Reflections on the apprenticeship programme

Ellie Knight, Level 3 Business Administration Apprenticeship (March 2020 – December 2021) and Level 3 HR Support Apprenticeship (January 2022 – May 2023).

Why did you choose an apprenticeship? 

I wanted to start my career as soon as I could after finishing school and this seemed like the best way to do so. I didn’t ever want to go to University so I was looking for an alternative and I came across apprenticeships as an option.

How would you describe your time on the apprenticeship? Was it what you expected? 

It was a great experience and I enjoyed it. I didn’t know what to expect as it was my first full-time job in an office environment (although the first 18 months were spent working from home). I felt very well supported by everyone around me and this made learning an abundance of new tasks/skills that much easier.

What did winning an award last year mean to you? 

I won the Third Year Apprentice Award and also the Apprentice Ambassador Award. Winning these two awards was an amazing feeling and it made all of my hard work during the pandemic and beyond feel worthwhile. It was lovely to be recognised at a University level. I can’t thank Rebecca enough for all of the amazing support and for nominating me.

What impact has your apprenticeship had on your career so far?

I have recently started a new role and I couldn’t have got here without both of my apprenticeships (and my former manager, Rebecca!). I am the new HR Officer in the Department of Politics and International Relations. 

Having been at the University for just over 3 years now, I have learnt the main jist of how it works and how each area of the University fits in with each other. This knowledge will continue to come in handy day to day as well as the specific knowledge I have gained in Administration and HR.

What advice would you give to someone considering an apprenticeship at the University? 

My first bit of advice would be to go for it! The University is a truly amazing employer, especially for apprentices who are just starting out in a new job role (whether that be a new entrant or existing employee). It is important to research what the apprenticeship would entail first and see if it would be a good fit for you. Part of the reason I was successful in my apprenticeships is because I enjoyed what I was doing each day. Apprenticeships offer many transferrable skills and so even if you completed an apprenticeship and then changed career a few years down the line, these skills would still be beneficial and be used day to day.

Rebecca Waterman, Deputy Head of Administration, Finance Division

Why did you decide to recruit an apprentice to your department?  

We recruit Finance Apprentices each year in the Finance Division many of whom are now permanent employees within our department. Back in 2020 we identified the need to recruit a Business Administrator Apprentice too. This was partly due to ever-increasing workloads. Having successfully completed the Business Administrator apprenticeship, Ellie continued with us as an HR Support Apprentice. 

Why did you nominate your apprentice for an Apprenticeship Award?  

Ellie was an exceptional apprentice. We interviewed Ellie on 26 February 2020 in a pre-COVID world. We had no comprehension of what was around the corner. Our offices fully closed on Friday 20 March 2020. We had already agreed a start date of Monday 30 March 2020 with Ellie and we were all looking forward to her starting. Our team was incredibly busy at this time ensuring everyone across the Finance Division had the remote working access they required. I wasn’t quite sure how we were going to remotely on-board a 17 year old apprentice who had little work experience, no office experience and no physical office to come to work in. Ellie was our very first new starter whilst working remotely but she coped with it amazingly well. Nothing was too much trouble for her and she worked so hard to quickly learn the tasks she needed to achieve. 

How did having an apprentice benefit your team? Was it what you expected? 

The lockdown placed unexpected and additional demands on our administrative team. The existing team members had to juggle work with home-schooling and childcare. We had little choice but to rely heavily on Ellie’s initiative, tenacity, outstanding efficiency and determination to manage complex and difficult situations and tasks. We couldn’t have got through the pandemic without Ellie. Ellie has been working at a far higher level than would ordinarily be expected of an apprentice and we are so grateful to her and proud of her for all she has achieved. Ellie has without a doubt played a significant role in ensuring the administration of the Finance Division was able to continue so effectively.

What advice would you give to someone who is considering recruiting an apprentice?  

In preparation for recruiting an apprentice I’d recommend thinking carefully about the role and tasks you would like them to deliver and ensure they align with their course of study. Be prepared to be flexible. All of our apprentices have excelled in different ways and it’s been important to adapt to their strengths and interests in addition to challenging them with and exposing them to new opportunities they might not have previously thought of.

Having apprentices in the Finance Division is great! Our former and current apprentices have set up their own local networking group and meet up on occasion. Our former apprentices enjoy sharing their apprentice experiences and our current apprentices benefit from having an informal support mechanism in place. 

Each of our apprentices have a weekly reflection meeting with someone who is not their line manager. These meetings provide a forum to discuss what went well, what didn’t go so well and what could be done differently next time. Abingdon and Witney College run some excellent training and information sessions for line managers of apprentices. I’d recommend attending. Our apprentices learn from experts within the Finance Division and it’s great when they can be appointed into permanent positions towards the end of their apprenticeships.

Apprenticeship Awards 2023

Nominate an apprentice, manager or training coordinator by 28 July 2023.


Attend the awards ceremony

Join us at the National History Museum on Thursday 21 September. Register here.