What’s it like to take an apprenticeship in project management? Conor Devitt discusses his work at City & Guilds.
On becoming an apprentice
I decided to pursue an apprenticeship towards the end of sixth form, when it was blatantly obvious to me that university was not the right path for me. I had lost my passion for traditional school subjects and I knew that it was time to move onto learning about something slightly outside of the traditional educational remit.
Therefore, when the opportunity to join City & Guilds in a project management related role came around, it ticked all of the boxes. I work in the PMO (Project Management Office) acting as support to the project managers and the projects themselves. The role requires constant communication with managers and the ability to provide templates and general advice around different stages and scenarios within a project.
We are met with different questions and situations every week, which is really beneficial for my personal development. My naive opinion that ‘there isn’t much to project management’ was soon replaced with the reality that it requires a combination of personal, organisational and professional skills that few people hold.
I’m seven months into my apprenticeship, and as clichéd as its sounds, I’ve learnt more than I could have ever expected prior to starting this journey.
On advice from schools
Having gone to a grammar school, I received little advice about apprenticeships. The focus was always on university applications. A few locally available apprenticeships were advertised but no information that portrayed the true value or opportunity in doing an apprenticeship was given; it seemed like more of a tick box activity to ensure that the school had attempted to cater for everyone.
We had lessons dedicated to filling out documentation and writing personal statements to get into university, however the process of applying for an apprenticeship was very self-driven.
Personally, I would advise schools to ensure that there are apprenticeship talks arranged for the start of Year 12 (or before if possible) in order to give students the exposure that could help them to make their decision. In my experience, the apprenticeship seed is not planted early enough in student’s heads – many see university as the only viable option.
On the benefits for young people
The common message of ‘earn while you learn’ is not competing well enough with the way university degrees are advertised. There needs to be a greater focus on the value of completing an apprenticeship and the doors that can open up as a result, in a similar way to how university places are sold on the job opportunities that can be attained from having a university degree.
It is now the schools’ responsibility to provide more information on apprenticeships. The way apprenticeships are advertised hasn’t really changed in the last few years and this doesn’t do justice to the improvement in quality compared to five years ago.
I have become a much more independent person, having to commute back and forth from Kent to Central London and having roles in work that contribute directly to certain parts of the business. As obvious as it sounds, I have gone from answering questions largely based around made up scenarios in school exams, to being involved in projects at City & Guilds that contribute to achieving our business objectives.
I have always been driven by seeing direct results in the work that I am doing and in school I could never really focus on the seemingly never-ending series of exams. At work I can concentrate on specific goals and tasks where I can see more tangible and quantifiable benefits to the work I am doing.
I understand that each individual is motivated by something different and has their own learning style but for me personally, choosing to do an apprenticeship is a choice that has benefited me a great deal.