As part of National Apprenticeship Week 2019, three apprentices at UCAS discuss why they chose the apprenticeship route, their experiences so far, and plans for the future.
Posted Mon 4 March 2019 - 10:00

It’s National Apprenticeship Week, and as well as helping thousands of students and teachers across the country with our dedicated online apprenticeships hub, and face-to-face at our exhibitions, UCAS also offers apprenticeship opportunities for young people keen to start their careers with our team in Cheltenham.

UCAS currently has three apprentices, and as part of National Apprenticeship Week, they were asked about their experience so far, and why they chose the apprenticeship route.

Molly Winter, Apprentice HR Assistant

What’s a typical day for you?

There’s no such thing as a typical day! Being part of our HR Team means I get to work with lots of different people across UCAS, and a lot of my focus is on supporting teams with their recruitment. It’s my job to implement our strategy, in particular to help promote UCAS to potential employees. As well as helping the rest of the team with some senior appointments, I’ve also taken on the recruitment process of our Customer Experience Partners. It was pretty daunting at first, but I’ve had amazing support from others within HR and the Executive Team.

Why did you choose an apprenticeship?

I feel I learn a lot better by doing, rather than by sitting and reading. I initially wanted to get more transferable skills, that are relevant to a range of careers, to keep my options open for the future, but being in a business administration role has made me realise how a company runs effectively, how they function, and the policies in place to make it work. Getting that level of insight, in just a few months, really opened my eyes to the options that I have. I also really like the ongoing assessment part of my apprenticeship, rather than a single exam – that’s not really my style!

Why did you choose UCAS?

Because UCAS sits between further and higher education, I knew that staff here would understand about apprenticeships, and be able to support me on my career path. They are a great local employer too, so I was already familiar with what goes on here, and the goals of the company. Everyone knows why they are here, to support students get to where they want to go, and the customer-focus, that everyone at UCAS has, is a big attraction.

What are your plans for the future?

I’ve already decided that I want to stay in HR, and hopefully go for a CIPD qualification. Some of my close colleagues are taking Level 5 and 7 CIPD qualifications at the moment, so I’m getting a bit of exposure as to what they need to do.

Have your friends taken similar pathways?

One of my friends has started an apprenticeship, and some others have gone to uni. The ones at uni have already started to ask me questions and advice about applying for jobs, internships, and how to sell themselves with transferable skills. With the amount of CVs I see, it’s quite easy to spot which ones are good enough to take a further look at, so I’ve also been helping friends and family with that.

What have been the biggest surprises so far?

How much I love the 9 – 5 work pattern! Having done a lot of shift work before coming to UCAS, I’d never experienced a ‘normal’ working day before. I also really like working with senior management and the Executive Team, as they treat me with respect and as a valued employee, which creates a really positive working atmosphere in the office.

Joshua Copley, Apprentice Procurement Administrator

Why did you choose UCAS for your apprenticeship?

The role on offer sounded really exciting. It was a chance to do something a bit different from college, that was related to my skills. I knew it would be a supportive environment for me too, because UCAS is so closely tied with education, and there would be lots of learning opportunities.

What’s a typical day for you?

I support the Procurement and Finance Teams, to make sure the rest of UCAS follow the right procedures, to get the best deals possible when working with all of our suppliers. Colleagues give me their requirements, and then I find the different options available to them. I get a lot of exposure to the rest of the business, finding out about what they do and how the Procurement Team can help them.

What support do you receive as part of your apprenticeship?

I have regular meetings with my manager, to give me guidance and keep me on track. I also have a monthly catch-up with my assessor at college. I upload my portfolio work onto my online profile to be assessed, one of which was a recent three-page essay on UCAS. Email and phone support from college is always available, if I need it, too.

What have you learnt so far?

I’ve learnt so much! Being in a work environment has matured me, as you pick up how to talk to people professionally, how to manage your time effectively, and you quickly understand what a deadline is – often there are no extensions!

What makes an apprenticeship different to other routes?

While my friends might have had a more academic experience, I think the year and a half that I’ll have built up in the workplace has given me a really good base knowledge of how companies operate. I’m beginning to understand how finance really works and I’ve been given a lot more responsibility than I thought I would – it’s definitely not just running to get tea and coffee for other people! A piece of my work on a commercial plan was approved at Executive level, and will soon be implemented across the business – I’m really proud of that.

Amelia Squire, Apprentice Operations Administrator

What’s a typical day for you?

My apprenticeship involves working with a lot of the different teams within the Operations business unit. I started off in the Results and Application Services Team, and I’m now working with the Data Collection Team, to help make sure all the courses that students can apply for are accurately recorded in our systems. Moving across different teams gives me a chance to see how so many different things are done, and how it all comes together – the interactions and links between the teams.

Why did you choose an apprenticeship?

I’d originally applied for computer and cyber forensics courses at a few universities, but then I went to a number of open days and realised that, at this point, it wasn’t going to be the right decision for me. It was so important for me to go and visit because, by speaking directly to some students, I was able to understand about the course and the change in lifestyle it would’ve meant for me. I then started to look at other options and I came across the apprenticeship here at UCAS.

Why did you choose UCAS?

It’s such a unique company and I knew I would get a lot of benefit from coming here. I’ve done so many things already, including processing UCAS applications around the 15 January deadline. That’s one of the most important dates in the UCAS calendar, and to be involved in it, and to help so many people, was really rewarding.

What support did your college give you when you were thinking about an apprenticeship?

They were great! I went to an apprenticeship evening at college, to find out more about what it all involved. I was told about the differences between university and college, and what I could expect during my 18 months on the programme. When I had my interview at UCAS I was a little bit nervous, but it ended up going really well.

Do you have any plans for the future yet?

I hope there’s a position here for me at the end of the 18 months as I’ve enjoyed it so much. It’s also been a real insight into the workplace, as it’s the first corporate environment that I’ve worked in. I’ve learnt to adopt a professional work ethic, improved my time-keeping and prioritisation skills, and really begun to mature.

Clare Marchant, UCAS’ Chief Executive, said: ‘It’s great to welcome Amelia, Josh, and Molly to UCAS at the beginning of their careers, and share their experiences during National Apprenticeship Week.

Our research shows that almost a quarter of young people are considering an apprenticeship at the same time as making a full-time undergraduate application, and, last year, we had well over half a million hits to our apprenticeships hub. Hundreds of apprenticeship opportunities, at local and national companies across the UK, are shown in our career finder service, for students to research and consider.

Apprenticeships are an important investment area for UCAS, and we’ll soon be making it even easier for students to get clear, personalised information on the different routes available to them.’

UCAS Press Office
01242 545 469

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