticeship um having already been established in your career for a few years um so how did you find being a more mature apprentice um how was that experience for you?

Rhiannon Rees-Jones

 it actually went a lot easier than i thought it was going to be of course i went in thinking they're all going to be younger than me and i'm probably going to be the only one that's older but then i thought well if you can go to university as a mature student why can't you do the same for an apprenticeship and then when it rather it was age restricted before that kind of put me down having the age limit lifted makes it so much easier as well it's never too late to start a career put it that way

Joel Roach

no absolutely that's a yeah that's a great message to put out there um you sort of mentioned there were lots of you know you weren't the only mature apprentice on the uh on the course um did you have a sort of special network with them did you have a chance to sort of share ideas and perspectives with them

Rhiannon Rees-Jones

 i had the chance to share perspectives with everyone because any one of the mature apprentices in my cohort and the other two are in their twenties but i think the mature apprentice i kind of got in touch with first so i think it was a lot easier and then i've done you brought the other two in and i was also able to encourage them to speak up when they needed to

Joel Roach

did you have a lot of learnings to share with the younger apprentices because you're already established in your career you've already got all this experience you've picked up along the way

Rhiannon Rees-Jones

yeah i think the first one the first questions we did was to introduce ourselves and say three things that we thought no one else knew it was quite interesting in that respect so it yeah we had one lady who was working in a school one who's in finance then myself and admin and one he was part of a children's charity as well so that was interesting to share experiences from that perspective

Joel Roach

yeah definitely and i think it's always great to have different viewpoints you know regardless there's a discussion um but you know certainly something i've experienced in my apprenticeship when we've got different people from different organisations the conversations we have so much more productive and we all learn a huge amount more

 Rhiannon Rees-Jones

yeah

Joel Roach

now reading into your biography on the institute's website you mentioned that you were diagnosed with asperger's in your late 20s can you tell me a little bit about that

Rhiannon Rees-Jones

yeah so i've diagnosed in my late twenties after much debate from my mum i wanted to understand a bit more why i behaved a certain way how my behaviour came across and then it really helped me getting the diagnosis and my therapist was able to talk me through some steps i could take as well i think but it's still a bit of an adjustment i suppose it's always challenging but the more i'm able to own the fact that i have this diagnosis the easier it becomes

Joel Roach

yeah you mentioned there was an adjustment there for you was there also an adjustment for your employer when they sort of when you had it when you told them

Rhiannon Rees-Jones

i think there was but not as much as i thought it was going to be they were really embracing really welcomed me and able to talk to me as well

Joel Roach

oh that's great to hear and how has being autistic affected you in your apprenticeship

Rhiannon Rees-Jones

it started challenging at first but when i started to get overwhelmed i came up with the idea of talking to my line manager and my internal assessor about granting me an extra day study so i was able to do two days today instead of one especially when my studies got interrupted because during one of my study days i was actually called upon them to be a key worker to answer phones

Joel Roach

oh that sounds great what sort of things were you doing as a key worker who were you answering phones for

Rhiannon Rees-Jones

 i was asking phones on behalf of providers so care providers so care homes, members of the public just to help them through and pinpoint where they needed to go to

Joel Roach

oh that sounds great doing a bit to support everyone through lockdown yeah and

Rhiannon Rees-Jones

also it doesn't help that we were sure to start at the time as well

Joel Roach

never ideal

 Rhiannon Rees-Jones

see what you missed

Joel Roach

yeah absolutely um so it sounds like you had some good support in place do you think that support is sort of a common theme for most employers or do you think there's sort of more we could be doing um to support autistic people

Rhiannon Rees-Jones

i think there is a lot more that could be done because they're more less dependent on the employer how much they actually know about the spectrum so having bite size awareness sessions really helps and actually having done my english functional skills level 2 presentation i was actually then able to broaden my horizons and present to other people across the council the wider council network

Joel Roach

so is that presentation part of your apprenticeship

Rhiannon Rees-Jones

it was yeah i entitled it living in a bubble because that's how i view the world

Joel Roach

yeah no that's great you know and amazing that you've been able to apply those skills from your apprenticeship you know so immediately into something that's obviously a personal matter for you

Rhiannon Rees-Jones

yeah definitely

Joel Roach

yeah now you've mentioned some of the things you did um working as a key worker but what do you do in your day-to-day role

Rhiannon Rees-Jones

so my day-to-day role can vary again i'm on the phones a lot of the time being the main point of call i also attend various meetings where i have to record minutes um actually on hand then to update spreadsheets and anything that is passed my way from social workers or from the team manager and i've actually been called a star and in my last recent supervision my line manager actually said i wish i could give you a pay rise

Joel Roach

oh that's great to hear that you're getting that recognition and do you think you've been given more responsibility more um tasks since completing your apprenticeship

Rhiannon Rees-Jones

i definitely have been i think that was a way forward in getting this role because i was quite shocked when they said i really think you'd be really good at this and i'm surprised how quickly i've actually managed to adapt into the role especially given that my line manager's been a long-term stick for a while as well so i had to run two hubs instead of the one

Joel Roach

that's great to hear that they've you know felt that you're up for it and that you've felt able to adapt into the role so quickly that's really positive to hear

Rhiannon Rees-Jones

yeah

Joel Roach

now of course you've recently finished your apprenticeship um so i wonder what was your endpoint assessment like

Rhiannon Rees-Jones

well when i first found out i was going to have to do it remotely that was a bit of a shock to the system doing my knowledge test was probably the most daunting aspect of all because i'm used to having someone actually in the room with me and at the start of it i then had to tell my dad can you move my ipad so they can actually see me thinking i'm probably gonna get marked down for that and then getting a 70% was absolutely brilliant but then when i came to do my portfolio interview and my presentation the end-point assessor was really welcoming and actually allowed me to backtrack a bit as well and i came out with an overall distinction which was amazing on top of my other achievements

Joel Roach

oh that's amazing to hear congratulations um now i suppose one question is as we sort of move to a more digital way of working are there considerations employers should be making for autistic employers employees

Rhiannon Rees-Jones

that's a very interesting question i think again it's more listening ask them how they're feeling on your regular basis and they can maybe set up like a whatsapp group or something that they can be in touch with them but it's different for every person but it's kind of a step-by-step process i don't know how they feel about whether they prefer to be in the workplace or at home but there's always ways you can accommodate for both

Joel Roach

yeah absolutely and i think obviously we need to be careful of everyone rushing to either be completely at home or completely at work um it seems like we're about to find a good in between um so hopefully we'll get we'll get there soon

Rhiannon Rees-Jones

yeah

Joel Roach

um now coming back to your epa did you need or make use of any extra preparation or support resources to do that

Rhiannon Rees-Jones

yeah my like my internal assessor so i had to give me quite a bit of work to do so she'd advise me where i could add stuff in or i could take stuff out and then as we went along towards the end of it she was then like well we can miss that assignment out that's not really relevant anymore you know she's really useful and i would allow me to put screenshots in and then she was very impressed with my portfolio of evidence by the end of it the only thing i forgot to do is page number my evidence

Joel Roach

oh there's always something you forget there's always one thing yeah but well you came out of it with a distinction so it all went well in the end

Rhiannon Rees-Jones

it did yeah that was not the only thing that came out of having done the apprenticeship because i also won two awards which was the northamptonshire health and care partnership awards one was for behind the scenes at adult social care the other one was apprentice of the year 2020.

Joel Roach

oh that's amazing congratulations um was there anything specific that you did for those awards or is it just recognizing the amazing work you were already doing

Rhiannon Rees-Jones

my internal assessor just approached me one day and said i want to nominate you for this award and then asked me if it was okay and then having got that award i was then nominated by the chief executive office to attend the royal garden party which then of course was cancelled due to covid but hopefully in the future i may still get a chance to attend that as well

Joel Roach

that's amazing and it's great you're getting that recognition and that people are noticing all the amazing things that you're doing

Rhiannon Rees-Jones

yeah i just want the same for everyone else on the spectrum as well

Joel Roach

yeah absolutely i guess on the topic of amazing things that you're doing you're one of our newest recruits to the apprentice panel so what made you apply to join

Rhiannon Rees-Jones

i applied to join basically to expand my network to give another voice for autism and continue raising awareness and plus it's not every day you get an opportunity to then advise government officials ministers of state and the ways forward so i think it's always changing

Joel Roach

yeah absolutely and you know i know that you're working with the institute on raising awareness for autism in apprenticeships so i wonder how do you plan on doing this

Rhiannon Rees-Jones

they've already had a meeting with various panel members and the institute members and giving them some of my ideas such as easy read material large material and then i'm presenting at the meeting where i've got a bit of information on the spectrum what to look out for like the behaviours to recognize and then hopefully build a platform and it will feed into best practice guidance as well so it's all very interesting

Joel Roach

oh that sounds great and have you had a good reception so far from the uh from the team from the panel from the people you've spoken to if they've been receptive to all your ideas

Rhiannon Rees-Jones

they've been very receptive actually yeah

Joel Roach

oh that's fantastic to hear that's great i mean it seems like there's people that are willing to listen and people that are willing to learn um so it's amazing that you've come along to um to do the speaking and to give that perspective

Rhiannon Rees-Jones

yeah and it also gives me a chance to learn from them as well it's all across sharing experiences

Joel Roach

yeah absolutely and i'm sure there's going to be a huge amount of learning going both ways um so we're very grateful to have you on the on the panel

Rhiannon Rees-Jones

i'm very grateful to be here too

Joel Roach

um so we'll finish off with um any advice you have um for potential apprentices so what would you sort of say to people who are thinking about doing an apprenticeship

Rhiannon Rees-Jones

i just say it's not as daunting as you think it's going to be think about what you love to do where you want your career to go same for employers ask them what they're wanting to do like the hobbies their interests and it's basically having regular contacts and maybe having some bite-sized sessions just to learn a little bit about what's involved

Joel Roach

no that sounds great

Rhiannon Rees-Jones

be yourself and love yourself as well because you can't love yourself have you expected everyone else too

Joel Roach

yeah absolutely um and do you have any specific advice for people for autistic people who are doing or considering an apprenticeship

Rhiannon Rees-Jones

i think it's a really good route for as long as you get enjoyment out of it that's worth the effort anything and you can always have a buddy on hand just to advise if you need to just to speak to it does get overwhelming at times i remember the amount of times i was left in tears because i thought i couldn't do it and then i got the encouragement that i needed even from my cohort the other apprentices

Joel Roach

yeah absolutely i think having having someone there that you can lean on and go to whenever it gets tough because i think inevitably it will always get tough for anyone um is always helpful just to have someone you can uh go to with the the hard questions and the uh what the need to share

Rhiannon Rees-Jones

yeah yeah it's not always easy for an autistic person to do that just knowing there's someone there who's there when they need them

Joel Roach

is there is there steps that employers tutors training providers are the steps they can take to sort of reach out and make that first contact if it's harder for autistic people to do to do that

Rhiannon Rees-Jones

you can always provide an incentive to motivate them and praise them on the work they're doing well suggest easy points but always make sure you use bullet points and clear concise information as well because if you get overwhelmed it's very easy for an autistic person to kind of digress and say i kind of own little world they lose sight of what they do they lose concentration as well

Joel Roach

yeah absolutely and is there anything that employers can do to attract autistic people or to remove any obstacles to autistic people from applying to roles that they might see from an advertisement or from an organization that might make them sort of go oh no i can't work there

Rhiannon Rees-Jones

i think again it's more simple isn't it like in the job description they make it more simplified maybe some like easy read pictures or something just to kind of symbolize what they're asking for and give them a chance to ask questions as well you could even go to when they they have recruitment days every now and then as well so or maybe have someone who's on the spectrum already working in that role just to tell them a bit about what's involved as well

Joel Roach

yeah absolutely i think organizations can so often get bogged down in all of their jargon and sort of the terms that they're all familiar with using but no one else is so it's great to put everything in you know for everyone um really that's thinking of applying to putting things into simple terms that everyone can understand and and sort of process um is always going to be helpful

Rhiannon Rees-Jones

yeah definitely and sometimes large print helps as well

Joel Roach

so rhiannon a bit of sort of advice for people that are listening to this what could people do if they go into work tomorrow how can they make their employers their organizations a better place for autistic people to work

Rhiannon Rees-Jones

they could talk to their line manager or the supervisor or even a colleague you'll probably find that some of your colleagues may be living with someone who's on the spectrum or have be on respect to themselves you could arrange for information stands i know that at the council before we've had stands in the atrium where people can go past and get information that way anything and everything you could also one of the things that i did was to do articles on the informer magazine which is a council online magazine that all employees get to access which is quite good and there's also various poems and quotes and you're seeing the various badges as well as an autism awareness badge looks a bit like a jigsaw so i just do anything and everything i can to raise awareness

Joel Roach

that's great advice and hopefully uh hopefully the listeners um of this will take that away and put it into action in their own companies

Rhiannon Rees-Jones

yeah

Joel Roach

well that's all we have time for in today's episode i want to say a huge thank you to rhiannon today for taking the time to tell us about her experiences and sharing her perspective so thank you everyone for listening please look out for the next episode of our podcast series thank you

 

The Institute talks…about women in apprenticeships

The Institute talks…about women in apprenticeships

March 8, 2021

In this episode of The Insitute talks, we talk about women in apprenticeships.

In the podcast, we are joined by Anna West, Deputy Director for apprenticeship approvals and funding, Helen Douglas, Director of apprenticeships at Cisco and digital route panel member, and Stacey Dunne, Telecoms apprentice at Virgin Media and an apprentice panel member.

We ask the questions ‘what has your experience been like as women in apprenticeships’ and ‘what are the barriers for women’.

The overall proportion of women on apprenticeships remains at around 50%. At the Institute, we want to see far more women taking STEM apprenticeships and know that employers feel the same.

However, there are lots of great opportunities out there for women in STEM apprenticeships right up to degree level. At Cisco, Helen talks about all the new initiatives she’s set up to encourage more women into the digital sector, resulting in 49% of their apprentices being women!

At the Institute, we are continuing to look at diversity and inclusion within our organisation and in our provision of technical education and apprenticeships. In the podcast, we discuss ways we can have more diverse representation on our panels, and how diversity and inclusion is at the heart of everything we do.

You can subscribe to The Institute talks podcast on Amazon MusicApple podcastSpotify and all other major podcast platforms.

Transcript

Sarah

Hello, I’m Sarah a former apprentice and a social media manager at the Institute and your host for this podcast today. For this special podcast about women in apprenticeships, I’m joined by Anna West, Helen Douglas and Stacy Dunne. So, welcome all would you like to introduce yourselves. 

Anna

Hi everyone, I’m Anna West. I’m the deputy director for apprenticeship approvals and funding at the Institute for Apprenticeships and Technical Education

Helen

Hi, my name is Helen Douglas, I lead apprenticeships for Cisco in the UK, and also have the honour of sitting on the digital route panel.

Stacey

Hello my name's Stacey I’m based in Hertfordshire and I’m currently a network apprentice for Virgin Media and I’m also on the apprentice panel for the Institute of Apprentices as well.

Sarah

Wonderful, thank you. So I’m really glad you can all join me today. So well, let's get started into the podcast then. So, this will be a discussion, so let's start off with the first kind of topic and question we've got for you. So as women working in apprenticeships or as an apprentice Stacey, what has your experience been like?

Stacey

It's been really, really positive.  Obviously, I’m an engineer and that is mostly kind of male-based. So there is quite a high number of males compared to females doing this role. But I have met many females on this during my apprenticeship, but also within the job as well. I actually joined Virgin Media with a specific all-women wanted kind of recruitment drive. So, there was a bunch of women and that I knew from my local area, and we all kind of joined together, and it was really nice to have that support from other women there. But to be fair, the all the guys that work here are beyond supportive, and you're treated like everybody else. They will absolutely rip you if you do something stupid. So, I’ve just found it a really positive experience. But having that female support as well, which was unexpected, I didn't expect to have other women with me to be honest. I thought it was a kind of individual recruitment basis. But having that kind of women's support as well was really nice. Not required, but it was a definite cherry on the cake. So it's been so, so positive for me, I’ve really enjoyed myself so far.

Sarah

That sounds really good. It sounds really interesting that you had like it was a specific drive for women but you're just like a normal person there, and everyone treats you exactly the same.

Stacey

You're expected to you know, do everything that everybody else does, and I find that the gender really doesn't matter here. You know if there's any ever any issues I don't see them as you know a woman issue or a girl issue. I just see them as people issues, and I think that's what they really try to promote here. That everyone's kind of equal, and on the same you know you've got the same possibilities as anybody else. I know they are trying to get more women involved into engineering. I think maybe women maybe think, oh I couldn't do that, or you know, all that's not for me, or you know, I come from an arts background. So, I come from dance and photography, so never say never. The women that I joined with, one worked in child care for years, and another was a beauty therapist for years and years while she raised her kids. So it's a definite nice background of people that have all come over now. Even with the guys that are here, there's a there's an apprentice on service, and he's an ex-jockey. So, it's not gender specific really for the for the history that you've got here. I think that's what makes it so nice and everybody's welcome so it's lovely.

Sarah

That sounds amazing. That's a really nice place to work as well, it's really positive. Helen, you have got your hand up, do you want to come in on something.

Helen

 So, as somebody who hires apprentices, one of the things that I discovered when I first took over the team, was that we just weren't getting girls applying. You know, you've heard from Stacy. It's not that they're not capable, or they have an interest. I think it's the way that sometimes we talk about or promote or advertise for certain apprenticeships, especially in the digital and technical area. So we made a really big effort to change the way that we talked about the roles. Because I think what interests girls into roles is different from what boys are interested in. So, when they get into their job absolutely, it's just we're all people, we're all employees, we're all apprentices, but it's what attracts them. So we talked more about what an apprenticeship, a technical apprenticeship at Cisco would give you for your life. It gives you balance, it gives you flexibility, it enables you to work with people like you. and who are different from you. It lets you be passionate about your, you know, something that you care about, a particular cause. So we find that when we're attracting girls and young women we just have to change the language. I'm proud, but still have to push the dial. We have 49% females on our apprenticeship, I so want to get it to 51. I’ve gotta get it to 51% this year. I think it's been a great journey, and totally agree with Stacey. Apprenticeships are great places to bring different diverse groups, whether it's gender diversity, whether it's ethnic diversity, in all kinds of diversity. When everyone gets together they can learn from each other. It's just that attraction how do we get girls excited. I think they can have a technical career.

Sarah

Definitely. It sounds really positive, with the fact that there is different perceptions that women want and young girls want compared to men, and I think that's a really important difference. It's not a negative difference, everyone's individual in themselves. Having that grasp on it is completely unique and I really like that. You're definitely encouraging that kind of wave thing of like you're individual and you can do anything, which is really positive. So Anna, have you got any experiences that you've had?

Anna

My experience has been really positive as well. Obviously working at the Institute we have over half our staff are female, and over half of our management are female as well which is fantastic. We've got a female CEO, so you know fantastic role models all around. My experience of working with apprentices both male and female, but you know particularly the female apprentices on our apprentice panel, it's been fantastic. They're such good advocates for the opportunities apprentices give to women looking for apprenticeships, particularly in the sectors where they're not so well represented at the moment, which unfortunately does still include engineering. Even though it's fantastic to hear about Stacey's good experience. I think things are changing and they can only change for the better now. So yeah it's been really positive.

Sarah

I think it's definitely a good thing that our management are so like, there's lots of women, that we've got quite a high percentage, and we've got a woman's CEO, which is great. It's good to like, have that  role model, especially, like even for me being here at the Institute, having senior managers that are women is so good to see. You can see the opportunities for women, which is really great. So turning that a little bit on its head. What are the challenges you think that women have in apprenticeships.

Helen

This is an interesting one. We are trying very hard to kind of overcome this at the moment. One of the biggest challenges is parents, actually. So parents of girls go no, an apprenticeship isn't for my daughter. Part of it I think is the history of apprenticeships, they tend to be more technically or you know skills based. So if you think about engineering mechanic or mechanics, all those kind of things. I think it's partly that, and I think that also because there is so much push around gender equality. Again parents want to push their daughters into university because they believe that's what will give them that gender equality. So, for this round of we're just going into recruitment at the moment, and we've got some parents actually talking about their daughters on the programme. What it's meant for them, how it's changed their lives. How it is a real opportunity for young women, how it's equal, if not in some ways better, than going down the university routes. So, yeah, an unexpected challenge. It wasn't what we thought, but yeah, the whole the whole perception of parents, and parents specifically of daughters.

Sarah

 That's really interesting. I think that's kind of goes across all apprenticeships to be honest. I know that it's not just specific to like maybe STEM subjects or anything. I think it's across a big thing, and I we’re slowly getting there. I know, like for me, my parents, they never went to uni, they were very much like, you've got to go, you've got to go, and when I turn around and gone, that's not happening, and it was sort of like well, what are you going to do? It's like well I'm going to try an apprenticeship and now they're like, yes, this is great. Even my brother's now got an apprenticeship. So their perceptions have changed. They wanted the first one, and I think that's a big thing, it's like when your parents don't go to uni, they want you to go to get that experience, but you don't need to. Stacey, what were you like, was that kind of similar for you?

Stacey

See. I have been to university, but that was to do my dance degree, and then i was a teacher after that. I didn't do dance full-time. I've always worked full-time since I was 16 so it's always been kind of an addition to whatever I’ve done in my work life. I've always found ways to kind of work around that. But more I kind of just wanted to speak about what Helen mentioned with the parents. So do you find that the kids were kind of disagreeing with their parents and their parents were really guiding them to what they wanted them to do? I remember a dad when I was on service looked at me once, and he went, oh I wouldn't let you, I wouldn't let my daughter do what you do. I was just like, but why. I didn't have a full-on debate or discussion. I didn't have the time, I was very busy, but it was just quite interesting the way he's, I don't know, he clearly saw a woman doing the job, so it was quite interesting, oh no, i wouldn't let, oh no, no, no. What are your thoughts on that Helen i found that quite interesting.

Helen

So, we have exactly that. We spend a lot of time doing outreach, and we have specific work experience for girls. We get them in the door, and then usually, because they've got to tick a box at school right that's it. I'll be honest a lot of them come in, and then they get in, and go wow! You know if you're working for a big company it's the same with you, you know Cisco,  it's a big company, and so there's lots of jobs. There's all those jobs in between that nobody tells you about, so they're getting through the door and they go wow, this is really interesting, I want to do an apprenticeship now. Then they come back and go well mum and dad don't want me to do it. So I've i i actually developed something a couple years ago. Which was a program for daughters and dads, because if a dad can see it through his daughter's eyes, that's when you get the needle moving, right. Because men have a vision they sit in the office, and it's not just about the potential of their daughters going to apprenticeships, it's just that general gender view. I often have male colleagues say to me, oh I didn't even know there was an issue with gender, or what do you mean women get treated differently, I'm like yes we do. So, if you can do anything through dads and daughters, do it through a dad's eyes. So, we have had brought parents in. There are specific ethnic groups as well where fathers particularly don't want their daughters to come into industry, because either they think that  it isn't a safe environment for them, or they may potentially have to go away from home. So that's a particular group that we do work very, very, closely with, just to assure them that they are looked after. We obviously have very strict rules in place on how we treat people, and you know, women are treated with respect, and that they will have a very good career. So, it did, we have actually had to have direct conversations with parents.

Stacey

 I like that you get them in though, because that's probably where, if the daughter's eyes are changed then their eyes certainly will be, especially if they can see their daughters are passionate about it. It's put a little light bulb in their head going, I can do this, I would love this.

Helen

They really like the idea that they're kids aren't going to have £60,000  worth of debt as well that's usually the massive, massive, pro.

Sarah

Yes, now that that's really interesting, especially the dads and daughters thing that's really interesting. I would have loved that, that would be really good, like especially like, it's like oh daddy's little girl, kind of thing, it's like protecting them and actually going like, oh my god like they're really enjoying it. They're more accepting and now that is a really good initiative like wow, well done.

Helen

Why thank you very much.

Stacey

I think it very much where you come from as well. Because my dad was an engineer, he worked at Vauxhalls in IBC. So for him that might, he would have been ,oh he would you know, he would loved that, that, I applied. So, it might just be, well it's like opening up your eyes and your peripherals and really getting having a look and seeing what you can you can do I guess.

Helen

Well I'll tell you what's interesting about that, about where you're from. So we all know that there's been a shift in in perception of apprenticeships you know. So years ago, as I said, it was that kind of you know, if you're working in a garage around the corner, and we still work in garages and there's nothing wrong with that, but it was kind of a very tunnelled view on what apprenticeships gave you. What I'm finding now is that the parents who support apprenticeships are those whose children go to like grammar schools, so the middle class parents are going because they get it, right. They go, okay let me think about this, they're going to get a degree, a really good company. They're going to get a degree, they're going to get experience at a company, and they're going to go into a job. Where more working class parents ,who still it's a status symbol, they really want their kids to go to university, because they didn't. It's trying to shift their perception that apprenticeship isn't a second, it isn't an option b,  it's another option. There are times when is absolutely the right path, if you want to go into medicine, law or accounts. There's certain professions, I would never, you know, discourage someone from not following their dream, but it is an equal option, now an apprenticeship is an equal option. It is not a second class option, it's equal option.

Sarah

I think that's a really interesting thing there. Because I think most people, like especially in the Institute think maybe the middle class, upper class people who think, no we all went to university, you've got to go to the same university we went to and carry on the legacy. Maybe like people did think or maybe working classes trade things but it's interesting that you're seeing it more middle-class people going, well no, it's like you're stupid if you don't, it's a free, not having that debt and having that bar, is it still has that status symbol as a degree. You need to work that social mobility thing of to get up the ladder you need a degree. If you're going from working class upwards that's a really interesting thing that you've noticed, that is really interesting definitely. Stacy do you want to come in on that

Stacy

I just think with a degree, obviously like you said, it comes with a certain amount of prestige, and you work very hard for a certain amount of time to get a certain grade. With  apprenticeships, I think apprenticeship offers something that a degree definitely cannot, and that's experience and knowledge from of your role from the ground up. There is nothing that you will not learn and know by the time you have reached the end of your apprenticeship, and don't get me wrong, even with this within this role, it takes years to become really, really, competent at this role. With the way technology evolves and you know, it just runs a million miles an hour. So it will I think, for some certain roles, it will always take you a little while to really get to grips, and really gain that experience. University can't give you hands-on experience, you learn that when you're actually doing the role, so I think that's one of the most wonderful things about apprenticeships. Is it gives you something that you cannot buy, you can buy information from a book, you know you can read it, but  the hands-on experience is I believe the most valuable thing to do in the world.

Helen

I agree, and when i when I first came into the program I interviewed the second and third years to ask them what was working what they loved about the programme,  where, you know, if they could change something what would it be. The number one thing that excites our apprentices is the rotations, so they get to rotate in different parts of the business, and they talked at length about that. I actually kind of said to them, you haven't mentioned the degree, and it was really interesting. So for me again, which I kind of have a you know, a fundamental emotional reaction to, is because you know learning for me is such a big thing, you know, we can always learn we can always up skill. But none of them, the degree wasn't number one anymore, it's the thing that brings people in, the free degree, the idea of you know getting a degree paid for, but it's not the number one experience, they talk about the experiences in the business.

Sarah

Now that that's really that's a good point, that you've found that people who've gone on to the apprenticeship route, that when they come back to, they go oh I did this did that, and they don't mention the actual well, you actually wanted the degree. You're not saying it, it's not the bit that pulls, like was actually worthwhile afterwards. Anna what is your perception on this, on like the challenges that we can have within apprenticeships and for women.

Anna

 I mean I've totally recognized everything that Stacey and Helen have said. I think the other thing that we hear a lot is schools aren't very well equipped to support people to go into apprenticeships. You know there's such an obvious route for students who are sort of leaving school to go on to further, you know to go into higher education, and it's easy for them they go through UCAS. They sort of, as a process everyone knows, what it is and the careers counsellors at schools are well supported to help people through that. But they're less well supported to help people identify different apprenticeship opportunities because you know, there's quite a range of them, they're across different sectors. So you know, I think that, that's a barrier that comes up a lot, whenever we talk to people who are thinking about apprenticeships. We talk to employers, for both women and men, but you know potentially, even more so women because it's a time when they're having to make some difficult decisions, and you know, you don't want to have to spend a lot of time, you know it shouldn't be as hard as it is to find a good apprenticeship basically. So yeah, I think in addition to the other challenges which totally, I totally agree with, which Stacey and Helen have recognised, it's just that sort of taking that first step out of the ladder and making it as easy as possible.

Helen

Do you know what, I just never thought, then I’m kind of like, I’m always thinking ahead of how we solve it. I think one of the, I’ve never thought about this until you spoke then. I think one of the issues maybe with schools is they use the university entrances as their selling point we got x in Oxbridge. What if we had, what if you had a kind of award system a badging system. If this school got x amounts into the top apprenticeships in the country working with the top companies. I think maybe that we don't promote it enough, that you know this school is feeding into apprenticeships and is you know, is then creating a pathway for these young people to have fantastic future careers. I think maybe the Institute could think about something around that. How they celebrate the schools that feed into apprenticeships.

Stacey

I think it needs to be seen as valuable doesn't it. It needs its value and it's definitely there without a shadow of a doubt.

Helen

Great got an idea to take away there.

Sarah

Thank you. That kind of brings me into the second question. Is that what more can we do or what are we doing or that we need to improve on at the Institute to maybe overcome these challenges. I know we've touched on getting schools, but is there anything else that we can do, that we're doing well at but maybe we need to do more of. Or anything in particular that we're not doing at the Institute, it's a bit of a careful question but any ideas.

Helen

I think going back to, it's going back to the influences isn't it, who influences a young person on their career journey. Parents are one and schools are others. One of the things that we've done, and maybe this could be more broadly done. Is we have a mentor program, so we take our apprentices that we want more of. So we know that working-class boys are an area that you know, we struggle with, young black women, we don't have enough of those, and so we take those who are represented on our apprenticeship and we have an outreach program that they that they lead. So whether it's a youth group or whether it's a discord group online or whatever it is we get them to go out and do that outreach, rather than us, and kind of start that influence, and help them to kind of be mentored on. What it's like to come in and work at a company and do an apprenticeship. I think parents is another big one so you know we do social media on LinkedIn but that's aimed at parents not aimed at young people. We know young people don't go on LinkedIn, so maybe that's something that we can do. I do think that the Institute misses a trick. that we've got all these different route panels, and I still think we need to have more of a holistic view, especially in this new world where industries are going to drop and rise and drop and rise, depending on what's going on. COVID is you know, obliterated certain industries and how do we have those transferable skills. So if we can talk about you know, today you're doing an apprenticeship here, but then you could go into this industry. Or how we just work together. So I think, looking at the influences schools careers, but I think careers officers are so overwhelmed. How do we get them up to speed on everything. So parents and outreach programs for our from our current apprentices. I really like, sorry I know it's my idea, okay, I have that idea of badging. So you know if you think about schools, they have like you know, the healthy eating, they're an eco-school, they're a science school, they're an apprenticeship school. So, I think there's something in that.

Sarah

That's really interesting. I definitely agree with the careers guidance thing. I think I feel like it like, for apprenticeships, it's definitely more the employer's got to go into the school and they've got to do the proactive stuff. With universities, they have their UCAS fairs and they just go, it's quite a passive thing for universities, where it's more active for apprenticeships and employers and stuff, and I think that's, not necessarily the issue, but definitely needs to be looked at, in the sense of, it's definitely starting careers guidance young and having it as a an option equal to everything else. Like maybe year nine so when they're 14 thinking about it. Because I didn't think about apprenticeships until I was 18, and by which time it was like, I wasted two years at sixth form. I put my hands up for that wasted two years. I didn't gain anything from it because I should have been out there doing what I wanted to do. So, I definitely think starting that young is definitely a thing. Stacey was that similar for you when you.

Stacey

Well I don't like to hear you say that six form was a waste, because it wasn't. Because sometimes you simply don't know that you're gonna like or dislike something until you do it. I think we have to be a little bit more acceptable and if I don't it's very easy to put your hands up and say, do you know what, this isn't for me, but then you're able to go into something else with a bit of a clear head and you know, really you know, really welcome that and start that as something new. But for me I learned about this apprenticeship because I was already doing the service, I was a service tech within Virgin Media. For me maybe one of my limitations I’m quite happy to talk about, is that sometimes a lot of information or learning a massive amount of information that I have to retain, especially numbers. Things like signal levels that we have to remember as part of our day-to-day role, sometimes it can take me a little bit, a while to retain that information. That's just I’ve learned,  that's just me. So, I knew that when I wanted to become a network engineer, because I saw what the guys were doing in my local area, and it was something that I really wanted to progress to. When I saw that they were offering it as an apprenticeship, I knew that that was something that would really suit me as a person. You get that specific learning time, and you get that training, and it gives you the time to really learn and retain you know, things from the role that's really going to help and benefit you. So, for me, when I saw the apprenticeship way, I knew that that was the way that I wanted to progress within Virgin Media. I knew that, that would suit me down to a t, and it has, it really has.

Sarah

That's really interesting. Anna we're thinking about all of these issues and stuff, and obviously the stuff we've talked about, maybe overcoming it, do you think that's something we can look at, or what's your opinion on everything.

Anna

I certainly think we need to look at more ways to encourage people to you know, take up apprenticeship opportunities, particularly in women in the STEM sector you know, where it's where they're quite underrepresented at the moment. I  think Helen's right, you know we need to we need to be talking about opportunities across sectors, need to look at options for people to sort of continue their career journeys after their apprenticeships. Maybe that's another apprenticeship, maybe it's you know, different role in different sector. That's certainly something that we've been thinking about in the Institute. Also, you know, just go back to sort of the challenges of women in particular in apprenticeships, there's some more work we can do to make sure that the apprenticeships that we design are as inclusive as possible. They actually do attract people a range of different people and you know they're going to work for everyone. So we've already got some way down that line. We've done some work on making all our language gender neutral, which Helen was very much involved in. You know there's more that we can do there, and we're very conscious that we want to make sure that we keep thinking about sort of, how we're building that inclusivity into the way that we design the product right from the start.

Sarah

That's good. So interesting you pointed on the gender-neutral thing. Coming to you Helen, obviously the digital route panel has been part of quite a lot of initiatives, especially coming out of like the route review. How do you think them initiatives of work, especially around like maybe the gender neutral language stuff. Do you think they're actually working?

Stacy

 Yeah I do. I think the biggest advantage of the having the route panels is that you've got industry in there, and so you know you've got the, it's a you know, bringing together that academic view, the government structure, but then the reality of industry. On our route panel, there are women there's not many, you know again it's the digital route panel so it's STEM subjects, so there are lots of men on there. But the women who are on there,  we all we have a voice, there's not many of us, but we make ourselves known. It's just giving that other perspective, you know we all do it right I'm a white privileged female, I went to university, I'm a director at Cisco, and so I look at the world through my lens. The more lenses we can bring to the table, the more opportunity we have to see all these different perspectives, which makes things richer and you know, and more interesting and innovative. It also enables us then to develop, and offer apprentices apprenticeships that are attractive and appealing to all groups in our society. So, yes, the extra projects that we do on the route panel absolutely work, and if we could do everything I think we'd all have to give up our day jobs. But you know what, it's that, it's the future of the country, it's the future generation who will you know, will drive the economy, and drive their personal growth. So, we have to do it, it's the right thing to do.

Sarah

That's really good. Anna, what about you, with the stuff that's come out of the digital route panel. How do you feel about it, and what they're working on, and it's really impacting the institute isn't it.

Anna

Yeah I think it's fantastic. It's really good to see the route panel having such sort of innovative approach. I mean the gender neutral language is now you know, a standard across all of our different products, and that's having a real impact. Another thing that they did was develop a framework to make sure that digital skills, which are of course relevant across all sectors, can be built into all of the different apprenticeships, you know at the right sort of level. Which is really helpful. I  think it's prompted a bit more sort of innovative approach across some of the other panels, and you know, some new ideas in. For example, we recently launched a green apprenticeship panel, which is looking at opportunities for, just to plug it you know, opportunities for making apprenticeships a bit more green, and supporting the green recovery from COVID, which I think will be really important, and you know, a good way of attracting more women into apprenticeships and STEM subjects hopefully. Because, you know, we know that this generation is particularly driven by sustainability, and they want to work on sort of things that have social impact. So yeah, I think the digital panel has really prompted a great sort of innovative approach, which we're now seeing more and more across the other panels. It's having a really good impact and for apprentices generally.

Sarah

Yeah, there's so much going on that the Institute it’s mind-blowing. Especially like, we've got this, well I say new, it's not that new anymore, we've got our own diversity and inclusion network haven't we. So how do you think this network, and this is going back to you Anna, influences these opportunities, not just at the Institute but also externally as well?

Anna

Yeah, I mean, I think our diversity and inclusion network has been excellent. It's quite new, but it's already having such an impact. They have arranged talks, they arranged training, and they've got a new mentor scheme coming. So that's sort of the internal focus, but it's also made everyone think more generally about, you know, how we can expand that across everything that we do. So we're shortly going to be doing some more work to look at a number of things. The makeup of our trailblazer employer groups, to make sure they're diverse and you know, right from the start of the development process of a range of different inputs have been brought into the development of the products. Our route panels, and as I mentioned some of them you know, the number of women on the panels is a bit lower than we want it to be, or you know, some of the representation isn't quite where we want it to be. So you know, doing a bit more thinking about that, and then also sort of, how we can influence our partners more generally, to think about inclusion, and you know, how we can make our products more inclusive as I said. So, I think you know, the creation of the diversity and inclusion network has really prompted a lot more thinking on our part, about how we can really use you know, how we can really apply that across everything we do, which has been fantastic.

Sarah

It’s definitely like starting within it, we can make waves like externally as well. Like let's start within and we can influence everyone and set an example that we're putting diversity inclusion at the heart of everything that we're doing, which is really positive thing that we should always be shouting about, and think it's the most important thing. So yeah. Talking about, like representation on membership, on panels, so even board members, route panels even the apprentice panel. How do you think we can make them even more diverse and inclusive for everyone? Let's go to Helen first.

Helen

That's a good question. I would like to reiterate what you just said. It should be at the heart of everything that we do. We make a really, really, big effort around that. So i said we've got 49% gender diversity, so about 45% women, I'm going to get over the line. We have about 46% BAME. We have about 33% social mobility. The one that I'm also quite proud of is our neurodiversity. Neurodiversity is a really, really, big area and especially for for females. Females are known to mask and mirror, and so they don't often realise that they're neuro-diverse, and don't often get diagnosed until they're in their 20s, and really has often affected their route into jobs. Because they often feel like, they're difficult, or they're not able, because of this neurodiversity that they weren't aware of. So, I think there's a lot we can do about that representation. If you look at all the diverse groups that you want to go out to, which there are you know, there are many, many, many, different ways you can cut it. The more that you have that representation on your route panel, the more that that route panel can have that that open and true diverse perspective. So, you know, recommend a friend, you know, everybody on the route panel will have a diverse friend, and get them to bring them in. Because I do think, I'm absolutely with you. If we're going to create a fair society, and jobs and apprenticeships that reflect the society in which we live, we have to have more representation on that influencer level, and the root panels are definitely at that influencer level.

Sarah

Definitely. I think it's a really positive thing, seeing how we can make change, and that's definitely. Especially the neurodiversity, and that's definitely a really unknown kind of thing that people don't think about it and like for us. Like I work on the website. It's a big thing, it's like people do have like dyslexia stuff, and it is a high proportion of people. It's not just people you think oh yeah they are, but it's, and people hide it. Like we've had directors who are dyslexic, you're my god that is a real good role model for people with neurodivergence, and that should be highlighted. So I definitely agree with that. Stacy did you want to come in.

Stacey

I  think that that can happen. I think it's also, you know, going through our daily lives and really enforce, enforcing and encouraging and empowering the people that we see. Especially women, as when I was, you know, when I'm out at work and I'm out in the field talking with customers. I see a lot of women saying that's his job, the internet's his job, don't talk to me about it. I don't understand, talk to him, talk to the other half, he'll know what you're talking about. I feel that, admittedly yes, I did not know a lot about wi-fi levels, you know, any of that before I worked here. I come from a completely different background of the arts and customer services. So this was completely new to me when i started in Virgin Media. But now that I have that knowledge, I feel like I’m almost responsible, to empower the people that are around me, and say,  it's not a man thing it's not, it's not a dude thing, you can do this as well. I can break it down so you can understand it in a way that you're going to know what I’m talking about, and then you've got that power in your hands to do whatever you want with it. So, I feel like we can really empower people and give them the courage and the, I don't know, just the self-belief, so they can go and feel like they can apply for things like this. It's getting your friends that you know, come on you can do this, and then they, and like Helen said they bring their friends, then their friends are empowered and then it's like an awesome kind of a safety net of support that you can, that you can apply. You can do it, and you can achieve. So, I feel like we we're kind of responsible you know, in a way, we're like at the forefront.

Sarah

Helen, did you want to come in.

Helen

You said something Stacy, which is a really important to me, and that, that message of when you talk to, when you go and talk to somebody about that, and they go, oh this is the man's job. One thing COVID has shown us, is that we will now be absolutely catapulted into that into that virtual world. There are so many women, girls, who do not have digital skills, because they never had to, or feel like they needed to. It's meant that that has opened up that gap even further. That digital skills gap has opened up even further. So there are you know, mothers who don't know how to do things online and they have to now, and so are behind on certain things. Boys are often given priority online over their siblings, over sisters, daughters. So again, they're not getting that access to education that they needed. So there is something in that, you know, how do we ensure that girls and boys, which you would expect have equal access, because there's not that equal access to technology. Which has been, you know, as i say out of COVID, it's become even more apparent.

Sarah

That a good point actually. Because like even like going back to me, my brother. He was always a digital person, I was like, kind of like Stacey, same backgrounds. I was always in a dance studio, where my brother was there building computers and stuff. So, there is that gap, and obviously now I am a digital comms person. So I have to have skills and stuff, but I know, I definitely think digital skills is a definite need. There is going to be a gap as we're moving into a digital age, and I think COVID, as you said, is highlighting that. Even to the point of work from home. People need to learn how to know how to use Outlook, Excel, Word. It's just general things now, it's not like a requirement, it's like you've just got to know it. I think that's a really important thing that people need to get across is digital, is the way you need to get your digital skills, and there is that gap for women sometimes.

Helen

I'd actually go as far as state it’s a human right, it's a human right to have digital access and digital skills. The digital access is definitely a human right.

Sarah

Definitely. Anna, if you've got any points you want to add?

Anna

I really agree with what Stacey had said about, sort of using networks and using, you know the advocacy of sort of personal experience to extend the reach and make sure we're actually getting to the right people. Because, you know, it's so easy to put an advert on LinkedIn or wherever, you put it and just you know you get the same kind of applicants. So, you, we need to think about ways to reach different types of people, to really get that representation across route panels, boards, everyone who's involved in the development process. I mean, we've made some progress. We got a recent female board appointee, who's coming from the STEM background. So we're really pleased about that. But , know much, more progress to be made, and I think you know, as Helen and Stacey said, that we've got to think of new ways to do that. To really reach the right people.

Sarah

Definitely. I think that's even one for me to take away is obviously, sometimes we do recruitment on social media, and it's like, maybe that for me I might need to speak to all the route panels, like okay, different route panels, where do you see adverts for stuff, and then we work with that route panel. Let's see how we can get that representation. So I'm going to write that one down for future reference. I definitely agree. I think there's definitely something around networking and going like, well what do you know like,  who do you speak to, who do you think is good, and tapping into that pool of people to get them representations on our panels, it is invaluable, and we need to do that, definitely. Okay then so kind of staying on the same subject of like making it more appealing for people. So how do you think we can make apprenticeships more appealing and attractive for women in particular, but obviously for everyone else. I know we have talked about it a little, bit but what specifically do we need to do. Should we go to Stacey, you're the most recent apprentice. What kind of made you choose to do an apprenticeship?

Stacey

Well like i said earlier, I like the time that it gave you to really, you could incorporate your study with your practical learning, so I really appreciate that time. So, i don't have a family of my own yet, so iI don't have kids. There is there was another apprentice on my team when I joined, and we were network apprentices from all over the UK. She was a mum, and I think she kind of really enjoyed being able to kind of get out into the field. Because we've always been out during COVID, so we are classed as key workers, so we have always been out at that time. We have obviously been as safe as possible doing that, because we've had to be able to keep people connected during this time of COVID. Obviously people have used it and required it more than ever. So, we've had to be able to maintain the network while this has all been going on, and improving it. Kind of doing all that stuff as well. There's a couple of kind of different factors as to as to kind of why she applied. She came from a background of like robotics and things like that. So, I think she always quite a, I think you don't need to be a particularly practical techie person. I think you just have to have that in our curiosity, asking questions and wanting to know how things work, and why, and things like that. but yeah, I'm sorry, I'm kind of trailed that.

Sarah

That’s really interesting, that appetite to learn. You don't necessarily have to go into sectors that you, like if that robotic thing is, like really, it's not a typical sector. If you've got that appetite to learn you can go into anything you really want. If you just want that drive to like, well I'm just a bit curious, like let me just find out, that's really interesting, I definitely was like that.

Stacey

So, there are transferable skills, that you're, you know that you are learning. So that's I guess the important thing. I don't know, I even thought, as Helen was kind of talking earlier, about how do we appeal. Maybe even, you know going into a toddler and baby class. Just making it, or you know maybe it'd be interesting to look at the the numbers of who go on to Instagram for example. Is it more women maybe we need to find where they go, and where they choose to spend their time online. Obviously you know, that's not to say that it's just women on there. I think maybe we really need to pick apart those niches, you know the clothes shops, nasty girl. Can we, you know advertise on their sites. I don't know, it would be good, because you never know whose curiosity you might spike. So, it's I think, it's very interesting to see how we can really get them. We want to get you come with us.

Sarah

We will find you, we will get to you. Definitely. So Anna have you got any thoughts?

Anna

 Yeah, I mean personally, from my experience, the best way to make people excited about apprenticeships is to bring out really enthusiastic apprentices, or recent apprentices, to talk about their experiences. Because, I mean, people like Stacey you know, if I had heard from Stacey when I was at school, I'd immediately be like, right this is an option, this is something I want to think about. It's quite hard to bring things to life that people don't know anything about. So if you have someone who's there he's doing it, he knows exactly what's going on, and can sell it. I think that's really important. I think we should, you know, we should make the most, the absolute most of our fantastic apprenticeship panel, and other networks of apprentices, to really help other people understand why they're so great.

Sarah

Stacy want to come back on that?

Stacey

 It's almost like if, you know when you were younger, if you did something just by yourself you're like, oh is this cool, and then it suddenly becomes cooler when you found out a student or a friend does it as well. You're like, oh well if they can do it, I can do that. So yeah, I completely agree Anna. It's if you see someone doing it, you think well she can do it and you know she's from Luton, and she went to my high school, and she went to my college. Okay and you can then try home, mom there was a girl at school, and she's done this, and now she's here and she drives a van and I can do that. So I just think it's like you said, it's, you want to see examples, and you want to see real life examples of people that are actually doing it, there then they're in the thick of it. So yeah, I think I completely agree. Someone that's obviously enthusiastic.Had my coffee this morning let me tell you. I just think it's, if you can see physically, see someone else doing it. It makes it okay because you know they're actually doing it. So yeah, that's, I like that kind of thought process. It's really nice.

Sarah

That is good. It's just showing that enthusiasm, that people need to see. I know so many apprentices I think pretty much every apprentice is so enthusiastic, and such an advocate for apprenticeships. So getting them in there, and be like amazing, this is great. Well Helen, you've got so many initiatives with getting people in there.

Helen

So yeah, so agree with what everyone says. If you can see it, you can be it. That's that old saying, so for sure. Enthusiastic apprentices do it every time. I do think, and see, that that girls are excited by different things, and so it's what an apprenticeship can give you. So I think it's that, and not all of our young girls are thinking about families, and we say that, we know, we're not you know,.probably not thinking about this right now. But the flexibility the learning on the job, they're not having you know the debt, the opportunity to try different things. Women tend to want to know the outputs. So boys will be like can I work with AI, you know they want to know if they're gonna get, they can they can do AI, or machine learning, or whatever it is. Whereas I think generally, not that girl's, not saying girls aren't excited about the technology as well. But I think they just have a broader view. So it's the technology, but it's all the other things the job can give you. I think you know, university, we can give an apprentice a degree apprenticeship, can give you everything that you get at university plus, plus, plus. Our apprentices are in a cohort. So it's just like being part of a university, we have societies, you know we have a freshers week, they can join societies, and they can even, lots of them live together. They choose to live together in a an apprentice house, as opposed to student house. But they're earning money and they can have a lifestyle. They know they're going to have a job, and they're in a really competitive position. So I think it's you know, it's that plus, plus, plus, that I think, it really attracts our female apprentices. If you've got female apprentices talking about what it brings for them, then that that's the icing on the cake, which is why we've got you know 49% hopefully 51% very soon, as I said again. I've said it enough times.

Sarah

You will get there, you will get there.

Stacey

Are you saying Helen that the apprentices are living off you know, M&S and the normal uni students are living off super noodles?

Helen

I'd actually go one step further. It may even be Waitrose.

Sarah

it's just great also, hearing you all speaking about this. So, we're coming to the end of our podcast now. So let's just kind of, no,, no we don't want it to end, it's such a good conversation. So just to kind of wrap it all up. So kind of like a one tip for each one of you. What would you say to women thinking about doing an apprenticeship? What's your one tip you want to say to them and let's go to Anna first.

Anna

I mean, I said do it. Absolutely do it. You know, talk to some former apprentices to find out which one is best for you. Because, you know, there's a huge choice out there, and they'll be the best place to advise you on which one is best for you. But there will definitely be one that's good for you.

Sarah

Definitely. Stacey.

Stacey

Don't ever doubt yourself. Don't ever think that you that you can't, even if it's a really technical role that's fine. You have the time to learn it, you know,  that's it, it's kind of what Anna said. Really just do it, go for it. Because I think for an apprenticeship, you have literally nothing to lose, and only to gain.

Sarah

That's really interesting. Just do it don't doubt yourself, you can't do it. Definitely a good thing, Helen.

Helen

I mean they've taken all the great ideas I’ve got nothing left to play now which is quite a feat i might add. I always say to, when I go and do work experience, or going to schools. I always say to young women is, be shameless, and talk to as many people as you can. So your parents, your parents friends. Anyone who's in that working environment. Because the more you know, the more of a picture you can build up of what it's like to work, in the work. Do work experience, because then you can learn what you, what you like, and you don't like. It is very, very difficult to be able to impart what an apprenticeship is like unless they can see it, hear it, talk to people who've done it. So yeah, build that network, talk to lots of people, go into offices that do apprenticeships. Most companies, like we do, will take people in for a day, or a work experience. So you can come and try before you buy, kind of thing. But as you know, as you've said, there is no loss. So a little bit of a slap around the chops for you Sarah. You didn't waste those two years, and even if someone came onto an apprenticeship, if they came on a Cisco apprenticeship, they did the three years, they got their degree. They didn't work as Cisco at the end, they have still got so much experience, they've learned so much about themselves. They've got you know, a step up and ahead of those who've just gone on to do a degree, and they've got a degree, and they've got no debt. So you know, why would you not do it, why would you not do it.

Sarah

These are all fantastic tips and we should just all be shouting about it. So, it was absolutely fantastic to hear all of you today. This conversation has been fantastic. It's been so empowering and enlightening. So just want to say a huge thank you for you all for joining me. It's been absolutely great to hear about all of your experiences, and most of all being open and honest with me. It's been absolutely great to hear. So, thanks for listening and look out for our next episode.

 

The Institute talks…about T Levels with Ashley and Daisy from HSDC

The Institute talks…about T Levels with Ashley and Daisy from HSDC

March 1, 2021

In this episode of The Insitute talks, we talk to Havant and South Downs College all about T Levels.

In the podcast, we are joined by Daisy, an education and childcare T Level student and Ashley, Assistant Principal Vocational Curriculum. They talk about their experiences over the last 6 months and how the coronavirus pandemic has affected them.

You can subscribe to The Institute talks podcast on Amazon MusicApple podcastSpotify and all other major podcast platforms.

Transcript

To follow.

The Institute talks…to Amelia Russell

The Institute talks…to Amelia Russell

February 12, 2021

Part of our apprentice panel podcasts, Jamilah Simpson our apprentice panel host interviews apprentice panel lead, Amelia Russell.

Amelia, 23, is currently completing her level 3 business administration apprenticeship at The Institute for Apprenticeships and Technical Education.

Transcript

Jamilah Simpson:

Hi, I'm Jamilah Simpson the Multiverse community programs and networks associate. I joined Multiverse early last year after completing my digital marketing qualification as an apprentice at Google. I'm also an apprentice panel member and your host for this podcast. Today we're joined by Amelia, Amelia did you want to quickly introduce yourself before we get started.

Amelia Russell:

My name is Amelia Russell, and I’m doing a business administration apprenticeship and I'm currently coming up to my end-point assessment, and I work at the Institute for Apprenticeships as a Governance and external affairs officer.

Jamilah Simpson:

So, Amelia, I was luckily able to finish my apprenticeship before COVID and lockdown hit. So I was able to stay in the office and do my EPA and finish all the coursework with the other apprentices who were also in my company. But I guess it's a little bit different for you because you're continuing to do your apprenticeship and we're still in a national lockdown. How has that whole process been, and has it affected in the approach to your EPA?

Amelia Russell:

It's been definitely challenging, because receiving that text message from work saying we were no longer allowed in the office, it was a bit of a shock. I thought it would only last about three weeks so. Since March 2020 I've had to do a lot of online learning myself, and having to meet virtually and not having the workshops. I did actually have a break in learning because I live with my nan, so I wanted to make sure that I was around to support her in the first few months of being in a lockdown. Having to do a lot of apprenticeship work, and trying to still get that on the job training and learning, and trying to shadow with the teams and work with other people. It's definitely been a challenge, but if you really want it to work, you know, you really got to put the effort in and make sure it works. Which is what I've tried to do, and I am leading up to my EPA, and I've been so excited, just to, you know, finish my apprenticeship, and to say, you know, I've finished it, and I did it. Even after a year in a pandemic and lockdown, and it's been a real struggle. But yeah, I would say I'm just going to keep pushing on with it, and fingers crossed I aim for that distinction.

Jamilah Simpson:

Yeah, like completely hats off to you. Because I like I'm in a full-time role not doing an apprenticeship as well, but I really struggled working from home. Especially when it first started, but the fact that you're doing your full-time role, plus your apprenticeship and now in the approach to your EPA, it's like I commend you.

Amelia Russell:

Thank you, it's very hard because usually in the office you just turn around and say, oh by the way how do I do this, and all I have is my bedroom door to turn around too. So, it's a very different environment to be learning in, and working in, so yeah it's a challenge, but we'll all get through it.

Jamilah Simpson:

Yeah. Well we have each other to get through it all we do

Amelia Russell:

We do

Jamilah Simpson:

I’m sure you will do amazingly. So I want to talk about apprenticeships for a little bit. So Amelia, you and I both know that apprenticeships aren't really the conventional route after finishing GCSE’s or A-levels. Why did you decide to do an apprenticeship?

Amelia Russell:

So, my journey from school to being an apprentice has been a real challenge. Especially being a care leaver, and I knew I wanted to do an apprenticeship as I could get experience then a qualification, as well as earning a wage. After searching for such a long time, I found an apprenticeship come up at the Institute for Apprenticeships, and it was perfect. I could do an apprenticeship and still influence the world of education for anyone of any age and background. I decided to do an apprenticeship as well because after trying the university route, I felt like it wasn't for me, and I was studying adult nursing at the University of Northampton, and after doing it for a year I ended up absolutely hating it. Finding that it just wasn't for me, and it's something that I wanted to do as a career, but in the end, I felt like, you know working on the wards, and attending lectures, and studying, doing assignments, it was just really hard at times. That's why I decided to drop out at the end, and after that, I decided to work in a secondary school before this apprenticeship. Which really cemented more into me about getting the experience and choosing to go for an apprenticeship route and being passionate about education and apprenticeships.

Jamilah Simpson:

Wow, that sounds amazing. I kind of chose to do an apprenticeship as opposed to university because of the same reason. Because I enjoy like the practical learning environment, and you can't, well you can get that at university, but not as much as you can in an apprenticeship. Because you're actually in the workplace and applying your learning straight away, as you mentioned, so I can understand like, where you're coming from.

Amelia Russell:

It really shows how important on the job training is as well, with you know, you don't really get that with some university degrees as you can't really go and work and do both at the same time.

Jamilah Simpson:

Yeah definitely, definitely. You mentioned being passionate about like, the role of education, and creating an influence. Is there anything in particular that you enjoy working on? Especially as you're at the Institute?

Amelia Russell:

I think it's the apprentice panel most that I do enjoy working on. As I get to have a huge network of apprentices and get to work with all of them. As they all come from amazing backgrounds, and organisations. I think it's just really building up those relationships, and engaging with all these other people, that are just as passionate about them, is what I really enjoy the most. It's just having that communication and that creativity to work with them.

Jamilah Simpson:

Yeah definitely, and you do such an amazing job at managing the apprentice panel. With the meetings and making sure that all of the apprentices stay connected in between those meetings through your regular communications, and check-ins, I absolutely love that. What's it like being both on the panel but also leading it?

Amelia Russell:

That's a good question. I think, I did start off with being an apprentice panel member, and I did recently, in the summer of 2020, took over as being the apprentice panel co-organisational lead, and it's, I think it's, I get really, happy about having to work with all of these people. But I think leading them all and trying to navigate them to really push and challenge their views, or other people's views is something that I love as well. Because we've all come from different backgrounds, my views on how apprenticeships might work might be different to how yours might think they work. I think that's the joy of it, is getting that wealth of knowledge and experience from all the other members is what's so important to me. Also really contributing towards what's going to happen on the agenda, and what we can talk about. Especially recently with the board strategy, we've just supported for, and having pushing the other members to go and present to the board, and challenge them, and what we want apprenticeship to be like by 2023. I think that's the most amazing thing to happen recently, is being able to speak to the board members, as a panel, and push all of our views that we had in our January meeting forward.

Jamilah Simpson:

Yeah, it's quite an empowering experience isn't it, being on the panel, and I've learned so much since joining, just under a year ago. just speaking to all of the other apprentices, and finding out that about their experiences has been so, impactful, and eye-opening.

Amelia Russell:

Yeah, it definitely is, and even speaking to apprentices, like yourself, when we're working on the best practice guidance. Seeing what you're doing on it, and how other apprentice panel members of what they're doing, and the case studies that they're able to get. I think it's just, it's a brilliant way, to really, we're the final product, really, of apprenticeships. We have the most experience with them at the minute, so, what better way to use our experience than on the apprentice panel.

Jamilah Simpson:

Yeah, exactly. Whilst we're on the topic of the best practice guidance. I know that you're also working on this with us too. Can you tell me why you think the work that we're doing for it is so important?

Amelia Russell:

Yes of course. So the apprentice panel survey last year had actually brought to light a lot of issues, and we decided to come up with recommendations. So to develop this best practice guidance for apprentices, training providers, and employers. For it to act as a reference for quality, and apprenticeship delivery. I really want to set the bar high, and encourage others to aim for what apprentices everywhere should have, that gold star experience. So the reason why it's so important, is because the best practice guidance will not set the minimum requirements, but for the best practice of apprenticeships, and what makes an apprenticeship such high quality. But also it's a great way for people in apprenticeships to share their best way to support apprentices. So for example, their welfare, and what's the best way to prepare for an EPA. So I'm really keen to assure people that we're not on about minimum requirements. It's really the best practice, and when someone really looked after you as an apprentice, and how can we influence employers and training providers to use that.

Jamilah Simpson:

Yeah, and from what I've seen and heard, it seems like you've had a pretty great apprenticeship experience so far. Are there any specific highlights that you would like to mention?

Amelia Russell:

Yeah sure. There's been lots of highlights working Institute, it's really opened a lot of doors for me. One particular moment, is I’ve recently been promoted within my team. I've been really keen to pick up as much experience as possible in the Chief of Staff team where I work, and I was promoted back in October to do governance and external affairs. Before that, I did work on inquiries, and I think it was the best way to start, to really get to know all the other teams. So definitely, a promotion. There's been lots of opportunities. Like a Chinese delegation, and meeting all these professors from Beijing University. I could sit here all day and go through it with you. But yeah, there's been I think promotion, and also the Chinese delegation has been a highlight to me.

Jamilah Simpson:

Oh, congratulations on your promotion. I actually didn't know that, but amazing.

Amelia Russell:

Thank you

Jamilah Simpson:

So earlier you mentioned that you are a care leaver. Has an apprenticeship been the best route for you to take do you think?

Amelia Russell:

When you're a care leaver you can be very independent and rely on yourself, especially financially. So going to university and being a care leaver, there's not that financial support really for you. Whereas, if you're an apprentice, you're getting a qualification, and being able to get a living wage to support yourself, and that's been the best route for me. I don't know what I would do without an apprenticeship, and it's opened up so many doors, despite the background, and the challenging situations I've faced. So it's definitely been about the best route for me rather than university.

Jamilah Simpson:

Oh, I'm so glad to hear that. Do you have any plans for what you'd like to do after you finish your apprenticeship? Would you like to stay at the Institute, would you like to explore a different industry? Do you have any idea?

Amelia Russell:

Sure. I'd definitely say I would like to see myself progressing within civil service, and particularly the Institute. Because I love all the connections it has, and especially with the route panel members, and all the different trailblazers we work with to develop apprenticeships. It's somewhere where I do see my passion laying. Whether that's in the department or the Institute. I'd love to be able to take up a higher apprenticeship, but I'm still yet to decide that. But I definitely know I want to play a big role in supporting the development of high-quality apprenticeships.

Jamilah Simpson:

Oh wow. I was also like, really undecided about what I wanted to do after my apprenticeship. Luckily the job that I'm in now came up as an opportunity, like a month before my apprenticeship ended. I was thinking about doing a higher level apprenticeship, or just taking a break. But I think, yeah, like opportunities come when you.

Amelia Russell:

When you least expect them

Jamilah Simpson:

Yeah, I was trying to think of the phrase, but my mind just went completely blank.

Amelia Russell:

Do you have thoughts about any other apprenticeships that you would consider doing?

Jamilah Simpson:

I initially said, so before I wanted to do my digital marketing one. I wanted to do it based on, like, a purely creative industry. Because there's a little bit of creativity in digital marketing, but it's not fully creative. So yeah, I'm always keeping my eye out for any creative apprenticeships. I know there's not that many at the moment, so I'm hoping there'll be, like, a graphic design one, maybe in the future, that I could do. Because I've always been, like, I've always had a creative eye. So I want to really use my skills, but also gain a qualification in that. But, again, I'm not really sure, I just take each day as it comes really. I have a final question for you. Have you got any advice for people thinking about doing an apprenticeship?

Amelia Russell:

Yes, and I would just say go for it. It will be the best decision you'll make, and it was for me. Before you do go for an apprenticeship, I would say you should really research into the apprenticeship, and the organisation you're applying for. So you can really make sure that it's something that you're going to enjoy, and be passionate about, and really want to do. But definitely go for it.

Jamilah Simpson:

Yeah. I 100% agree with you. Cool. So that's all we have time for in today's episode. Thank you so much, Amelia, for taking the time to tell us about your apprenticeship experience and being so open and honest with me today. Thank you for listening in today and look out for our next episode, bye!

The Institute talks…to Joel Roach

The Institute talks…to Joel Roach

February 11, 2021

Part of our apprentice panel podcasts, Jamilah Simpson our apprentice panel host interviews member, Joel Roach.

Joel, 20, Is currently completing his chartered manager's degree apprenticeship at Microsoft.

Deciding that university wasn’t for him, Joel came across degree apprenticeships as a way of gaining the experience of the workplace but getting the degree at the same time.

Transcript

Jamilah Simpson

Hi, I'm Jamilah Simpson, the Multiverse community programmes and networks associate. I joined Multiverse early last year after completing my digital marketing qualification as an apprentice at Google. I'm also an apprentice panel member and your host for this podcast. Today we're joined by Joel. Joel, did you want to quickly intro yourself?

 

Joel Roach

Sure, hiya, I'm Joel. I'm doing a chartered managers degree apprenticeship at Microsoft's been doing it for a couple of years now and yeah like Jamilah I've been a member of the apprentice panel for about a year now.

 

Jamilah Simpson

Cool, so I think we joined around the same time on the panel. I joined around March, April last year.

 

Joel Roach

 Yeah, I think that sounds about right for me as well.

 

Jamilah Simpson

So your apprenticeship sounds really interesting. What made you decide to do a degree apprenticeship?

 

Joel Roach

Well before doing my apprenticeship I was at university so doing the apprenticeship was much more honestly as much more about leaving university than anything else. You know, I decided that uni wasn't for me. I wanted to get into work and sort of. Started getting on with, you know, gaining some skills and getting some experience. The degree of apprenticeship thing came about as sort of I was just exploring and seeing what was out there. Came across Microsoft's degree apprenticeship and it seemed like a great option to take that degree box whilst I was getting all my other experience.

 

Jamilah Simpson

Amazing and you briefly mentioned that you went to university for a year before. What made you change your mind and go down the apprenticeship route instead?

 

Joel Roach

Yeah so for me university wasn't like an amazing experience. You know it was an OK time. It was fun. Don't get me wrong. And I wanted to, you know, get a job afterwards and do real work, not study the subject for the rest of my life. So it didn't seem like I was getting much out of it, so I found it come across an apprenticeship and it just seemed like such a better option. Like by the time I sort of decided to do it, it just seems like such a no brainer really. You know, I wanted to be working. I wanted to be gaining real skills and applying the stuff I land in the real world. So yeah, it just seems like such an obvious decision to me by the time it got around to doing it.

 

Jamilah Simpson

Yeah, I'm the same. I didn't really want to like sit and listen to a lecturer for hours and hours on end. I kind of just wanted to get into working and even though I didn't really, I never had a job before my apprenticeship. I just knew that I wanted to get into the workplace, so it seems like we have similar like ways of thinking about why we choose an apprenticeship. Yeah, an Microsoft is a pretty big deal with global massive company. Did you always want to work at a company like Microsoft?

 

Joel Roach

So Microsoft came onto my radar because it was close to the town I was doing university and it was quite important to me that I sort of held onto those university friends and can sort of keep that life going without having to completely restart in the city, so that's sort of what brought onto my radar in the first place. In doing that, I was looking at graduate schemes and all sorts of things I could do after my degree, and then I came across the apprenticeship scheme and it was sort of like OK, why, why, wouldn't? Why wouldn't I start right now and then you know from that I start digging into Microsoft as a company a little bit more and exploring what those options were, and I was just so impressed with what I saw. There's a lot of tech companies out there at the moment which you know getting in the news for all the wrong reasons. I think Microsoft commitment, crust and ethics and transparency and reliability. All these good things were really a sort of refreshing thing to see from a big tech company. And you know, there's a huge amount they've done since I've started my apprenticeship around sustainability and all this good stuff. That's just kind of inspiring to see this big company using its resource is using its power to influence for the better. So yeah, big fan of Microsoft.

 

Jamilah Simpson

Sounds an amazing place to work. I'm just curious 'cause I worked at Google and that's also quite a big company. What was it like working at Microsoft? As an employee, whether a lot of employee benefits and what was your day today, kinda like?

 

Joel Roach

Can be a bit mixed. On the one hand, it can be, you know it's incredibly exciting. I think our talent leader is described as being like in a candy store. There's all these opportunities around you, there's hundreds and hundreds of people who are willing to help you support you, give you opportunities you know, give you stuff to do. And at a point, you've got to rain yourself in, then be like, OK? I need to just pick a few things that I really want to do. So it's just yeah, full of opportunities, which is amazing. It's quite, it's almost a bit of a shock at first. I think when you sort of get any you see, like the numbers and you see the sort of accounts these people are working on and it's like wow. This is like important stuff that's happening here and from the beginning, they don't. You know there's no, you know, being the tea and coffee guy, it's all sort of real work, right from the start, and it's sort of it's quite a lot of pressure and it's quite a lot of you know, quick adapting to the environment. But you know, I love that I, you know I joined. I joined the company because I wanted to do something real and impactful. And I certainly got given that chance.

 

Jamilah Simpson

Yeah, I know it can be quite overwhelming to go into such a big company and you kind of have senses of impostor syndrome because you think of yourself as just an apprentice. But really, you're there for a reason. And that's something that I learned. Throughout the first couple months of me starting that I was there for a reason and I was chosen to work in the team that I was working in, I'm assuming that you plan on progressing within Microsoft once you've finished your apprenticeship. Is there any like promise that you'll get a job after, like your stay in our role? Have you heard anything so far?

 

Joel Roach

So we don't have any guarantee of a role afterwards just because Microsoft such you know it's such a big company. There's only a limited number of roles available, and obviously, it's a very popular place to work. Well, it's with after sort of. Well, I'm there for four years and you meet people along the way that happy to support you in that in your career. Certainly, opportunities to move it to stick around at Microsoft, but at the same time, Microsoft. Part of our vast partner network and there's so many different connections, you can make a Microsoft different organisation. They're sort often very keen for us to explore different avenues and opportunities and see what's out there really, rather than being sort of stuck to that one place for the rest of our careers. So I've got two years left of my apprenticeship. I'm still figuring out what I want to do next, but I'm certainly going to have a good look around and see what's out there.

 

Jamilah Simpson

Yeah, two years. It's a long time to make any decisions, so you definitely got the time to think about it. Just curious, did you start your apprenticeship before the lockdown hit, the UK?

 

Joel Roach

Yeah yes. I've been there for two years now, so if you had a good amount of time in the office, I do feel for the apprentice started in the lockdown there, it's a tough way to join the company.

 

Jamilah Simpson

Yeah, how have you been coping with working from home for almost a year now, isn't it?

 

Joel Roach

Yeah, I mean as a company we adapted pretty quickly just because we were sort of used to doing flexible working and days at home. And things like that. But it was. It was obviously an adjustment for everyone. It's definitely I miss. I miss the change of scenery in the office and we had a few weeks when everything started easing up that we were sort of allowed back in, which is great. But you know, we've adapted we're getting on with it. We actually managed to deliver an amazing onboarding experience for our latest cohort of apprentices. All virtual. We had some amazing guest speakers for them and they will engage with that incredibly, so it's an adaptation, but it's sort of challenge. They were quite happy to rise too and see what we can come up with to sort of address these different needs.

 

Jamilah Simpson

Yeah, yeah, you mentioned onboarding in there. I'm interested to know what was your onboarding like when you first joined Microsoft as an apprentice.

 

Joel Roach

Yeah, so I mean, when onboarding is something at Microsoft that's really evolved over the last few years. So when I joined, we had a week of onboarding. We learn about the company, the culture, the values about the sort of journey that Microsoft being on 'cause. t's not always been this sort of credible company to work at in the past. It's been quite difficult, competitive internally and externally, but sort of. Lately, it's been a huge focus on growth mindset and working together as we learn a lot about that journey just to sort of understand where Microsoft is that now. So that was a really helpful thing to sort of learn about is that. You're not going to be expected o be this. Know it all. Who knows everything would be the smartest person in the room at all times. But you actually sort of more expected to be this learning or person who can walk into a room and ask 1000 questions and learn from every single one. And you know, learn from every mistake you make. I'll quite often say that like you know, as an apprentice, my job is to make mistakes and to screw it up and get it wrong. And if I learn from each time I do that, then I'm going to come out of it like so. Much better off. And in a really strong position in my career 'cause I have learned an absolute ton.

 

Jamilah Simpson

Yeah, when I was. Doing my apprenticeship. I was so scared to even ask questions if I didn't know something but I just kind of learn. I don't know everything and it's best if I learn from my team and the people around me. So you kind of had that advantage going into workplace as an apprentice your you can make those mistakes cool. So I just want to move on to the topic of the apprentice panel that we're both on. Why did you decide to join it?

 

Joel Roach

Well, I think as much as apprenticeship so amazing and a great opportunity. I think there's still a huge amount of work to reach their full potential. So I wanted to join because I really wanted to, you know, get in a room with these people that have this. You know, big influence and sort of a lot of power, in the apprenticeship community and really just challenge them to be aspirational about sort of the standard of apprenticeships that you know that they're delivering. You know, like just last week, I was able to deliver recommendations to the Institute's board about the new strategic plan where you encouraging them to include ethical practice in all of their apprenticeship standards in future. So, like any apprentice working with customers. Should you know, learn to accommodate the needs of someone with learning disabilities or, you know, learn how to use the pronouns for transgender binary folks and like this is the kind of thing that we really want to do. Push to be to get employees to think. OK, yes I want to fill these skills and sort of getting these employees, but what more can I do and what more can these people brings my organisation because apprentices have such a unique perspective of being completely new to the world of work quite often and just having this outside view that can actually really challenge these senior people. And I think if there's this audience that can listen and be open to it then you can have a huge impact as an apprentice.

 

Jamilah Simpson

Yeah, it sounds like you're clearly very passionate about like driving social change and continuing to improve apprentices and it can be quite daunting. But empowering, especially if you're like presenting to the board, but you know that you're making change, so that's the part that I really like about being on the apprentice panel, as well as just making change and seeing that outcome.

 

Joel Roach

Yeah, absolutely. And I think, you know, after a while you get used to the fact that these are just people like whether they like CEOs of these huge companies like they're just people. And it's OK to challenge them and question them and not take everything they say to be, you know, gospel.

 

Jamilah Simpson

Yeah, it's definitely a learning experience.

 

Joel Roach

Absolutely, I think it's also worth mentioning that. Sort of through Microsoft I've had some really incredible opportunities to go beyond my job role. So I sit on the Board of Microsoft, Microsoft UK LGBT plus community, which means I get some really amazing events that we've put on. So you know, just last year in December we did an event for trans awareness week where we had some trans employees talking about their experiences and seeing the employees sort of engage with it and respond to it is always incredible. Just last week we had the BBC's first LGBT plus correspondent. Join us for an event and. You know, again, we had over like 300 attendees all engaging with it or learning from it, talking about privilege and intersectionality which has just been amazing to see. And just having that opportunity is amazing. It's not something I never would have got if I hadn't had my apprenticeship to have this much sort of impact and learn from all these other people around me. So that's been a really incredible thing to do.

 

Jamilah Simpson

Wow, I think diversity, inclusion and wellbeing being are really important aspects for any company, but it sounds like the opportunities outside of your day-to-day role is absolutely amazing as well so. Wow.

 

 Joel Roach

yeah absolutely. I mean like as much as a company can talk about profit margins and making more money and growing and everything like that's great, but there's so much more work to do in the diversity and inclusion space in the wellbeing space like there's a huge amount of work still to do, and if we just sort of keep doing and keep pushing it then well then we will get there and I think apprentices with their new perspectives and with their outside views can. Can really make some real changes there.

 

Jamilah Simpson

Yeah, definitely is also reflected in our best practice handbook because wellbeing is actually one of the five sections that we're working on, so I think you're working on the onboarding part of it. Is that right?

 

Joel Roach

 Yeah, absolutely. So that sort of drawing on some experience. I've had a Microsoft 'cause our onboarding experience is sort of led by apprentices, for apprentices, so the last couple of years I've been part of a team that ran the onboarding process and we've evolved over that time to include things like, you know,  diversity and inclusion and wellbeing could be quite conscious that for a lot of apprentices it's not just onboarding into a company, it's onboarding into a whole career. So we're trying to figure out what foundations are going to set these people up to be really impactful.  Whatever organisation they end up in great, we want to have that impact at Microsoft, but you know, wherever they go in their careers, we want to have that really strong foundation of ethics and culture and sense of self and bring themselves to work that was really amazing to see an as far as the best practice guide goes, eventually leading back to your question. We hope that it's going to be you know, a high standard for employers and training provider to work towards. Because once you've got that sort of this thing to aspire to, you can see where you're at in that journey. You can always work back from it to say, OK, these are the steps we need to take to get to this sort of higher standard. Hopefully, that will really work to keep the quality of our apprenticeships, continuing to improve and really just challenging people to raise their standards.

 

Jamilah Simpson

Yeah, I'm really looking forward to seeing it all come together over the next few weeks and my company Multiverse were actually an apprenticeship training provider so will have like direct will be able to be impacted by it but also influence it as well with best practice case studies and stuff like that. So yeah, I'm just really excited by all its brilliant initiative that the panel is working on.

 

Joel Roach

I think yeah, absolutely well I think and I think we're going to do some of the same stuff with Microsoft taking what we've learned with the onboarding process and just sort of putting it in there as a case study of. Here's what you can do. And it works really well.

 

Jamilah Simpson

Yeah. and what do you want to achieve? Being on the apprentice panel, I think you kind of touched on it before, but like what's your top two goals? Let's say.

 

Joel Roach

I mean, I'd say number one goal. You sort of mentioned is that social change thing. You know, we've got 700,000 apprentices around the country all at like hundreds, even thousands of employers. If every single one of them can have the skills and the confidence to be able to speak up and have that impactful conversation about whether it's diversity and inclusion. Whether it's about wellbeing or just you know sustainability. For example, like if we can get every single apprentice in the country to do something good and influence up within their organisations, we can have a huge impact like across the country, which to me is like a really inspiring thought. Just like all these apprentices out there doing some good. But yeah, the other priority for me is making sure that apprentice voices are heard. As much as there's you know, 700,000 of us it can be quite scattered around the place. You know you've got apprentices that are the only apprentice at their employer. I've been in a quite fortunate position there's about 100 of us at Microsoft. You can sort of, you know, speak to each other and stuff, but I think if we can make an effort to reunify those voices and you know, like we've done with our survey last year and hopefully will do again with our survey, this year is just gather those perspectives of apprentices so that we can present them to the people with influence. Actually, this is what apprentices want. This is where apprentices aren't getting what they want and this is what they need and this is how we can make improvements. They're actually going to affect the lives of apprentices rather than just meeting the expectations of employers 'cause they're not always the same thing.

 

Jamilah Simpson

Yeah, so we're working, not just for like your personal apprenticeship experience, but also for the 700. Did you say 700,000 apprentices across the UK? That's an amazing number, didn't even know was that many. Ah, my final question to you Joel is have you got any advice, people thinking about doing an apprenticeship?

 

Joel Roach

 Just do it when in doubt do an apprenticeship you know, like I've tried the university thing, it wasn't for me. A lot of people, I think assume apprenticeships are of people who know exactly what they want to do and sort of really set career goal. But that's not the case at all I started my apprenticeship with no idea what I wanted to do. I just thought it seemed like a great opportunity. It seemed like a way out of university and over time I'm sort of figuring out the bits of work that really gives me energy. And you know, I really enjoyed doing so now through my apprenticeship, I'm narrowing down my options of what sort of jobs I want to go for. So if you have no idea what you want to do in an apprenticeship, if you have a great idea of what you want to do, pick an apprenticeship that fits that and follow that through and you'll be doing it much sooner than if you start university and have to wait three years. So give it a go. Get started do an apprenticeship.

 

Jamilah Simpson

Thank you. I really, when I was a student doing my A levels, I really needed that voice saying if you're not sure what you want to do in apprenticeship and don't go down the uni route just because everyone else is doing it because I felt that pressure of needing to do what everyone else is doing because my teacher wanted me to do it. My friend wanted me to do it, but luckily my family was supportive. In me doing an apprenticeship instead, so that's great words by the way, but thank you. That's all we have time for in today's episode. I want to say a huge thank you to our guest today Joel for taking the time to tell us about your apprenticeship experience and being so open and honest with me today. Thanks for listening and lookout for the next episode. Bye.

The Institute talks…to Nikki Greaves

The Institute talks…to Nikki Greaves

February 10, 2021

Part of our apprentice panel podcasts, Jamilah Simpson our apprentice panel host interviews member, Nikki Greaves.

 

Nikki Greaves, 20, is currently completing her level 5 laboratory science apprenticeship with GlaxoSmithKline (GSK).

 

Transcript

Jamilah Simpson:

Hi, I'm Jamilah Simpson the Multiverse Community Programs and Networks Associate. I joined Multiverse early last year after completing my digital marketing qualification as an apprentice at Google. I'm also an apprentice panel member and your host for this podcast. Today we're joined by Nikki. Nikki did you quickly want to intro yourself before we get started

Nikki Greaves:

Hi, I'm Nikki a laboratory science apprentice for GSK currently in my third year now.

Jamilah Simpson:

Thank you, Nikki, we're so glad to have you here today. So, I've got a few questions for you. Starting with, as we both chose the apprenticeship route, I think we can both agree that there are so many benefits to them. What drew you into your apprenticeship?

Nikki Greaves:

So it's weird actually, I knew in sixth form that I wanted to go into a sciencey kind of lab-based career, and I was actually really set on doing a Biomed kind of degree at uni. My school was very like forward at pushing us down the uni kind of route, and it was only one day when I was looking at the government website that I actually stumbled upon the GSK apprenticeship,  and I was actually really intrigued. Because probably like quite a few other people I just assumed that apprenticeships were like carpentry and plumbing. Obviously, that sounds really bad, but I really didn't have much of a clue of what apprenticeships actually were. So when I saw this advertisement basically being like you can have a degree and learn hands-on I was pretty much like wow, this is actually exactly what I want. Because obviously the whole sitting in lectures, and that's just not how I learn and I was actually really worried about that aspect of uni. So actually, getting a hands-on was so much better for me, so I applied immediately.

Jamilah Simpson:

I had the exact same reaction because I didn't have a lot of information about apprenticeships when I was at college either. When I found out that there's so many different industries that you can go in to, I got really excited. I actually found my apprenticeship through my mum, so similar to you, my school wasn't helpful at all.

Nikki Greaves:

I honestly didn't even know they existed like at all.

Jamilah Simpson:

So Nikki your apprenticeship sounds really, really interesting and I'd love to know more about what you do day-to-day.

Nikki Greaves:

So, the usual day for me consists of helping my team set up and run studies. Where we basically look at how different compounds work. So how they work in the body if they're going to the right places and doing what we want them to do basically. A particularly interesting project that I've been involved in, was working on an HIV project where we looked at the potential for a treatment to take place twice a year rather than the current treatment regime, which is administered monthly.

Jamilah Simpson:

Wow sounds like pretty important stuff. So as you know we've all been going through a really tough time over the past year as a nation. Being a laboratory scientist, have you had an opportunity to support with COVID- 19?

Nikki Greaves:

Unfortunately not. I would have absolutely loved to be involved, but my team and I have just had a lot of work that's ongoing. Like I have been in work as a key worker, but it hasn't been COVID involved. Although I have actually signed up to be a volunteer for the mass vaccinating and actually GSK like alongside the NHS organised that for some of the employees. So I'm doing that.

Jamilah Simpson:

That’s amazing. You mentioned that you're a key worker does that mean that you still go into your place of work?

Nikki Greaves:

Yeah, so pretty much throughout the lockdown we were going in on a like shift kind of pattern. So that obviously there's like a limited amount of people on-site, but yeah pretty much just working our way through it. Because obviously a lab base, I can't exactly work from home very much. As much as I try and say my coursework, I could get on with my coursework. But yeah I know we've just been doing shifts really.

Jamilah Simpson:

Well I can imagine that must be really difficult to go through

Nikki Greaves:

it's actually. I feel like it gives regularity to the days. It is a bit difficult to like, make a routine because sometimes you're called in last minute, or sometimes then you're not needed. So, that's probably the hardest bit, but other than that it's still nice to be able to talk to people other than my housemates, as much as I love them.

Jamilah Simpson:

Yeah, I really struggled to maintain that routine when I was working from home and I've recently started coming back into the office a few days a week. It's just nice to have that commute. It's something that I never thought that I'd miss having that commute in the morning and actually getting on a train. I really missed that during the first lockdown. So now I'm getting back into it it's just nice to have that distinction between work. So on to our next question. What would you like to do next after you've finished your apprenticeship?

Nikki Greaves:

So, I'm currently doing a level 5 apprenticeship. So I'm in my third year now, so hopefully, fingers crossed if all goes well, in August time I'll get my bioscience foundation degree. Then I'm hoping to basically stay on at GSK for another year and a bit, to get a level 6 apprenticeship, and get my full bachelor's degree, so hopefully that. As for after that I'm just hoping I can get a full-time job at GSK, and maybe explore different departments. Because I'm still not really sure what I want to particularly do. I think the science industry is so like varied, and so wide. I think there's just so much to explore still. So we'll have to see.

Jamilah Simpson:

I think it's amazing that you're thinking about going on to a level 6. I didn't even know that existed until a few weeks ago. The fact that you've also like kind of got a plan in place I really respect that. I'm not much of a planner I just like take things as it comes. I think I'm going to start definitely thinking about like the 5-year plan and the 10-year plan going forward.

Nikki Greaves:

I feel like I need to be more that. I'm too like plan it all, plan it all, I really need to kind of take things on the chin a bit more.

Jamilah Simpson:

We can help each other out we can balance. So we know that you're part of the apprentice panel, along with myself. Why did you decide to join the panel in the first place?

Nikki Greaves:

Well, I just think it's a great opportunity. I think being able to work with people, who are like-minded, who also have a passion for apprenticeships. I just think that was a great opportunity and it also gives me an opportunity to give maybe apprentices that don't have a voice, like a platform for them to speak out, and give their opinion. So, I just thought it was a great opportunity to have.

Jamilah Simpson:

It's quite an empowering experience, isn't it? Something that we're working on in the apprentice panel, is the best practice guidance for apprenticeships. I believe that you're in the induction process. Nikki, can you tell me why that part is so important?

Nikki Greaves:

I just feel like the induction of anything is just important. I mean like it's the part that sets you up. It's the part where you get told what to expect, and the experiences that you'll get, and what you'll learn. So I just really feel like a great induction can have such an impact, and it will really set you up for the rest of your apprenticeship.

Jamilah Simpson:

Yeah, definitely, I agree. Out of curiosity what was your induction process like?

Nikki Greaves:

So, I went on-site, like a month before, and it didn't go very well. I actually was so nervous the night before that I didn't sleep very well. Then in the morning, because I lived quite far away, and I actually commuted in the morning. It was like an hour drive, so I had barely eaten, like a banana, so and then I had a really long journey. So I was absolutely knackered, and I actually fainted.

Jamilah Simpson:

Oh my god, that’s awful.

Nikki Greaves:

As it was it was, actually quite good. On my first day, because it kind of was an ice breaker. I was like the girl that fainted if you remember me. So, it kind of worked out in the end. As embarrassing as it was.

Jamilah Simpson:

Oh wow, that sounds very intense. By being on the apprentice panel what do you want to achieve?

Nikki Greaves:

Well, like I said, just to have a platform for apprentices to raise their opinions. Also, to just help with improving the overall apprentice experience. I feel like there's such a range of different experiences, and I feel like making that all like merge, and all actually go together, so that everyone has similar experiences. I think that all that's a really good thing to work towards.

Jamilah Simpson:

Definitely. I 100% agree. Finally, you briefly mentioned the fact that you didn't really have support from school when you were looking for your apprenticeship, and you were quite surprised when you found out the opportunity that you're in now. Have you got any advice for people thinking about doing an apprenticeship?

Nikki Greaves:

Yeah, so I would just say explore apprenticeships online, on government websites, there's just so many actually available that people don't realise. So I just say do your research. It's a really great alternative to university, you get to network with so many professionals in your field. I just feel like it opens so many doors. So I just say go for it, research it, apply.

Jamilah Simpson:

Yeah, I think we both have, like biased opinions, because we both, like you're on an apprenticeship at the moment, and I've completed mine last year. So we only have like good things to say about apprenticeships. But I definitely agree with your point about research and making sure that you know what you're getting yourself into before you actually commit. So, thank you. That's all we have time for in today's episode. I want to say a huge thank you to our guest Nikki for taking the time to tell us about your apprenticeship experience and being so open and honest with me today. Thanks for listening, and look out for our next episode. Bye.

The Institute talks…to Amy Marren

The Institute talks…to Amy Marren

February 9, 2021

Part of our apprentice panel podcasts, Jamilah Simpson our apprentice panel host interviews new member, Amy Marren.

Amy, 22, is a level 7 solicitor apprentice at BPP. She is also a double Paralympic swimmer, competing in the last two Paralympic Games, winning a bronze medal at Rio.

Transcript

Jamilah Simpson

Hi, I'm Jamilah Simpson, the Multiverse community programmes and networks associate. I joined Multiverse early last year after completing my digital marketing qualification as an apprentice at Google. I'm also an apprentice panel member and your host for this podcast. Today we're joined by Amy. Amy, did you want to tell us a little bit about yourself before we get started?

 

Amy Marren

Hello, my name is Amy Marren. I am a Level 7 solicitor apprentice. I work in house at BPP as well as studying with BPP. I'm also retired, double Paralympic swimmer. Just add things to the mix a little bit. I've been in my role now well I've been at BPP now since February 2017. So well established and enjoy myself too.

 

Jamilah Simpson

Wow level 7. That's absolutely amazing. What drew you into an apprenticeship?

 

Amy Marren

So, I think my apprenticeship journey, so to speak, hasn't really been as straightforward as me just deciding one day that I wanted to do an apprenticeship. So, I finished my A levels in the June of 2016, and I went to sixth form school. So, I think with sixth form schools there's quite a big push towards going to university. So, for me I thought that was really the only options, and actually I followed the course and I started at a university in September of 2016, after coming back from Rio. Um so fair to say there's a fair bit of my plate at that point and decided that the university life really wasn't for me. Um, so I made the decision to leave and started applying for apprenticeships in the January of 2017. Wasn't 100% sure on the industry that I wanted to be in, but what really appealed to me was the whole dynamics of working and studying at the same time. I think I'm much more of a practical, hands-on person, so the experience I get of learning alongside established, people in that industry so professionals, I think is invaluable.

 

Jamilah Simpson

Aw, that's good. At least you had like the experience of going to university, realised that wasn't really for you. And then you went to apprenticeships and now you are really enjoying it. I'm assuming so, you found your niche.

 

Amy Marren

I found my niche that's a nice way to put it I like, I feel like I need that on a T shirt.

 

Jamilah Simpson

I can send you a T shirt with that printed on.

 

Amy Marren

Yeah, that be great. I’ll love that parade that round the streets, go to the next panel meetings with it on. I'd love it.

 

Jamilah Simpson

Be amazing. So, I'm really interested to know more about your solicitors apprenticeship and like anyone listening and myself I don't fully understand what a solicitors job is so could you explain what is involved in your solicitors apprenticeship?

 

Amy Marren

So to give you bit of background. This is just solicitors apprenticeship and the paralegal apprenticeships were introduced just to make the industry and the whole world of law a little bit more accessible to people. I think it's quite an old fashion industry that there's just it's viewed there's just one normal route, so you do your law degree. You do your legal practice course. 2 year training contract and then you'd fall into a job hopefully at the end of it. So my apprenticeship is basically all of those levels and all of those exams, and that whole process just condensed into one big program with the intention of sitting the solicitors qualifying exam at the end, which again is another thing that's been introduced just to make the industry that little more accessible to everyone. I think it's really cool that they're doing that now. It's nice to know that you're part of this new dynamic workforce that is going to bring a bit of a change. So, like I said, combining that practical aspect with the academic aspect. My day-to-day role, I'm in house, so it might very little bit depending than if you're in private practice or in house, so I will do simple document reviews, document comparisons. I do a lot of international expansion work. I do data protection mostly day-to-day, so it really, really varies across. And I mean it will vary from like I said, drafting or reviewing documents to potentially giving advice to the business and anywhere in between. So it's a really, really wide scope that I work alongside, but I think that's the beauty of being an apprentice. Apprentice is that I'm not just isolated to that one aspect and I am learning everything I'm learning in my studying, I'm also learning within the workplace and the two are coming together quite nicely.

 

 Jamilah Simpson

Wow, it sounds it does sound like you're involved in a lot of things and like you said, that's great for you because you can kind of dip your toes in different areas and see which ones you like best.

 

Amy Marren

That's what I did, but I think being a young person will have that fear that you don't want to make the decisions too quickly and decide your life before you're ready. So it's quite nice. Like you said, just dip in and out and see. Actually, that does interest me, and actually that one doesn't interest me so much.

 

Jamilah Simpson

Yeah, so interesting. I love hearing about apprenticeships in industries that I didn't think would offer an apprenticeship and I didn't know that a solicitor apprenticeship, for example was a thing before speaking to you today. So thank you.

 

Amy Marren

I mean, I think that's so cool being part of the panel as well is that I didn't think that half of the apprenticeships exist on the panel ever existed. I only thought it was really sort the really traditional industries that you have, but it's so great to see that apprenticeships are coming so far, and I think the stigma is kind of coming away from an apprentice as well.

 

Jamilah Simpson

Yeah, definitely. I kind of had that stigma before I did my apprenticeship.  Are all apprenticeships are in construction or engineering, or like really hands-on fields, but the fact that you can be in an office and being apprentice I didn't know until I started mine in 2018, so it's absolutely amazing and we've come a long way definitely over the last few years.

 

Amy Marren

We're doing it together, team, we're doing it together.

 

Jamilah Simpson

Cool. Do you have any plans of what you'd like to do when you finish your apprenticeship?

 

Amy Marren

So I am only actually my third year at the moment, so I've still got quite a long way ahead of me. I suppose I'm quite lucky in that my apprenticeship as soon as I finish it, my view would be to be a qualified solicitor. I'm going to practice, um, I'm still too early on to decide whether or not that will be private practice in a firm, or whether I'd like to stay in house and stay at a company, but I'm really lucky that the company that I work for, BPP. They're really supportive of sort of my vision of what I want to do, so they took me on as a paralegal apprentice. And they sort of felt the waters a little bit and see if I and so if I wanted to be solicitors apprentice first of all. So I'm very well supported so I know the next direction I do go in you know I'll be looked after and I will get to that in goal, hopefully.

 

Jamilah Simpson

And can I just ask how long is your whole apprenticeship lasting for?

 

Amy Marren

So the standards solicitors apprenticeship is just six years because I did the yeah it's long. It's long so because I did my paralegal that was two years and but it also means I get an exemption year for the solicitor. So all in all both of them will be 7 years together so. It's definitely in it for the long haul, and I think I'm glad that I did that paralegal apprenticeship in hindsight, because I know that I definitely had an interest in what I'm in now, I think it would have been very, very difficult to day one and turn up and think this is life for the next six years. So it's quite nice to have that break between the two.

 

Jamilah Simpson

Yeah, I guess it was kind of like a trial run before you fully committed to it.

 

Amy Marren

Yeah, definitely, yeah. And I was really, really lucky that like I said, I've been really well supportive and I'm enjoying both. I've enjoyed my first apprenticeship. I'm enjoying my second so. It’s exciting.

 

Jamilah Simpson

It is exciting I’m excited for you. Cool, so earlier on you mentioned that you were a Paralympian. Can you tell me a bit more like have you won any medals? What did you do?

 

Amy Marren

Yes, so I actually went to two Paralympic Games, so I competed in London 2012 and Rio 2016. The whole idea of being a Paralympian isn't just, you know, you perform once every four years. It's actually a four-year cycle. So in between those Paralympics we'd have British Championships, we have European Championships, World Championships, so it's a constant rolling of competitions. Um, I know without sounding too big headed, I'd like to say I was successful. So um, I was two times European champion. I was four times World Champion and I won a bronze medal in Rio. So to me that to me there big achievements. You know it's a very very personal thing. Um, lots and highs and lows in between that. But I know that. I'm retiring in February last year was definitely the right decision for me. I loved my time competing, wouldn't have taken it back for the world, really. I mean, I got to travel all over the place. I've got friends in every corner of the planet that I don't think I ever would have had if I hadn't had that opportunity to compete. So yeah. Very, very, very grateful, but also kind of relieved that that chapters done now. And I'm on this new chapter of being a young professional. So yeah, bit of a switch I keep saying to myself, I just must not like an easy life. Like why am I not just happy and content? Just sitting doing nothing. But yeah, I really enjoyed my sporting career and it's quite nice. Look backward and tell people about my achievements. I guess I think you don't often get the opportunity when you're a sports person and you know I've kind of explained about that four-year cycle. You don't often get the opportunity to sit back and appreciate what you have achieved, so it's nice to be able to talk to someone new and so actually I did this.

 

Jamilah Simpson

I mean everyone loves a challenge, right? And I think there's no way you are being big headed at all because there's a pretty big achievements and you should be really proud of yourself again.

 

Amy Marren

Yeah, I appreciate it. I feel like everyone's got their own achievements that they hold dear. So yeah, those are definitely mine. Some days it's just getting out of bed in the morning. This whole lockdown life. You know what it's like some days just getting out of bed in the morning's achievement in itself.

 

Jamilah Simpson

It’s not easy, is it? Say you are one of our newest recruits on the apprentice panel and I'm interested what made you apply to join the panel.

 

Amy Marren

So there's a few different reasons I actually first came aware of the apprentice panel through LinkedIn, so I think LinkedIn is kind of like the corporate Facebook, right? So you're just scrolling through and I was going through on the train and it just caught my eye and I thought you know what? I've enjoyed my apprenticeships so much and I'm on my second apprenticeship now and I just really, really love to give my input on my experiences and just see apprenticeships go even further like it's, I think because I've got so much from my apprenticeships. It made sense for me to want to give back to more. I also have one hand, so the fact that I could give a sort the disability aspect to the panel, I think really interested me because as well as the stigma around apprenticeships, I think there's also a stigma around disabled people in the workplace. So if I could represent both sides of that and talk about something that I'm really, really passionate about it or just kind of made sense, and I've seen a few of the other apprentices that are on the panel too. I've read their bios and stuff and it's nice to know that in the background one we've all got that mission that all we want to do is just make apprenticeships better. Yeah, and they were my reasons.

 

Jamilah Simpson

I just hearing you talk about that now I can like really hear the passion that you have.

 

Amy Marren

Yeah, I think it’s important like education isn't just a one size fits all approach which you know. I kind of thought it was. I thought to be successful you had to go to university and you had to get a degree never even entertain the thought of possibly getting a degree in other ways. So the fact that I've found now found that way. I kind of want to tell people about it all the time and I go to a fair and I go to fairs and all this kind of stuff and I'm like no like considering an apprenticeship. Don't just think you've got to do this, you will learn so much just by looking into it.

 

Jamilah Simpson

Yeah, I used to do the same when I was doing my apprenticeship. I went to lots of well whilst we could in person I went to lots of schools and assemblies and careers fairs and not even from my satisfaction of like sharing my experience. But just telling young people about apprenticeships because they don't have that support mostly in saying I agree that being that voice is just.

 

Amy Marren

Do you think sorry? Do you think you've seen a shift in the approach to apprenticeships over the last few years?

 

Jamilah Simpson

Yeah, definitely. I went back to my college a few times and when I was a student there, there was no support whatsoever for apprenticeship. It was all uni, uni, uni, but since going back the first time they now do a whole fair on apprenticeships and they invite lots of people back. It’s amazing to see.

 

Amy Marren

It's so so nice. And I'm glad that you've had a similar experience to me. I just I honestly just want to shout about apprenticeships from the rooftops, but I think they can bring so much to the right person.

 

Jamilah Simpson

Yeah, definitely. And on what the topic of the apprentice panel? What do you want to achieve by being on it?

 

Amy Marren

So in terms of achievement, I think initially I'd like to feel nice and settled within the panel. I would definitely like to get to know the panel members better. I think the opportunity that we've been given to ask the Minister questions is actually quite special, so hopefully from that I'm looking to, well, have my question answered, which would be quite nice and also just explore a little bit more about the panel on the way it works I suppose my biggest achievement that I'd like to get to would just get apprenticeships to a place where there's not a stigma around them. Um, apprenticeships are well known. People know how to look into getting an apprenticeship, and questions can just be answered. I guess I wouldn't say it's a personal goal I'd say it's more of a collaborative team effort from the panel.

 

Jamilah Simpson

Yeah, I joined the apprentice panel around March last year and I haven't actually been able to meet anyone in person yet. It's all been through. Because I've lock down, but because we work quite closely together, especially now with the best practices handbook I've been able to get to know some of them quite nicely. And we've built up a connection already and I'm hoping that we can all meet sometime soon. That'll be really nice.

 

Amy Marren

I think so, and I think I don't know if you have the same experience, but I'm the only apprentice in my team, so sometimes I think as an apprentice because you're studying independently, and you know you go to work and you're part of a team there. You can feel quite isolated, so it's nice to be in touch with people that are either on the same program as you or are an apprentice themselves and it's definitely not an easy path to take. So I think the more people that are like you can surround yourself with the better off you'll be for it.

 

Jamilah Simpson

Yeah, I agree. I mean, I was in a cohort in my company with 14 other apprentices, so I was lucky to have that internal network, but it's been amazing meeting other apprentices who do different levels, different industries, different qualifications because I wouldn't have known about them if I didn't join the panel.

 

Amy Marren

Yeah, definitely that's really. You got me all excited now. Now I can't wait to meet people.

 

Jamilah Simpson

I'm sure you'll have the chance to over the next few months, definitely. And my final question to you, Amy is have you got any advice for people thinking about doing an apprenticeship?

 

Amy Marren

My best piece of advice for anyone that's considering an apprenticeship would be make sure you do your research on all of the available apprenticeships out there. So, like I said, for me, I wasn't 100% certain the industry I kind of had an idea, but it wasn't set in stone. I used the government website a lot and me and my mum had countless evenings where we sat down and tried to sift through. So I would say maybe find an interest first of all, and that's probably the best starting point. From that interest, maybe identify things you're good at. The things you're not so good at, and also the effort you're willing to put in. I cannot stress that it's not an easy route, that's not apprenticeships are, you know, they are very, very tough in terms of so you have to be independent with everything that you do. So those were well. I said one piece of advice, but that's probably a lot contained in one. So definitely be sure of what you'd like to do and your interest and kind of go from there. I don't think you can always rule out an apprenticeship over university is probably the biggest learning curve that I've had.

 

Jamilah Simpson

I love that I would have probably said the exact same thing in terms of advice because you thrive in doing what you love. Find your passion and then build it on that.

 

Amy Marren

And even if you don't have a passion like just try and dig deep, I'm sure there's something that would spark your interest. I knew that I was interested in law at GCSE level. Um, so I kind of went very very back to basics. In terms of that career choice, but it might be something that you know you stumble on in your free time. It might be part of a newspaper that you are more intrigued to read in that kind of stuff, so sometimes it's not always going to hit you in the face, but that passion will be there.

 

Jamilah Simpson

Definitely, well thank you, Amy. That's all we have time for in today's episode I want to say a huge thank you to Amy again taking her time. You're welcome for taking the time to tell us about your apprenticeship experience and being so open and honest and inspiring today. Thank you.

 

Amy Marren

I appreciate it. Thanks so much.

 

Jamilah Simpson

Thank you for listening and look out for the next episode. Bye!

The Institute talks…to Gillian Keegan, Minister for Apprenticeships and Skills

The Institute talks…to Gillian Keegan, Minister for Apprenticeships and Skills

February 8, 2021

For National Apprenticeship Week, our apprentice panel asked 10 questions to Gillian Keegan, Minister for Apprenticeships and Skills.

Transcript

Jamilah Simpson:

Hi, I'm Jamilah Simpson the Multiverse community programs and networks associate I joined multiverse early last year after completing my digital marketing qualification as an apprentice at google I'm also an apprentice panel member and your host for this podcast.  We have a very special podcast today I'm joined by Gillian, Minister for Apprenticeships and Skills who will be answering questions submitted by the apprentice panel. As the first former apprentice to hold the role of Minister for Apprenticeships and Skills can you tell me more about your apprenticeship journey?

Gillian Keegan:

Yeah sure, and thanks for inviting me to do this it's fantastic. I love talking about apprenticeships and I think you find that anybody who's done apprenticeship becomes the world's biggest fan of the route. Pretty much everyone who's done one knows that they are fantastic. So I left school at 16. I grew up in a place called Knowsley, which I went to the normal comprehensive school it's kind of known for its social deprivation. You know there weren't that very many options if I'm honest when I left school in the 80s, very high youth unemployment then as well. But I was really lucky to get the opportunity to do an apprenticeship and it was what would now be called a rotational degree-level apprenticeship. it never had anything like that fancy name it was just called an apprenticeship in a car factory. But I started at 16 and they sponsored me right the way up to degree levels. So it was a life changer and in terms of social mobility, it completely changed the outcome of my life.

Jamilah Simpson:

Wow, that's amazing. I completely agree when I finished my apprenticeship I became the biggest advocate for apprenticeships because like you said you're just a bit biased once you've completed one. So my first question is do you think apprenticeships can help maintain the UK's reputation as a great place to do business and invest in given the UK's recent departure from the European Union.

Gillian Keegan:

Yes, but I think what we can't underestimate is there's actually a global skills shortages of many different skills now across the world. Now clearly those you know obvious ones like digital and tech and anything, I mean I know you did a digital marketing apprenticeship, so you'll be highly valued all over the world because obviously everybody wants those skills and they're relatively new skills that people are developing and you know many businesses are looking for more and more people who you know can help them in that new world. So I think the key thing is having the skills. You know I've worked in many many businesses, I've worked for about 30 years before becoming an MP, and then in this job now, and every single business I've worked in wherever it's been in the world you're always if you're looking to make investment decisions, you always look at what skills are available. People make any business successful and that their absolute essence of any business so looking to be able to build the teams and to be able to get access to the skills is a critical success criteria for any investment decision. However, I'll tell you I think the UK does stand in a very strong position, both because we have some natural assets our language is a natural asset everybody speaks English here native English, in most cases. But also we have some other assets as well what we're trying to do is make sure our apprenticeship system and our technical education system becomes a national asset that will ensure we close those skills gaps faster than most other people.

Jamilah Simpson:

 Cool. I think you made a really good point on the transferable skills that you learn from apprenticeships and the experience of being in a workplace. Which actually leads on to my next question of what future do you see for apprenticeships and their development as a valuable career choice for everyone

Gillian Keegan:

I think people just need to be aware of them, I think once you're aware of an apprenticeship and the range of apprenticeships and the opportunities and the different levels and the fact as you say that they're an almost an unparalleled way to learn. When you're in the workplace, but you're also taking time out to have formal study and you're reinforcing and transferring that knowledge backwards and forwards and it's just a brilliant way of learning particularly in a fast-moving, high-tech environment. Where you know there's almost no business that isn't digital now right you know, things have particularly as a result of the pandemic right we've all everything's online now. So you know in that kind of environment an apprenticeship is a really brilliant way into a career, and of course, what it does ensure is not only do you, somebody, fund your studies, but you never put your time and effort into studying something that's not valuable in the workplace because the employer's chosen those things that are valuable in their workplace. I think the other thing is these there's a lot of stereotypes around apprenticeships which is why it's brilliant that you're doing this Jamilah because people need to really understand that the apprenticeship system we have today there's so many things almost every career that you want to do you can do via an apprenticeship. The one I signed off the other day was a space engineer, I mean you know most people you know wouldn't imagine that if you want to go into space engineering then an apprenticeship is the way to do it. So there are 600 apprenticeship routes now that cover almost every career in the country.

Jamilah Simpson:

I think it's amazing how the number of routes that are offered for apprenticeship just keeps growing it's absolutely amazing to hear. I'm quite intrigued to know if you think apprenticeships are as respected as traditional further education?

Gillian Keegan:

Well, I highly respect them, but that's because I did one, and you know and also because I did a degree apprenticeship, I did a degree as well, and actually, I've gone back and done my Master's since, full time at London Business School, which I did a couple of years ago actually. So I think you know I truly respect them. But I think it's fair to say that maybe a lot of people have gone through the purely academic route have an old-fashioned stereotype about what apprenticeships are. I mean you know the amount of people who've said to me now in this job you know apprenticeships are really good for people who are good with their hands, I mean what nonsense is that you know, is that what you were thinking when you were you're doing digital marketing with Google,  oh I’m good with my hands, no you know it's so out of date. It's just a different route to get to the same place and I think in a fast-moving technological environment it's a better route because you don't have to cope with the disconnect between what you could study academically and what's actually going on in the workplace. So yeah, I think we've still got a lot more work to do and there are some people who just don't get what they are.

Jamilah Simpson:

 Yeah, I was actually one of those people who didn't really understand what apprenticeships were about before I did mine. I thought it was just for like construction or engineering, but once you do your research you find that it's so much more than that. So as I mentioned earlier I'm part of the Institute's apprentice panel and I'm interested to know where you see the apprentice panel's role fitting into your work?

Gillian Keegan:

I think it's to feedback and tell me what's going on, on the ground, what you think is going to help from the perspective of a relatively young group of people, who are relatively new into their careers, how the apprenticeship system helped, what could be better about it. Will you use an apprenticeship to get to the next stage of your career or your next stage of study, these are the things that you know should be sort of self-perpetuating in a way. So I think it's really to get that feedback from your experience, and also make sure that we continue to challenge ourselves to deliver the best experience we can for apprentices across the country.

Jamilah Simpson:

Well I think with our annual panel survey that we send out, and last year we got over a thousand responses which we're now using to implement it into our best practices handbook, I think our work with yours will align really nicely on that

Gilliam Keegan:

 Very much so, I'm always in listening mode

Jamilah Simpson:

So, I as you know I used to be an apprentice but I'm now at Multiverse, and we look at creating a proper sense of community for our apprentices from socials to societies to mental health support, networking and leadership opportunities. Do you think apprentices need more of a community and did you have anything like that when you were an apprentice?

Gillian Keegan:

No, I didn’t, but I must say when I went to when I first met the team at Multiverse or Whitehat as it was called when I met them. I was super impressed by what they built in terms of that platform, they had all kinds of things, mental health support, peer-to-peer support and they were doing socials online and you know and I'm sure if it wasn't for the global pandemic they would have been doing socials and networking events in real life as well. I think that's fantastic. You know one of the things that you obviously, as an apprentice you have your workplace, and you have whatever your workplace offers in terms of support, mental health support, societies, clubs those kinds of things. Lots of workplaces do offer those. But I think there's something special about sharing that apprenticeship experience, because it's a broader community, and I know that there's there is some work that's going on to look. There's a couple of people who've got this initiative to look at a sort of apprenticeship group association, I think they're calling it, and I think that would be a fantastic. I think this is Jason Holt the chief executive of the Holts group and he's the chair of the ambassador network and Sir Peter Estlin, and they're looking to establish that association of apprentices and I think hopefully they'll include older ones like me as well, I'll get an opportunity to join. But I think you can always learn from shared experiences, and you're sort of aggregating your voice as well, which might make the message get through a bit more clearly.

 Jamilah Simpson:

When I was an apprentice one of the best parts about my apprenticeship was meeting other apprentices within the Whitehat community at the time and listening to their shared experiences as you said. When I first started at Multiverse I was actually running some of those online socials which didn't really work out but we tried to keep that connection between apprentices. So my next question is about social mobility, and how can we increase that in apprenticeships, what barriers do you think people from less advantaged backgrounds have when applying for apprenticeships.

Gillian Keegan:

 I think there's two things, I think first of all again it's knowledge. One of the key challenges we had, and I'm sure you found this as well at school, is when you find out about them they're like the world's best-kept secret in our country it to some degree. So I think the first thing is to make sure that the schools are really aware of all the opportunities, and of course, you know in some of those areas make sure that that you know the jobs are there that are obviously offering these apprenticeships. So I think that's the first thing but also completely focusing on trying to make them accessible to everybody. Any barriers that people may have, either through what they learn at school, how they find out about it, or even them thinking it's not for them, or it's something that doesn't fit their skills etc. I think we just need to really reduce all of those barriers. Now we've got a number of sort of more proactive things as well to really focus on different segments of apprentices you know sort of black and ethnic minority groups to make sure they're all aware of what apprenticeships there are, and then anybody with a learning difficulty or a disability making sure that we show how accessible and supportive the apprenticeship system is, to help them overcome any barriers they have. They are a brilliant way of getting on in life and I think It's knowledge really, so we need to really continue to make sure that people are aware of the high-quality apprenticeships in their area. They can easily search it, I mean the apprenticeships website has got a lot of information on, but you thinks to go to the apprenticeships website. You need those experiences in school as well. So we're doing a lot of work to make sure that it's the careers offer at school is a much better experience for people. Open up their eyes to what's available.

Jamilah Simpson:

 Something that I've seen since finishing my apprenticeship is a lot more schools inviting apprentices to speak about their experience, which I think is great because they're sharing like you said those experiences that they've lived.

Gillian Keegan:

 And you're the best adverts for it ever, and not only you're passionate about it, but anyone who can see somebody who's like them with similar age who's had a great experience well that's just a brilliant, brilliant advert. So the ambassadors' network is doing a fantastic job of that.

Jamilah Simpson:

So something that I didn't know really existed was degree apprentices, and it's been great hearing about your experience and how that led on to you completing your Masters. Can you confirm that degree apprenticeships will be continued to be supported and remain fully funded?

Gillian Keegan:

 Well as the first and only degree apprentice in the House of Commons, I can definitely say that I am very attached to the route. I think it's a brilliant advert for the program as well. Some people sort of sit there thinking about whether they want to do the academic route or the apprenticeship route, and the degree apprenticeship is basically both. So, I'm absolutely a huge fan and no, definitely on my watch I will be completely supporting degree apprenticeships. Because as I say I'm the only one in the House of Commons, so we want plenty of more, plenty more in many different fields. It's a great way of skipping the student debt making sure you study something really, really valuable, getting really brilliant work experience. I remember the dissertation I did as part of my degree was really practical, and it was implemented in the in the business that I worked in. Because I was seeing real business problems, I didn't have to think about academic ones. I was seeing real ones, so you know just that transfer of knowledge is so powerful.

Jamilah Simpson:

Amazing, Is there any plan to increase the minimum wage for apprentices in the near future?

Jamilah Simpson:

Yeah, I think there is. I think the low wage commission have recommended it goes from, I think it's £4.15 up to £4.30. However, I think the most important thing is that the vast majority of apprentices are you know a large number are actually paid a lot more. And I think the apprenticeship pay survey which was 2018-19, found that the median basic hourly pay for apprentices in 2018-19, was £6.95 for level two and three and £11.07 for apprentices at level four. And I will say all those years ago when I did my apprenticeship I was paid, they didn't have a concept of minimum wage then, but I was paid a good a decent wage for the job I was doing. And once you obviously finish your apprenticeship and get qualified, and of course you will be more highly paid. And the more skills you have in general in your career the more you'll get paid.

Jamilah Simpson:

Whilst we're on the topic of finance. When I started my apprenticeship something that I really struggled to understand was my finances. And we don't really get taught these skills in schools unless you specifically study accounting for example. Could money management and life skills be embedded within apprenticeships?

Gillian Keegan:

Well, I think the difficulty with doing it in apprenticeships is about half, five million apprentices have trained since 2010 until now, and about half of them are adults. So what we've tried to do with apprenticeships is get specific sort of skills that are relevant to that job. However, these skills are vitally important. So we've also worked with the Learning and Work Institute to develop a guide for apprentices on where to go for support during their apprenticeship. Including mental health, financial and employment advice. And we're working on that at the moment, so it'll be published in the spring. So I think that that's probably something that will be useful I think to apprentices or certainly to younger apprentices. It is a big life skill, and it's one that I don't know why it's not taught in schools. I mean we used to have something years ago that was taught in schools, that at least gave you the basics of budgeting, the basics of debt management or financial management. How you kind of manage your personal finances what good debt is, and what bad debt is, and that kind of thing, but it seems to have dropped off. It is vitally important, because the thing about apprentices is obviously they do start earning money, and in many cases, they start earning money at a younger age, so I think, hopefully, that guide will be useful, and if it isn't we will work until it is.

Jamilah Simpson:

I wish I had something like that at the beginning of my apprenticeship. Could we group larger employers with smaller businesses to give apprentices a wider variety of on-the-job training? For example, larger employers doing placements with apprentices in their supply chain.

Gillian Keegan:

So there's two things we're trying to address here. Two different things using this kind of model. The first is to enable the levy to work a lot better. So that smaller employers can access the system much more easily. So we're doing some work on the system, and we're doing some work to match employers that have spare levy with those that are looking for opportunities. And actually, a lot of that's been done with some pilots with the mayoral combined authorities and different models like this, so that's one thing. The second thing is where the structure of an industry doesn't work so well, because there's either it's a lot of like project-based work or freelance-based work, and actually getting an apprenticeship with one company that gives you everything you need is not the best approach. So we are also looking, well in the construction industry they look to try and trying to solve this because a lot of them are on project by project and employed project by project. But also we're looking at a couple of other industries as well, so I think that is an opportunity. What we're very keen to do is to keep the quality in the system. So to make sure that you don't get a number of sort of low-quality experiences, which doesn't lead to the right outcome. So we will have to be careful of that. I think it's something that we need to be more flexible on as we look to address some of the structures, of some of the industries. The other one is the creative arts as well, where people tend to be freelancers and be sort of employed by projects. So how we get an apprenticeship system to work for those industries is a challenge that we're thinking through right now.

Jamilah Simpson:

Cool, thank you, Gillian. I've got one final question for you before we wrap up, and it's about the apprentice panel. What would you like to see come from the apprentice panel in 2021?

Gillian Keegan:

Well, when I read the results of last year's survey I was really encouraged to see that you know even with the global pandemic 87% on the apprentice survey said they would recommend their apprenticeship to other people. So I think first of all it's to get that advocacy, for you know this is National Apprenticeship Week, you know we're going to be talking a lot about apprenticeships. But to keep that year-round, that that momentum of people talking about apprenticeships, sharing their experience, being real advocates for it. And I think on top of that, I'd like that 87% to be much closer to 100% as well. As we work together with the panel to help us understand the apprentice experience, and how we can make the design and delivery of the apprenticeships even better. I did my apprenticeship 35 years ago and you still will not find somebody who's more passionate and knows how much of a difference that made, all those years before. It really, they really are a fantastic way of going on and building brilliant careers in almost anything. And I think they're also a more secure way into the workplace which could be something that many young people are looking for. Particularly as we try and recover from the pandemic. Which will have impact on employment in the country, and so apprenticeships are a big, big part of our recovery. And we just need everybody to know about them, so hopefully, you've all got a lot of people that you can talk to Because I think your experiences are going to be absolutely valuable, invaluable in spreading the word.

Jamilah Simpson:

Definitely. So that's all we have time for in today's episode on behalf of the apprentice panel I want to say a huge thank you to our guest Gillian Keegan for taking the time to answer our questions. Thank you for listening and look out for our next episode. Bye!

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