Rosie Brown is a chartered management degree apprentice at BT with a passion for sustainability, who has wanted to do an apprenticeship since she was in Year 9. Here, Rosie speaks to us about her journey, researching your options, and making friends.

Why did you decide to do an apprenticeship?

I knew I wanted to do an apprenticeship from a young age, since the middle of secondary school when I was picking my GCSE subjects. At school I was always interested in the practical and relatable subjects that would be relatable to everyday life. For example, my favorite subjects were religious studies and business studies. I am also a homely person, so moving away to university wasn’t personally for me. 

I have always been a practical person and enjoy learning ‘by doing’, therefore the academic aspects of university within an apprenticeship were a great opportunity for me to practically apply my learning within the workplace. I believe many people don’t appreciate the true importance of learning until you can actually apply that learning within the workplace or everyday life. 

Did you do research online and did you get any guidance at school?

I had good support from my school when looking for apprenticeships. As apprenticeships became more popular, there was more interest and support from my school to support those who were interested in this route opposed to university. For example, we had past students visit us at school and sixth form to provide us with insights of the many benefits they have gained from choosing the apprenticeship route. It was insightful to hear from people who were in my position not too long ago, and allowed me to gain a better understanding. Since starting my apprenticeship, I have visited my former school and sixth form a number of times to share my experience and support.

Unfortunately, I know a lot of schools don’t have any support in apprenticeships, this is an area that massively needs to improve. I have supported at a number of other schools and events to promote apprenticeships to students as well as parents and teachers. I hope others can gain insight from my experience as an apprentice at BT, and enable them to understand the true potential of apprenticeships.

Rosie Brown, Chartered Management Degree Apprentice at BT

I completed quite a lot of work experience while I was at school and sixth form. In Year 10, I completed two weeks of work experience and really enjoyed the working environment. Then, during Years 11 to 12, I spent half of my summer holidays completing work experience in different companies and industries to gain insight, understand what I wanted to do in my career, and build connections. 

How did you come across the BT opportunity?

I researched and discovered the apprenticeships I was interested in online. I completed broad and business-wide apprenticeships that would allow me to gain a breadth of experience in multiple different business areas.

I was offered apprenticeship roles at different organisations, where I applied for Level 4 and Level 6 apprenticeships. However, the Level 6 degree apprenticeship at BT was an offer I couldn’t turn down – it was the perfect opportunity for me.

The opportunity to rotate was important

It was important the apprenticeship allowed me to rotate around a large organisation, gain experience, and understand how I wanted to steer my career… on top of obtaining a degree! It was particularly important because I wasn’t yet sure what I wanted to do in my career.

The opportunity to rotate within four different business areas of BT has been vital in enabling me to better understand how the organisation functions and what career I am interested in pursuing.

Within the Chartered Management Degree Apprenticeship, I complete four different rotations where I have had the opportunity to work in different teams for the timeframe of a year. There are lots of different rotations in which apprentices can complete, and I’ve noticed that each year there are even more teams interesting in having apprentices join their teams. 

I completed my first rotation in the BT Strategy and Innovation Team, which involved setting the organisational strategy for the next five to ten years. It also incorporated working on interesting innovations such as AI, IoT, and Space. My second rotation was in the Customer Marketing Team, where I led on projects to directly communicate with our BT and EE customers, for example providing them with product and service updates. My third rotation was in the Product Team, where I worked on BT’s Voice and Collaboration products. Each of these rotations allowed me to gain experience and develop my skills and knowledge, such as stakeholder collaboration, presentation skills, and taking accountability. 

My final year

I have recently moved into my fourth, and final year on the apprenticeship scheme.

My fourth role consists of a split role where I am working as a Mobile Product Manager and, alongside that, dedicating time as a Sustainability Manager. Both of these aspects of my role are something I have a great passion for and would be interested to progress after completing my apprenticeship next year.

What was the application process like?

The application process for apprenticeships is quite lengthy. I personally think that applying for an apprenticeship is harder and requires more dedicated time than applying for university. It requires the completion of many different stages. The typical stages of applying for an apprenticeship, although they might differ depending on the organisation, require creating a CV, creating personalised cover letters for each organisation you apply for, and completing an application. After completing the application, you will be asked to complete English, maths and personality-based tests, online interviews, assessment centres, and face-to-face interviews.

It is a lengthy process, however, it is 100% worth it! While going through it, you are also understanding the organisation you're applying for, meeting employees who work there, and ultimately deciding if it is the right company and apprenticeship role for you.

It's important to keep motivated throughout the application process to ensure you are presenting your best self at each stage. At times you may not hear any updates for months, but don’t let this worry you. There are normally high volumes of recruitment so it can take time!

How did the work experience help you?

The work experience massively helped me, in multiple ways. Firstly, it supported me to understand what area of business I am interested in. Through completing work experience in different industries and sectors, it supported me in understanding what was and wasn’t the right fit for me. Additionally, work experience helps your apprenticeship application stand out, to show you have completed your research and understand what you want to do – make sure to include any work experience on your CV or application.

Having a part-time job is equally as important, as it allows you to understand your career of interest, alongside gaining and developing different skills. This can support in highlighting your interest and demonstrate the different skills developed, such as communication, customer engagement, and time management.

How do you manage working and studying?

When I started my apprenticeship, I was nervous about the balance of studying at university and working alongside. However, from the very start, the other apprentices and I gained support from our learning provider (QA) and BT to ensure a smooth transition. This included an apprenticeship induction week and numerous university support sessions to support us with time management, assignments, and balancing university with work. It is also key to note, the other apprentices were in the exact same position – we supported each other as a community and still continue to do so.

Rosie Brown, Chartered Management Degree Apprentice at BT

The university and work balance wasn’t as nerve wracking or difficult as I expected it to be. The key is to manage your time well and stay organised. At BT, apprentices have 20% of their time each week dedicated to university. Personally, I have a dedicated study day, where I specifically focus on university one day of the week. This allows me to properly encompass the university mindset and focus on my lectures and assignments, with no distractions.

What support do you get on the apprenticeship?

There is a lot of support provided to apprentices. In terms of university support, each apprentice is allocated a ‘skills coach’, who closely supports us throughout our apprenticeship scheme. Part of this support includes completing a performance review every two-three months, to assist in reviewing our progress both at university and within the workplace. These sessions are really useful as they allow for apprentices to ask their skills coach lots of questions, address any concerns. and better understand your goals in completing the apprenticeship.

At BT, there are many different avenues for support. These include the Future Careers Team, who are dedicated to supporting apprentices throughout their scheme, there is also regular training and development, and the opportunity to receive mentorship. I have found mentorship extremely beneficial in creating a link between university and the workplace, whereby my mentor and I discuss the different topics I learn at university, enabling me to better understand their impact in the workplace and how to apply my learning within my role.

Have you made friends?

When I started my apprenticeship, it was difficult to develop connections as I joined during covid. The other apprentices and I were all working from home, and we didn’t have the opportunity to meet each other face-to-face for a long time. I was working from home for nine months before going into the office for the first time. It was difficult working from home at the start of my apprenticeship, however what really helped me settle into the business and meet new people was a weekly virtual apprentice catch-up. Now, after covid, we still continue these weekly calls to support each other.

We have regular social events

As soon as we started to regularly go into the office, we arranged regular face-to-face social events, including bowling, top-golf, dinners, bingo, and more! Inside work we meet up for coffee catch-ups, lunch, and it’s inevitable we'll see another apprentice when we're in the office as many of us sit on the same floors.

I’ve also had the opportunity to meet apprentices based in different locations, for example I visited our Manchester office last week and met some of the apprentices there.

There are a number of different networks you can join at BT. For example, networks focusing on diversity and inclusion, and gender equality. Not long after I started, I developed an internal Sustainability Forum, which now has 650 members who are driving and delivering sustainable action, internally and externally. It is fantastic to have the potential to drive significant change as an apprentice and have the support from BT and colleagues to do so.

I also believe it is really important to visit and stay in touch with your friends at university. I regularly spend my weekends and annual leave visiting my friends. Although I haven’t had the traditional university experience, I have still had the same experience through visiting my friends on freshers' week and at other events.

Pros of taking an apprenticeship
  • You gain a large amount of practical experience. As an apprentice, you have the opportunity to gain experience similarly to any other employee, for example leading on projects, interacting with customers, and delivering business outcomes.
  • You are gaining a degree, alongside other qualifications, of which your employer is paying for – so you have no debt from university! You also earn a salary straightaway, and all the standard company benefits like staff discounts on BT products, paid annual leave, and corporate discounts for gym memberships, cinema tickets and a lot more!
  • Apprenticeships are practical, whereby everything you learn at university has the potential to be applied in the workplace.
  • Apprentices have the ability to develop a variety of skills, as an apprentice you are working with many different people across the world. BT is a global organisation, every day we interact with people with different backgrounds and experiences.
  • At BT, apprentices are guaranteed a job after they complete their apprenticeship, which is a big bonus.
Cons of taking an apprenticeship
  • As an apprentice you are likely to be studying for a longer time period compared to students completing the traditional university route. For example, a degree usually takes three years to complete. However the degree apprenticeship I am completing is four years, whereby we are studying at university for three years and nine months.
  • The apprenticeship university route consists of much smaller breaks between modules and assignments.
  • Although apprentices have a dedicated day to focus on university studies, there are often occasions where I study in the evenings after work and on the weekends.I think it’s important to consider this when applying for an apprenticeship. People often assume apprenticeships are an easier route compared to university. However, it's actually the opposite – you have to be more dedicated but it is 100% worth it as the rewards are much greater, in my opinion. As previously mentioned, management and organisation is key.

What do you think makes a good apprentice?

It's vital to make the most of the apprenticeship – it's a really unique opportunity with many benefits. I think it's important to get involved in a range of projects to ensure you gain a diverse range of experiences and skills. Also saying ‘yes’ to lots of opportunities that are presented your way, allows you to meet new people, pursue your passions, and better understand what steps you would like to take after completing the apprenticeship.

Networking and making valuable connections is also important – with other apprentices, other students at university or people in the workplace. You are likely to learn a lot from these people, form good working relationships and develop friendships. Networking is also a good skill to develop when you are looking for an apprenticeship, for example on work experience.

Put yourself out there

Another skill that makes a great apprentice is being able to put yourself out there. This can be difficult at the beginning, as it's out of most people's comfort zones (it was definitely out of mine when I joined BT, but I have developed this skill throughout my apprenticeship).

It can be a big jump entering the world of work from school, sixth form or college, but hopefully your employer will create a safe environment where you are comfortable to step out of your comfort zone and try new things.

What advice would you give to somebody who's thinking about an apprenticeship but isn’t sure?

I would suggest you should definitely go for it! Do your research, learn more, and apply for those that interest you the most.

If you are considering an apprenticeship or university, I would suggest creating a pros and cons list, to ask yourself why you want to do an apprenticeship vs. university. Personally, I find getting things on paper and being able to visualise your reasoning really helps. It could also be beneficial to ask advice from any contacts, or reach out to apprentices on LinkedIn to gain more insights. Or ask your from family and friends, but remember it's your career and ultimately your decision to pick the route which is best for you.

Apprenticeships are massively growing and developing, even since I started mine in 2020. I have seen more and more research and articles discussing the many apprenticeship routes and careers including law, medicine, and business – there are so many different apprenticeships you can explore!