This year marks the 10th annual National Apprenticeship Week! NAW 2017 brings together employers and apprentices from across England to celebrate the success of apprenticeships over the last decade and seeks to encourage even more people to choose apprenticeships as a fast-track to a great career. Last year for #NAW2016 we interviewed Rob Elner, our Apprentice Conference Logistics Administrator so we thought we'd bring him back for an update of where the last year has taken him. 

Was your apprenticeship experience what you expected it to be?

It was much better. At first I was very apprehensive. The stereotypical thoughts of constant coffee runs, sitting at a printer for hours on end and generally being spoken down to was what I expected to walk into. However, I quickly realised that this wasn’t true. The team at the CIPD welcomed me with open arms and never once asked me to do a job because they didn’t want to do it.

Apprenticeships offer a different way of learning, a more practical approach. I personally found it much more appealing than the classic ‘classroom’ style that universities offer.

Fast forward two years and my apprenticeship has given me every opportunity to get me to where I am now.

What’s happened with your career after your apprenticeship finished?

During my apprenticeship I realised I wanted to go into marketing, so I tailored my assignments to include units that were marketing based. I finished my course early and was offered a permanent position in the conferences team where I was working, but there also happened to be an opening in the marketing department, so I applied for that too (and got the job).

I also think the connections that I had made during my time as an apprentice with colleagues around the business gave me strong foundations for the job. Having been in the company for 18 months, people knew what my strengths and weaknesses were because they had worked with me. Also having a reputation where people know that they can rely on you goes a long way in my eyes.

So now, just over 2 years later I’m now working in CIPD’s marketing department, facing new challenges all the time, and loving it.

Do you still think the ‘apprenticeship route’ was right for you?

Absolutely, but for one simple reason, it was the right learning style for me. Everyone has a different way of absorbing information. Mine was carried out on-the-job.

Networking is a big part of this experience as well. When you’re an apprentice, you’re pretty much forced to talk to colleagues, clients, senior management etc. Just being in an environment which supports your sociable skills is, in my opinion, invaluable in the long run.

What would your advice be to anyone considering an apprenticeship?

Do it, but only if it works for you. I didn’t know initially that an apprenticeship was right for me. I considered University as well, and weighed up pros and cons for both situations.

With an apprenticeship, not only are you educating yourself through the units and assignments that you do within the scheme, but you’re continuously learning skills that you may not necessarily get at university – and there’s no hefty uni bill, instead you’re the one getting paid.

As an apprentice, you’re thrown in the deep-end. You’re forced into the world of work with experienced colleagues, and you have to adapt to this. You have to quickly learn how to deal with stakeholders (internal or external), and the general work lifestyle which you may have had no exposure to previously.

The last point that I would like to make is that the word apprentice has always come with a lot of baggage. In the past, it’s been known for employers to take advantage of apprentices by giving them the stereotypical jobs I mentioned at the beginning of this blog. This has to change, and it’s definitely going in the right direction.

I’ve heard horror stories myself of this happening (admittedly a very small number compared to the majority of quality, great apprenticeships). If you’re in that boat and you feel you’re being taken advantage of or not being used to your real potential, prove them wrong. It’s down to you. Surprise them, in the best of ways. Break those stereotypes. Things won’t always be given to you. You need to go out and get them.

If you’re interested in an apprenticeship, this is a great place to start. 

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