on my time as an apprentice
I come to the end of my apprenticeship, I thought it would be insightful to
reflect on my experience in the apprenticeship programme, considering the highs
and lows, the benefits, and downsides, in the hope of helping others in making
a similar decision as I did four years ago.
How it all started
my time in sixth form, there was a constant pressure to have your mind set on
your next steps, whether this be further education via the traditional
university route, taking on an apprenticeship or perhaps going straight into
full-time work. Every individual had a different idea of where their path would
take them, however, my ‘idea’ was foggy, to say the least. My sixth form in
particular encouraged students to take the university route, so I went through the
process of travelling around the country to university open days. Each time, as
much as I enjoyed visiting the various campuses and cities, something was
telling me that the university experience wasn’t the one for me.
led me to investigating degree apprenticeships, when, at the time, there wasn’t
as much information available, so I attended a few career fairs to gain a
greater understanding. Now, there’s a lot of information available - certainly
something I wish I had at the time - and something I would encourage others to
gradually started to see myself ‘fitting in’ to the apprenticeship approach:
learning whilst earning, applying the skills and knowledge gained through my
qualification directly to my work practice, and little/no debt at the end of
the process. I really started to build a picture of what I
hoped my next steps would look like and the fast-track approach into real-life
went through the application process for four employers in total, and although
I was unsuccessful with two of these, they all provided me with additional
experience and areas for development which contributed to my eventual success
in securing a role with DHL Supply Chain as a Chartered Management Degree Level
Apprentice (CMDA). Although the application process is now slightly different
to when I applied for the programme, I would encourage applicants for any
programme to prepare for the likes of assessment days, interviews, competency
testing etc. All of these now factor into the application process, and
preparation will be key to securing your dream role. This doesn't mean they are 'scary' or 'difficult'; they are enjoyable, insightful, and positive experiences which
support your personal development just as much as they support employers in
choosing suitable candidates.
The highs and lows
have had two placements in total during the programme, one in a specific
Business Unit/segment related to the Automotive sector, and one for the UK
region supporting all operations, whereby I have now secured a full-time role
in Business Performance Management (BPM) Support Manager with two direct
reports as I off-board the scheme. DHL Supply Chain is the global leader in
supply chain management and third-party logistics, with around 40,000 employees
in the UK alone, so I originally felt like a very small fish in an extremely
big pond. I was in the first cohort of degree-level apprentices who started
straight out of sixth form/college, so there were very few peers that I could
talk to and understand their experiences. Now, the apprenticeship community in
DHL, like other businesses, has grown significantly, and there are fantastic
networks of likeminded apprentices and alumni who can share their knowledge and
experience with others, as well as a greater understanding from the wider
business of how well apprentices can contribute to the future of an
were times when I found the workload significant and assignments challenging.
You must not forget the hard work and dedication required from an apprentice, where
long days turn into long evenings, and brain freeze becomes something not just
associated with eating too much ice cream. Apprentices learn so much, in such a small window of
opportunity, which is why we develop at the rate we do! In
addition to the hard work and dedication that was essential, imposter syndrome,
as the cherry on top, was also difficult to manage. Remember, that you are an
apprentice learning key skills and competencies within your field, and although
you may not have the same level of experience as your peers, you are continuing
to become increasingly capable of delivering your role effectively.
there were some lows, there were certainly more highs, and as I reflect, I
start to see how and why all that hard work was worth it in the end. Now, I am
more confident and capable, whereby my studies have supported me in
investigating all areas of the business. I have been pushed out of my comfort
zone, networking and collaborating with colleagues at all levels of the
organisation, and I am now comfortable in my abilities as a colleague and a
manager. I have had the opportunity to coach new apprentices, take part in work
events such as experience days, visit sites around the country, meet various
colleagues and see where DHL Supply Chain shine. The opportunities have been
My top tips for apprentices
1. Self-doubt will happen, and there
will be times that you will feel like you are not achieving what you would like
or doing as well as others.
you’re comparing yourself to someone else, you have lost focus on your own
path. Remain clear on your goals and create a journey to achieve them.
Your colleagues are there to support you but don’t be
overwhelmed by their abilities.
This may be one of
your first professional roles and you will not (or be expected to) know
everything. These colleagues will have experience in their role, and you are an
investment to the company to also be at the same level as them in the coming
Be inquisitive and ask questions.
No question is a ‘silly’
question, as learning the basics is often where people get stuck but being
willing to ask the basics helps you build a foundation for the advanced parts
of a skill. Curiosity supports relationship building and general career
development. I was often the one to ask the question that everyone else was
thinking, and as long as it contributes to a constructive conversation and
decision-making process, I would encourage others to do so too.
Observe, absorb, and reflect.
Watch senior members of staff; how
they interact with stakeholders, make decisions, and manage tasks, people, and
processes. Consider and reflect on their approach - how might you integrate
certain elements of their behaviour into your own practice going forward?
Effective time management leads to maximised success.
Undergoing an apprenticeship
requires an effective time balance of work, study, and personal life. There
will be some sacrifices required at times to complete an assignment for a
specific deadline or to deliver a project at work, for example. But I would
encourage apprentices to plan their time and allocate this in advance to
successfully achieve goals for the day/week/month.
Be enthusiastic about your experience.
A positive approach to every task,
no matter the scale, will create a fantastic foundation for motivation. You are
required to understand all elements of your role, even those that may not be as
exciting or interesting. Becoming a specialist in your role will support career
progression and solidify adaptability skills.
Remember you’re a valuable contribution to the team, not ‘just
The company has invested in you to
be part of its future, so don’t always settle for tasks that don’t challenge
your abilities – especially always making the tea! Put yourself forward for
tasks that could broaden your skills, you can always ask your colleagues or
manager for support if you feel overwhelmed or cannot move the task forward
with your current abilities.
Be prepared to organise your own future.
Throughout your education, it’s
likely that you will have received significant support and direction from your
education provider to manage your time and learning, setting specific tasks to
ensure you have secured the relevant knowledge. This is slightly different in an
apprenticeship. Although you will have dedicated Learning and
Development/Emerging Talent Teams as well as your qualification provider who
will help you with the process, you are
the master of your own destiny. You will be primarily responsible
for your development, seizing opportunities to advance your learning/career.
Don’t sit back and expect others to do this for you.
in all, I am so happy that I made the decision I did and would encourage anyone
to research whether there are apprenticeships available in the field they look
to progress into. The
opportunities you receive, and the fast-track development you will undergo is
astounding – you will not look back. I am proud of the
professional Chartered Manager that my apprenticeship has made me, and hope
that my advice will support you in your potential apprenticeship journey.
Feeling inspired and ready to take the next steps in your career? Check out our available opportunities here!
Sending a big 'thank you' to Lysette for sharing her experiences and writing this blog!
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