Discovery Graduates are all about Discovering Talent, not just for the great employers we work with, but for our own business as well.

Since 2015, we have recruited two apprentices here in Birmingham and have had our third start just this week!

In light of National Apprenticeship Week, we were keen to understand what our apprentices’ experiences of choosing this route had been. So, we interviewed them!

(Sarah on her first Work Birthday in 2016)

This first interview is with our excellent Marketing Administrator, Sarah, who, having stormed through her Level 2 programme is now progressing onto her Level 3 Marketing-specific apprenticeship. Here’s what Sarah had to say about her post-school experiences… (We didn’t bribe her, I promise!)

Why did you choose to do an apprenticeship?

I chose the apprenticeship route because I was never really sure what I wanted to do for a career. When I was at high school, I wanted to become a Game Designer. After failing my college course, this dream quickly vanished when I realised I could not progress onto this career path without the relevant grades. Once my original plan failed, I had no idea what I wanted to do next! My school and my family had drilled it into my head that the only way to success was through University and I found myself constantly comparing myself to others (who had achieved top grades in their GCSEs and A-Levels). I didn’t think outside the box. After a few years of slow realisation that the educational path wasn’t for me and that I didn’t actually want to spend thousands of pounds on University fees, I decided that the Apprenticeship route would be best for me by:

  • Not restricting me to ‘pass or fail’ exams, but instead using real-life evidence that I can complete certain tasks and have knowledge of certain areas
  • Allowing me to develop myself within a supported environment
  • Gaining an understanding of the working environment e.g. how to act/behave professionally, what body language to use and how to communicate with clients etc.
  • Learning valuable and transferrable skills to use in the future
  • Earning while I’m learning
  • Allowing me to save up for a house/car alongside my studies
  • Providing a clear career development plan
  • Faster development into a professional career than a university route

 What are the most important things you have learnt since beginning your apprenticeship?

The most important thing I have gained from my apprenticeship is the invaluable experience. This is something that I never would have gained in a college/university environment and I think it is essential to have an understanding of the working world and of business as a whole. I have gained skills that I never thought I would have and I have completed tasks that, two years ago, I never would have believed I could achieve. It has strengthened my confidence so much and I definitely feel that my apprenticeship has benefitted me in a number of ways; financially, educationally, professionally and also on a personal level.

Another thing that I have learnt during my apprenticeship is that I can achieve anything I want to; there is nothing that you can’t achieve or learn. Even if it means spending hours practicing, researching or enduring a couple of embarrassing moments…My self-confidence was honestly so low before I started working at Discovery and all of the knowledge, experience and skills gained has only made me a better person (and a million times more confident). I used to think that because I wasn’t a top student, academically, and because I didn’t get the best grades, that I was a failure and that I wouldn’t do well in the workplace. But, just because I didn’t do well in an educational environment and didn’t progress down the University route did not mean that I wouldn’t achieve great things. The point is that you should never restrict yourself with a negative way of thinking and remember; you can do anything and be anything you want to – it just takes time and hard work!

What would your advice be to school leavers who are currently deciding which direction to take next?

My advice to anybody who is unsure about what to do next is to remember that formal education is not for everybody – not everybody has the exact same skillset or methods of learning. And that’s absolutely fine! Not everybody is wired to think in an academic way. Whichever learning style suits you best, you should stick with. I think apprenticeships are a fantastic way of developing yourself and achieving career success.

If you didn’t do fantastically in your GCSE’s/A Levels/College, then don’t think that it’s the end of what could have been a successful career – it’s not true. There are so many different types of intelligence, ways of learning and different skills to learn. You just need to find your own strengths and weaknesses and this can only be found through testing the waters and seeing what you’re most comfortable with. Everybody has potential to do great things – it’s about finding the route to get there that is the hard part!

What has your experience of doing an apprenticeship at an SME been like?

I think SMEs are perfect for apprenticeships. I feel very much part of the team and pretty much have done since I started; everybody was so welcoming right from the beginning. I think that SME’s offer a wider range of work, allowing you to easily switch between departments if you feel that a certain career path isn’t for you. The amount of opportunities that I have had has blown me away. I’ve gained so much experience across several departments; whether it be attending an event with the Sales Team or even picking up the phone for the first time and making a call – all of it has helped me to develop in so many ways.

I think doing an apprenticeship with an SME is definitely a good idea, because, I don’t think that apprentices in larger companies would get as much recognition and praise as I have. I really do feel valued at Discovery and I know that my efforts are appreciated; I’m always receiving thank-you’s for the work I’ve done and I’ve never felt underappreciated during my time here. I’d love for other apprentices to feel appreciated and to grow as much as I have because I really do believe that it helps to develop you as a person, and not just in your career.