Charlie Field is working towards a Level 4 historic environment advice assistant apprenticeship with Historic England, the public body that looks after England’s historic environment. He is based in Cambridge.

It’s worth researching the apprenticeships thoroughly to find the one that’s best for you

I studied Business Studies, English Language and History at A-level. I knew I wanted to do an apprenticeship. It didn’t take too long to figure out I was more suited to it than university.

I’ve always loved history. It was always my favourite subject. I loved visiting castles and historic buildings. I thought I’d need to go to university and get a Masters to get into that sort of sector.

I spent a year out doing part-time jobs whilst looking. I’d scour every job and apprenticeship website. I wasn’t sure if there were heritage apprenticeships, so I was mostly looking at Marketing, Procurement, Business… Then I found this one and I knew it’s what I wanted to do.

If you want to get into heritage, other organisations are going to start running these apprenticeships too. Look at local authorities and development firms that have a heritage department.

Be prepared to explain why an apprenticeship in heritage is the ideal step for you

The application was similar to most apprenticeships – you fill in an online application form and answer basic questions about your personality. There was a lot about your opinion and your interest in, for example, the local historic environment, buildings and archaeology around you.

It was an interview like any job interview; there were group activities to see how you handle different situations. There was a practical exercise, dealing with a contentious heritage issue.

We then had a two-day induction event in London where all the apprentices met each other. They explained how it would work; how the academic side is structured and how office day-to-day work is structured. Then we were sent off to our different regions.

Heritage apprenticeships can be as varied as any other

My first department was Listing. We’re responsible for considering whether different historic sites should be protected and designated. We get applications for parks, gardens, archaeological sites and historic buildings to be added to the National Heritage List for England. I research places and suggest whether they should be a listed building or de-listed.

Then I’ll move into Development Advice - that’s more involved with works to already listed buildings and protected sites. Then it will be Partnerships - for example working with the local authority to improve the understanding of the historic environment within high streets. It’s not just office based, there are lots of site visits and discussion-based work.

Every month or couple of months we have a week on the academic side at Strode College or another Historic England office. It’s nice to hear the brilliant heritage professionals in-house at Historic England. By the end I’ll have experience in so many different departments and aspects of heritage. I’ll have a good foundation in everything. That’s what’s so good about this apprenticeship - you don’t get pigeonholed.

Don’t be afraid to pick this route if it seems right for you

In sixth form, uni seems the more obvious route - it’s what you do when you leave. But I never had that outlook. My school was good at explaining the benefits of an apprenticeship.

My dad was keen on the fact that apprenticeships offer you so much work experience. You’re not a blank slate with a qualification, you’ve got actual practical knowledge that shows you know what you’re doing within that sector and can handle a job in that sector. That was definitely the biggest selling point for me.

The best thing is just being surrounded by heritage professionals all day.

This is the career I want to do. Being surrounded by people in that career path all the time and soaking in that knowledge - you don’t get that in more academic routes. 

There will also be higher qualifications for heritage apprenticeships - Level 6 and 7 - that I could move on to a little down the line.

A heritage employer’s perspective on apprenticeships

  • Apprenticeships are available to all ages, from early careers to career changers, and are a great way to train whilst earning an income
  • Extensive or specialist qualifications are not a requirement
  • During the situational activity and follow-up interview Charlie particularly stood out as he demonstrated confidence and strong communication skills.
  • He worked well as part of a team in the group activity and he clearly possessed a passion and dedication to undertake this learning role.