It’s almost been a year since I left my hometown, friends and comfort zone to start my apprenticeship in London. Here’s what my journey’s been like so far.
A little bit of context
My apprenticeship is arranged so that I work at Acacia Learning for four days a week and spend one day at university. Just like Oxford University, I complete three uni terms in a year with my apprenticeship. Each term is 12 weeks long and I study two modules a term. On the days I’m not at university, you can find me at the Acacia office.
Why move so far away?
The main reason I was drawn to apprenticeships was because I knew what I wanted to do and I wanted the skills directly related to marketing to boost my career. With my friends looking at going to uni, I decided to widen my search options for apprenticeships. London is Europe’s most connected business hub and therefore a great place to start my career.
What drew me to Acacia Learning was the opportunities they were willing to give me. I already had some experience working in marketing, but at Acacia I had the chance to work to take on more responsibility for projects as it was a smaller team. This meant more one on one time to work on things I struggled with.
You win some, you lose some
When I first moved to London, a few of my friends were already at university and over the year I began to notice a lot of differences between our lifestyles. Being an apprentice brings its own set of challenges. As an apprentice, I’m entitled to the same annual leave rights as my co-workers which is one of the biggest changes I’ve had to face since leaving sixth form. Good-bye long summer breaks, you will be missed… Well, sort of. So, while I may not get long holidays, I have more flexibility about when to take them so it’s more affordable to travel abroad.
In a way, I feel like I’m living both the uni dream of fun and freedom with the practicality (and financial stability) of an apprenticeship. But finding time to do both is hard. Between work, university and coursework it feels like there’s not nearly enough hours in the days to get everything done. I do a lot of my coursework outside of my working hours and outside of uni. What this really means is that I have to do a lot of work towards my course that can’t be included towards my 20% off the job training because it’s not taking place during my work hours and it’s not time that I can claim back from work. The workload isn’t easy and definitely takes some getting used to, but after a while it all falls into place. It becomes a little easier and bit more natural.
On the job learning
One project even tested my sewing skills! Acacia has an apprenticeship mascot – a large teddy bear. I made a pair of dungarees for the bear from our Acacia Learning tote bags and have just launched a social media campaign to name the bear. To be in with a very good chance of winning an Amazon gift card, please enter this competition.
My ability to be creative balances out the not so fun projects such as getting all our courses listed on other websites. It can take time to pull all the content onto one spreadsheet. While these projects can test my patience, they also test my communication skills, creative problem solving and persistence.
Making studying easier
Finding the time to study isn’t always easy, but here are 3 things I do to help me get my work done on time:
- Staying behind after uni to work on my assignments – Since our lunch break doesn’t count towards the 20% staying behind or working during lunch is an easy way to make the most out of my day release.
- Staying behind after work – It’s already a quiet space where I know I will be productive so working on my assignments after hours.
- Find an expert – For my accounting module I referred to accountants I knew (both at Acacia and outside of work) to help me with topics I struggled with.
There are a few tools that have made writing my assignments easier:
- Ref Works https://refworks.proquest.com/library/all/ makes citing sources easier as you can add the books and articles you’re reading while writing your assignment and download the references once you’ve finished. You can even adjust the citation style to replicate your education style.
- I use Grammarly https://www.grammarly.com once I’ve finished my assignments to proofread through my assignments and point out any grammatical and spelling errors.
- My laptop has a dictation app built in which I use to have my assignments read back to me. I find it easier to spot long sentences or sentences that are difficult to read.
Working a full-time job means that I don’t often interact with people my own age. Especially since Acacia’s courses targets working professionals. I’ve found that uni is good place to meet people my own age with similar interests as me.
It’s often said that you’ll make friends for life at university so why should my experience be any different? Although my experience is limited to one day a week, I still try to make the most out of my experience by attending events. Joining a society is an easy way to network with a range of people, it’s also helping expand on my event planning skills as my role in my society is to organise events. I enjoy this because it’s something from my professional life that I use in a less formal setting.
At Acacia I’m the self-appointed but management approved ‘Social Exec’ which means I plan monthly socials for the staff at HQ. So far, we’ve challenged Rachel at bouldering, indulged our inner child watching the Lion King at Cinema and we’ve even been to an escape room!
All of this has made moving away from my friends and family a lot easier as I still have opportunities to socialise and have fun during my spare time. One of the perks of living in London is the endless options of things to do and I’m slowly working my way through my London Bucket List.
Future of Apprenticeships
Apprenticeships have its ups and downs and there’s still a long way to go, but at Acacia we’re working on making the process as effortless as possible for our CIPD apprentices. We understand that some organisations struggle to give an employee the day off to work towards their apprenticeship so we’re offering evenings classes and weekend classes which apprentices can claim their time back from. Our flexible learning scheme is just one way we’re helping apprentices to make the most of their time with us.
As for me, I have 2 more years until I finish my apprenticeship and I’m excited to see what new projects, assignments and modules come my way.