Happy National Apprenticeship Week everyone! A nationally recognised week for us apprentices to thrive in the limelight. I know I certainly will here at Rawnet. For those of you that don’t know, National Apprenticeship Week (NAW 2017) is designed to celebrate the positive impact apprenticeships and traineeships have on businesses, individuals and the economy. This year, we celebrate our 10th NAW, which comes with its own special seal of approval, as it signifies a decade of shaping the futures for both businesses and apprentices.
This celebration brings together employers and apprentices to raise awareness of how not only do ladders of opportunity become open for people of all backgrounds but of how businesses can grow their own talent by developing motivated, skilled and qualified workforces themselves. And let’s not forget the success and value each apprenticeship brings to businesses. To put it into perspective, from the moment an apprentice starts his/her work placement, through work experience, on the job learning, and academic support through the relevant qualification, as an employer, you are shaping your apprentice into the type of employee you envisioned for your business.
What’s more rewarding is to see them progress showcasing your hard work and commitment, and your apprentice’s too! It’s almost like Obi Wan in Star Wars seeing his apprentice graduate as a Jedi Master. Although, I don’t think we’re going to see employers teaching their apprentices to wield lightsabers anytime soon!
So What's An Apprenticeship Life Like?
The beautiful thing about apprenticeships is the journey. Just like life, everyone's is different and has its own triumphs and challenges. Let’s explore how mines been going so far.
I’ve been at Rawnet for 6 months since I started in September last year. I started my Apprenticeship with 3AAA - Aspire Advance Acheive Ltd who have many academies across the country. Mine being in Reading. When I first started, the first thing that was a big shock was being exposed to a work environment. From day one, I’ve been welcomed into the Rawnet family with open arms and treated as an equal. One of the finer things about apprenticeships is you are treated as a colleague and not a ‘student’ or a lesser value employee.
I was amazed to see how professional the environment and those around me were. Much different to a classroom environment, as my classroom is my work environment, where I can learn and practice at the same time. Which is the best way for me to learn as I find I can only truly learn something if I practice it. Another reason to celebrate NAW- to highlight how valuable learning is for those who find it easier to learn something through practice, rather than stare at a whiteboard or textbook and try cram knowledge through reading. We all have different learning curves, and mine personally is quite progressive as it suits my learning needs which are to be shown how to do something and then practice it. And here at Rawnet, there is plenty of opportunities to do that. Portfolios of evidence and workplace assignments are much less stressful than worrying about exams. Don’t get me wrong an apprenticeship is not easy, as I still have to work hard to pass my academy and work assignments, but it's certainly refreshing to be assessed and progress through a coursework based system as that’s what I find comfortable and effective. Why? Because I'm proving my knowledge with evidence I gain through the work I do day to day. And that’s one of the beauties of apprenticeships, as the vocational side encourages us to apply practical experience to our education. For an employer, it’s more than beneficial seeing your apprentice benefit your business whilst progressing their vocational qualification.
What Was It Like For Me At First Compared To Now?
At first, I was nervous about fitting into a new professional environment, and concerned about making mistakes. Mainly because for most apprentices we’re going into environments completely new to us that we would never find ourselves in. Fast forward 6 months, I can work more independently, am valued as a member of the Rawnet family, part of the strategy team, increased my levels of confidence, have pride in my work and have almost completed all of my units for my level 3 diploma (bearing in mind it usually takes 12 months to complete one). There’s already talk of progression to level 4! It’s safe to say the benefits of an apprenticeship with Rawnet are incredible. I would never have thought I'd come this far in only 6 months! And already the future looks brighter with more doors I could open than ever imagined. You don’t realize what you’ve achieved and can achieve in the future until you take a step back and look. And to think it all started with my apprenticeship here at Rawnet not long ago.
What’s It Like For Me At Rawnet?
Firstly, the team here are fantastic. There’s a common stereotype that most work environments can be dull, where people just drone away at their desks. Which is why I love everyone here because it breaks that stereotype open. The whole company is genuine and full of hard working people with a wealth of different personalities and an incredible sense of humour. The levels of banter and jokes here are off the charts which highlights the importance of working with people. It’s the people you work with that make it worthwhile.
They say teamwork makes the dream work and that is exactly what it says on the tin. I could never get through all my work and study without the help of everyone in the team, especially my mentor Raytchle. I always get help and guidance on work and assignment projects, time to go to my academy days, study time, flexible working and more. The workspace is incredibly relaxed with everyone working with each other with music to keep it lively. We can choose what music to play on the SONOS speakers, but I use my Spotify most of the time. I don’t think everyone could handle a whole day of hearing my favourite artist Stormzy’s new album!
But the jokes and personalities around the office keep the energy flowing. And like all environments, everyone is from a different background and has a different story, and I feel since I came in, I've learned something new about everyone and in return, people have learned new things about me. They definitely know about my love for games and Stormzy!
Work attire is incredibly relaxed which is another highlight for me as I can wear casual clothes that I can feel comfortable in, so I can be myself. If someone can feel like themselves and relaxed they can work efficiently. The best thing about it is that it feels just as casual and relaxed as home with the professional edge. Of course, when it comes to seeing clients and professional events it's smart attire. And that's the beauty of Rawnet. We have the perfect balance between professionalism and comfort.
The support provided here is second to none when it comes to getting down to business. For example, I suffer from a lower back problem, and although it’s something I personally am trying to manage, the team went above and beyond to help me. Upon hearing about it, my team lead Sam had already ordered a standing desk and Rebecca our HR manager already placed in paperwork and now I can move from standing at the desk to somewhere comfortable when needed to stay mobile. I thought it would have been something that would only be considered and maybe approved, but I was taken care of before I had even noticed. The duty of care is of the highest quality, so I'm always confident that I'm learning in a safe, secure environment.
What About The Social Side?
Work stuff aside, we work hard and play hard. My favourite place at Rawnet is our Labs workshop. Fully kitted out with a PlayStation 4, gaming PC and a HTC Vive VR headset. As a gamer, it’s like being a kid in a candy shop. Like how many people can say they were playing games at work during lunch? Some of my peers from our academy will be thinking what are they going to get for lunch when at their workplaces, whereas my lunchtime thinking is along the lines of what do I want to do today? Defend a castle from invaders on the VR headset or lead a fireteam into battle on the gaming PC?
And the walls inside are whiteboards so I can scribble/draw my thoughts all over the walls. A bit like a child draws on walls with crayons, but a 6 ft, 19-year-old one getting creative. Like my first idea for a social media strategy had me in labs for 2 hours getting my thoughts on the walls.They were all literally covered in storyboards and mind maps. I put my headphones in, placed my Spotify playlist on, grabbed the whiteboard markers and got to work. Oh and we have these red comfy chairs with wheels on them, so I can let my inner child out and slide across the room from time to time!.
But let’s not forget our Rawnet Socials. My first one was our Christmas party last December and boy what a night that was! Had the time of my life. If everyone didn’t know how much of a good time I had that night, my Snapchat story sure did! Can’t wait for the summer party.
What Would I Say To People Considering An Apprenticeship?
I would say if anyone is considering an apprenticeship as something new or an alternative to college/University or even for other reasons then they should pursue it hands down, no questions asked. The benefits speak for themselves for both employer and apprentice. And the best thing is that the level you do is the vocational equivalent of the academic one plus the experience and practical skills gained. For example, I'm doing a level 3 diploma in digital marketing which is equivalent to 2 A levels, and a Level 4 which can be done if you have level 3 qualifications, is equivalent to the first year of a degree. And the opportunity doesn’t end there, there’s even opportunity to do higher apprenticeships at level 5 going towards a HND.
Not only would this be perfect for someone who progresses better by practicing what they learn, but the doors that can be opened by completing one are unmatched. And don’t forget, whilst gaining recognised qualifications, we as apprentices are getting work experience every single day. You won’t find that sitting in a classroom unless you seek the experience yourself. With an apprenticeship, you’re gaining real experience, furthering your education and shaping your future along the way.
There are so many professions you can pursue in your relevant field to specialize in or alternatively you can even change professions as long as you have the right level vocational equivalent. For example, if you do a level 3 in project management and want to change to do a level 4 in marketing, most apprenticeship frameworks let you do a level 4 in a new field as long as you have done a level 3 in a relevant subject or a level 3 in general. The doors are there to be opened, it’s up to us to open them. And places like Rawnet are guardians in the light helping us along the way, whilst growing themselves. And in the long run, we’re all shaping the future one step at a time.