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My experience of two very different apprenticeships

Thursday 12-03-2015 - 12:36

Today, there are many different types of apprenticeships you can do. Ranging from construction, to design and marketing, to agriculture; all at a range of different levels. I am now currently in the right apprenticeship for me with Kent County Council doing Business and Admin Level 3.

This is a guest blog by Amelia Kury from the National Society of Apprentices Leadership Team.

I left school with four A Levels at CDDD and a U in General Studies. I felt stuck as with my grades I couldn’t go straight to university and was still unsure about what I would spend £9,000 a year doing. I went to college for the grand total of one day to do Beauty Level 2 and discovered that it was not for me. I then went on to get another job at Costa Coffee in addition to my part time job at my local theatre.

My sister then mentioned about a friend of hers working for PGL. I went on their website and looked at all the centres across the UK, France and Spain and thought it would be a great experience. I applied for a ‘groupie’ job in the UK and within a few weeks received a phone call from head office asking me if I could go to northern France and they told me they could offer me a different job that would be a third catering, a third retail, and a third working with the young people. I had to decide there and then whether I wanted to take the opportunity, and I did. I had nine days to give in my notice at my other two jobs, arrange travel and say goodbye to my friends and family. It was my first time living away from home and to say I was nervous would be an understatement! I went through the contract and signed - if this had been now, I would have thought the conditions and what they might have for a bit longer. The wage was at apprentice minimum wage with living and catering costs taken out; this left me earning £2.04 an hour. The job was also a 42 hour contract over 6 days a week. I went for it as it was a great opportunity for me to live in France and have experience away from home.

During the induction I found out that the job I would be doing was more like 80 per cent catering, 15 per cent retail and five per cent doing any other jobs that needed doing around the centre. The interaction I had with the young people was simply serving them dinner and in the shop. I felt so cheated. In my probation meeting I brought this up; and then, I was told I would be trained on things like the site car and be given more responsibility as time went on. I didn’t want to let myself down so stayed as I really wanted to make the job work.

With regards to the learning side of this apprenticeship, there was next to none. I had two or three learning sessions in my six months at the centre. I did not do functional skills, even though I would need to do ICT as I did not get a C grade at GCSE. The living and working standards were poor and the hours felt very long - one week I did 68 hours of work which would be balanced out when we had less guests over a few weeks in the summer. An average day might involve getting up at 5.30am, working until 11.00am and then having to wait for your next shift at 5.30pm. This meant, I didn't have lots of time to go and see France, and usually I was so tired I would just sleep when I wasn’t working. The job itself was very physically intense too. Lastly, our location was isolated, and to get to the train station safely would take 45 minutes to walk.

Towards the end of this journey, I started to apply for jobs and apprenticeships at home. I had gone to give in my four weeks’ notice and was persuaded to stay with the same promises I heard in my probation meeting. After a few days when no action was taken, I could not take it anymore and wanted to go home desperately. I told them I would be leaving in four days - luckily my mum was supportive and understood everything that had happened through lots of phone calls from me in tears. I knew it was wrong and that I would not get a reference or travel home paid for but I could not face another four weeks there. I got home and in the first few days had two interviews for apprenticeships at Kent County Council.

My current apprenticeship is fantastic - my wage has nearly doubled since I started as my hard work has been recognised. I work in an extremely supportive environment and have completed my ICT Functional Skills and am due to finish my NVQ in May 2015. I have also been given lots of information, advice and guidance about what to do after my apprenticeship in addition to financial help with any extra travel I have to do. Obviously, we do have very busy periods and if I am unhappy about anything I know I can raise it with my manager. Lastly, my manager and the rest of the team are happy for me to take time to be involved in the National Society of Apprentices and are always interested in the work we do.

So, in conclusion, if you are thinking of becoming an apprentice: make sure you really read your job description and contract, think about how hours, wage, and the demands of the job will really affect you. Think about travel. Look up the course that you will be doing and research the training provider. Also remember to speak up from day 1 if you feel that the standards are not as they should be and push to be treated fairly. If your basic asks are not listened to, ask why. Speak to a friend or relative for advice about how to make sure you are putting it across clearly.

I have only learnt this through experiencing an apprenticeship that was not as I expected. Although I have gained life skills; I wish that I had researched and thought more deeply about what I really wanted before I took the leap.

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