Apprenticeships are a great route for many students to gain access to a rewarding career. But we don’t just tell students on our programme about apprenticeships, we also practise it!
Here we interview Libby Gardner, Future Frontiers’ Operations Coordinator, who last year completed the first apprenticeship placement run by the charity. Libby’s energy and tireless desire to keep learning and developing exemplifies this year’s National Apprenticeship
Week theme of #SkillsForLife.
Why did you decide to enrol in an apprenticeship?
I've always wanted to get into business and admin. So I started exploring on Multiverse and found a Business Administration apprenticeship. An apprenticeship appealed to me because I wanted to gain knowledge and skills based in a work environment: I always find that approach works a lot better for me.
There were many options to choose from and the placement at Future Frontiers stood out the most. I have always thought that working for a charity would be really rewarding, and when I researched the organisation I was instantly drawn to their work and the impact that they make.
"I enjoy being able to learn skills and apply them straight away, while they are fresh in your mind. "
What was your experience of the apprenticeship like?
My apprenticeship with Future Frontiers began in March 2021 and it was a really positive experience. I was well supported by my line manager and my colleagues. The best aspect was putting the knowledge and skills that I was learning into practice quickly.
And the bonus has been that I've been able to work with amazing people and for a charity that makes a huge impact on young people.
One of the challenges was working and studying at the same time; although we get dedicated time for it, striking that balance can be quite difficult.
What sort of work did you do in your apprenticeship?
The tasks and responsibilities over the last 20 months have grown a lot. When I first started, I was doing the basics - simple finance and HR tasks. Now it's more technical and includes projects, which I really enjoy. I have more responsibility and more ownership.
The main assignment in my apprenticeship was to implement or improve a process in the organisation. I took on the Future Frontiers staff induction process, which needed redeveloping. I was able to take ownership of the project and the experience definitely improved my project management skills. I had to manage my task flow, set myself deadlines and complete assignments on time.
"I was able to take ownership of the project and the experience definitely improved my project management skills."
I was very pleased with the project outcome, as was my line manager, who saw that new staff now have a smoother start at Future Frontiers as a result of the redeveloped induction process.
Since that project I’ve been involved in organising staff off-site meetings and updating policies for our new staff handbook, like the Health & Safety policy.
Now I'm supporting my line manager with audits and big tasks like that, which at the beginning I didn't think I'd be doing. But I've built up the skills now to give proper support.
"The work placement has also helped me gain a lot more confidence. "
I have developed my presentation and public speaking skills as well. After redeveloping the staff induction process, I had to pitch it via a formal presentation to an external assessor. I was nervous because I'm not the most confident person. But I did it, and the experience helped me grow professionally.
I’ve also gained experience in coordinating and chairing all-staff meetings at Future Frontiers - something I just couldn’t have done at the start of the apprenticeship. Now I feel like I've got that confidence.
What are you most proud of?
Completing the induction process update felt like a big achievement but I was most proud of completing the apprenticeship and getting the result I wanted. After everything I’d put in, successfully completing the course was a massive weight off my shoulders. It felt amazing.
What skills would you like to develop next?
I'd like to work on taking initiative. For me it’s about seeing if I can take a project further. If I'm given a project, instead of saying, ”right, that’s finished”, I want to delve deeper into it and see if there's anything more I can do to improve it.
And I get really excited about finance-related work: that's the part of my job that I enjoy most. So I would like to look into finance courses in the future. Right now, I'm enjoying not having to study, but there will come a time when I want to build skills in this area even more.
"I'm still willing to develop and learn more. And I still feel like I am learning more all the time. So I'm really excited to see what's next."
How do you feel about your future career now?
I'm really excited for it! I'm enjoying working at Future Frontiers and I enjoy my role a lot.
And I'm excited to keep learning and developing skills. I don’t have that mindset that I’ve finished my apprenticeship and that's it. I'm still willing to develop and learn more. So I'm really excited to see what's next.
What would you say to students who are considering an apprenticeship?
An apprenticeship is a great option. It's a way to earn while you learn, and just by having that opportunity to work in a job, you gain so much more practical experience. And sometimes organisations will keep you on after your apprenticeship ends - which is what happened to me and is fantastic!