I started looking at apprenticeships while studying for my A-levels. Having already been in a job for two years by the time I was 18, I’d begun to think an apprenticeship was a more appropriate path for me.

That said, I did end up applying to and starting at university. I had felt pressure from peers and teachers to take this route, and had been unexpectedly offered a place at my first choice university to study law – despite not attaining the required grades necessary for the course! All of this made me feel like going to uni was a ‘no brainer’, but once I got there I quickly realised it was the wrong choice. I had followed the advice of others to take a more traditional path, and while they obviously had my best intentions at heart, they didn’t really understand my goals, my desires or my preferences for personal development.

I studied six months of law before deferring the year and applying for apprenticeships. I still had a firm place on my uni course, which gave me the freedom to be selective with the programmes I applied for while continuing to study. While I wanted to be in the work place, it was still important to me to be furthering my skillset through education and training. 

I came across Barnett Waddingham’s pension administration apprenticeship programme while looking through the Growth Company training provider. After applying I was called by one of their reps who gave me some further background on the firm, as well as a breakdown of the general ethos and traits they were looking for in new starters. This left me with a great first impression. I was definitely pleased to hear back and find out I had been invited for an interview. 

The enrolment process was quick and not as daunting as expected. I had already completed a short phone interview with the Growth Company before being invited into the Liverpool office for their enrolment day. This consisted of hearing a presentation about the company and what they do, the perks of working for Barnett Waddingham and further details on the apprenticeship itself, followed by a face-to-face interview and a short exam.

"Being in a workplace while acquiring qualifications is a great way to spend your time while you decide on your future career – and there’s nothing stopping anyone from continuing with education later in life."

What has surprised me about the role is how quickly I and other apprentices have adapted, both to office life and to the skills expected of us. In the first week, we were made to feel welcome, but we also admittedly felt quite clueless! My previous jobs had required me to pick up skills immediately, but no one expects you to be a pension’s expert overnight, so acquiring the knowledge was more of a slow burn. I found the team around me to be really patient and always willing to answer questions, even if I had already asked the question ten times. I never felt worried about asking for help. That said, it’s always a great feeling when I realise just how quickly I’ve picked certain things up.

Another surprise was how communal the office is. A fear I once had about taking up an apprenticeship was the thought that being in a full-time job meant an end to my social life. In fact, there are tons of activities to take part in both inside and outside the office, such as lunches and after-work drinks. I got to join the social committee, which is responsible for helping to organise and plan fun activities.

I think applying for an apprenticeship is a good idea for those who don’t see university as their preferred choice. It can also be a valuable experience for those who want to go to uni but are have trouble deciding in what they want to do in the long-term. Being in a workplace while acquiring qualifications is a great way to spend your time while you decide on your future career – and there’s nothing stopping anyone from continuing with education later in life.

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