Lessons From An Apprenticeship Test Dummy

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At the age of 19 I was in a job but not completely happy, wondering what I should do with my life, just like any normal 19-year-old. For me there were three options, either I went to university, got an apprenticeship, or I played golf all day. I was lucky enough to have a happy home so the option to just play golf was there, but realistically how long can you overstay your welcome at your parents when you are not earning any money from the PGA tour. Fortunately I came across an advertisement from Quod to become their first ever apprentice. I now work within the Development Economics Team, studying Real Estate part-time at the university of Westminster and working towards becoming a Charted Surveyor.

In this blog post I will talk through my experience and give some tips that may help if you are looking to apply for, or create, a similar role.

Lesson 1 – Research well

Before applying to an apprenticeship, or employing an apprentice, it is important to recognise that alongside the benefits you are making a big commitment. Make sure you have done your homework and know what you are getting into. The degree apprenticeship was the best route for me as I wanted to gain work experience within the planning and development industry whilst earning a wage at the same time as studying. Degree apprenticeships typically last between three and six years.

Lesson 2 – Show your enthusiasm not your (lack of) expertise

Employers shouldn’t expect you to be an expert, they should want you to be keen to learn and widen your knowledge within your chosen industry. When applying for a role try to focus on your transferable skills and why you are interested in the field. Make sure you tailor your application to the job you’re applying for, tie in your experiences and hobbies with what you will be doing in the apprenticeship.

If recruiting, you can get the best out of applicants by being clear and succinct in what you require. Remember applicants may have to apply for many roles, so don’t make them jump through hoops answering questions that you won’t give much regard to. For my position the application required a CV, cover letter and a few answers to the questions that Quod wanted to ask me – this felt about right.

Lesson 3 – Buy a notebook, and make good use of it

Starting at Quod and at Westminster simultaneously was exactly how I expected it to be, challenging due to the pressure of having work and university studies together. However, once I got used to balancing my time and got to know people the pressure of both eased. You need to be organised and prepared when starting a degree apprenticeship as this is a big step and probably very different to what you are used to. Taking notes when talking through tasks helped ensure that I didn’t miss things and knew what I needed to do and by when.

Lesson 4 – Don’t stress over networking, but build good relationships

I would be lying if I said I wasn’t nervous when I started, partly down to the pressure of knowing that I would eventually have to network with other people within the same industry. But it happens without you realising, it happens when you queue for a coffee, or you are in the lift going to the same floor.

Getting to know other apprentices from university or work can be extremely useful, they understand what you will be going through, they will be there to help if you need it. Also, don’t be afraid to ask for help from your colleges and senior members of staff, they are there to help you and guide you in the right direction. Most will be keen to share what they know.

Whilst at Quod I have managed to have face to face interaction with clients, attend planning committees and more. Being young can sometimes be seen as a negative, but Quod has given me many opportunities to interact with senior clients and be fully immersed into the team. I even got to spend my 21st on a team outing although we can safely say I had seen better days the day after.

I have now just completed my third academic year. Often the things I study at university are directly related to project I or my colleagues are working on, which makes it interesting to study. If you have any questions about apprenticeships in general don’t hesitate to contact me at taylor.andrews@quod.com – My mentor, Robert, will also be publishing a post on apprenticeships from a company perspective in the future. So do keep an eye out for that.

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