I am an apprentice in the Cabinet Office, currently just over 3 months into an 18 month placement, completing an NVQ Level 3 in Business and Administration.
Initially, it was a challenging experience being a new starter and trying to adjust, but I now feel very much in my comfort zone and I am enjoying every part of this placement.
It has only been a few months since joining, but already I have acquired many invaluable skills within the Cabinet Office. I have assisted with a couple of events by setting up and escorting visitors and the media. I have attended a press office training session and I have been over to No. 10 Downing Street and the House of Commons to sit in on some meetings. This has given me a great insight into how various parts of government work.
There have been a few highlights over the past few months in the Cabinet Office. Visiting No. 10 for the first time was very startling. I’ve always seen the door plastered over the news channels - and I found myself approaching it and ringing the doorbell. Insane!
I have also shadowed an interview with the Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg and assisted with an event involving Minister for Civil Society Nick Hurd. Working in the Cabinet Office is one thing, but to see some of the Cabinet ministers in person, doing their day-to-day duties, is pretty surreal.
As part of my role I manage diaries and provide administrative and support for the team. I have never properly managed diaries before, so my negotiation skills have improved greatly in trying to avoid diary clashes and rearranging meetings. I have previously worked within admin-based roles, so this placement has allowed me to develop those skills further, but to also acquire new skills like organising interviews, assisting new starters and setting up meetings.
I am very grateful for the opportunity I have been given to work in the Cabinet Office!
There are various routes to go down after I have completed my apprenticeship, including applying for full-time job opportunities within government, continuing onto a level 4 apprenticeship (which is equivalent to a degree) or applying for external job vacancies. If I was to secure a job within government, it would be a straightforward transition and the knowledge I have gained could easily be implemented in the role. If I decide to continue onto a Level 4 apprenticeship, I could use the skills I’ve gained to work towards this higher qualification. If I was to apply for an external job vacancy, I would have the advantage of having gained a recent work-based qualification as well as experience within a reputable organisation.
At the moment there are already many apprentices in and around government and I have been able to speak with many of them. They are enjoying the experience as much as me. We have already met up a couple of times over lunch at work to discuss our experiences. We can relate to one another, as we are all in the same situation and work within similar job roles. We are trying to make this a regular occurrence to create a network within government, not only for getting together and having a chinwag, but for any apprentice who has an issue and would feel more comfortable talking among colleagues who may share the same experience. I have heard there are more apprentices I have yet to meet, so it looks as though the network is already due to expand!
I would definitely encourage others to take up apprenticeships, as the skills you learn on the job are invaluable. I find it easier to learn by doing the task in hand, rather than revising from a piece of a text and I’m sure many others do too. With an apprenticeship, you are not only gaining a qualification at the end of your placement, but have numerous skills to take away with you. Many students leave school, college or university with many skills on their CV, but no experience to back it up. Employers appreciate these qualifications, but also want to see that you have applied them in the workplace and are capable of completing the job required. An apprenticeship offers this.
If I was to encourage young people to apply for an apprenticeship further, I would gather other apprentices from in and around government and hold an event to make them aware of this opportunity. Another possibility could be to visit various schools or colleges to speak to students and young people and to give them our first-hand experience of being an apprentice by doing a Q&A session.