Case study

Degree apprentice — Tom Colbeck

Tom has completed the first year of a degree apprenticeship in Business Leadership and Management (Level 4) and is about to start his Level 5

Why did you decide to do a degree apprenticeship?

I found trying to juggle A-levels and a part-time job in retail a struggle, and I wasn't happy in what I was doing. I was working long hours and constantly found myself exhausted. I thought an apprenticeship would be a suitable solution, allowing me to earn while I learn. Some of my friends who had taken the apprenticeship route had also told me how good their schemes were and how pleased they were with their progression.

How did you find and apply for your apprenticeship?

After a look on a local job search website, I found my Level 2 apprenticeship at Fareham College, based at Hampshire Chamber of Commerce, where I continued to complete my Level 3 in Business Administration. Hampshire Chamber is very passionate when it comes to taking on apprentices, and had two before me. After completing my Level 3, we thought that was the end of my education path as Level 4 proved difficult to find in colleges. We then discovered the degree apprenticeship scheme and after finding out more information it seemed an opportunity not to be missed.

How does the degree apprenticeship work?

I spend four days a week in the office, completing my daily duties, and one day a week during term time is dedicated to the education side of my apprenticeship. I have numerous lectures for the first six weeks of term, followed by three weeks of independent study leave, before a final assessment day in week 10. Currently my study day is a Wednesday, and there are three terms a year, covering two units per term.

What do you enjoy about the apprenticeship?

The most enjoyable part of the apprenticeship is learning skills you can take back and practise in the workplace. For example, I found the business operations unit very interesting as it allowed me to analyse the format of my work environment and think of suggestions on improving the layout. The main reason for me taking up this opportunity is to better my business knowledge and essentially enable me to become a successful manager.

What is the most challenging part of your apprenticeship?

Every student on this course has different strengths and weaknesses, allowing them to thrive or struggle with certain aspects. For me, it's giving the degree apprenticeship the time and dedication needed outside of working hours. It takes hard work and motivation to get your preferred results, therefore you must be committed throughout.

What are your plans for after your degree apprenticeship?

I don't have a specific aim for once I graduate. My guess is I will stay in my current position and hope the knowledge I've learned over the three years will be appreciated, and that I can progress within my company. Alternatively, I may be tempted to search elsewhere for a different role. Either way, I'm confident the degree apprenticeship will allow me to reach my full potential, and become a successful leader.

What advice would you give those who are planning on doing an apprenticeship?

Think carefully about the route you want to take and how this is going to benefit you going forward. Also, take into consideration the time and effort a higher apprenticeship takes. As I have completed two years previously, I am used to the format, with the difficulty increasing slightly each year, however it may be quite a shock to someone coming from a different background.

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