CATEGORY: Human Competence | AUTHOR: Jonathan Cox


The Apprentices' Story – It's more than technical

The need for character, behaviours and value fit is not just the view of the industry – apprentices agree. Meet Faith Thomas.

Between 7 and 13 February 2022, we were heavily immersed in the hive of activity that was National Apprenticeship Week.

The buzz was incredible on LinkedIn, with the volume of content being shared; stories, videos, events, discussions. It was truly energising to be a part of, and we learnt so much.

One of our biggest takeaways was the power that apprenticeships have on individuals and how, when structured appropriately, they can help people find their niche and move towards fulfilling their potential.

On the Monday of National Apprenticeship Week, we came across a post from an apprentice that showed such energy and enthusiasm, that we had to reach out to learn her story and experience of apprenticeships.

Meet Faith Thomas. She’s on a level 4 Business Analyst programme with Lloyds Banking Group, which lasts between 15 and 18 months. This is her second apprenticeship, after completing a level 3 Business Administration. In this interview, she told us about her programmes, her motivations and even advice for future apprentices.

You obviously see value in what apprenticeships have to offer. Tell us about it.

Absolutely. I have to say that the two programmes are very different, both in terms of content and delivery and how they are run by the employers and training providers.

When considering what to do after school, I looked at a whole range of options. School was heavily pushing me towards university, but I knew intrinsically it wasn't right for me. I explored going out to work, volunteering, other courses, and apprenticeships to get valuable work experience. I settled on the apprenticeship route as I see great value in learning while working and applying newfound knowledge at work.

How is your week structured?

I'm very lucky with Lloyds in that I get a great deal of variety in my week. I can be flexible with the combination of work and training. They really support me and understand the importance of the off-the-job training aspect of the apprenticeship.

Typically, I take Monday and Friday afternoons as my training time, away from the day job. In this time, I complete a variety of training elements – mainly e-learning and reading of different types. I should also have been part of a 5-day face-to-face programme, but due to challenges around Covid, this was shifted to be online.

Still, it's very valuable, and I am learning a lot.

Is all your off-the-job training based around technical skills – i.e. how to execute specific skills to do the job?

Almost entirely yes. There are lots of processes and techniques that I am studying and applying in my day-to-day work.

There aren't any programmes around soft skills like communication or time management, but I get to shadow people at work. I have been paired up with two mentors, and that's hugely valuable. One is from the Lloyds team and the other is from the training company that supports me.

I am also very lucky that another colleague has agreed to mentor me – just because they're really kind! They didn't have to, but I really appreciate their support and perspective too.

Being able to talk through my progress, challenges and ideas really helps. The feedback is invaluable and knowing that someone is with you and looking out for you really gives you confidence.

This is a big shift from my previous apprenticeship and really makes a difference to how I perform at work and how I learn.

That's really positive and, as you say, not something that everyone experiences. What would be your advice to someone considering taking the apprenticeship route, as you have?

First of all, I would strongly encourage them to be authentic. Don't fake it. As an apprentice, your colleagues know that you aren't the finished article and have lots to learn. If you are humble, curious and engage with your colleagues, you can learn far quicker and make a positive impact.

Secondly, make sure that there is a good fit between you and your employer. Do you share values, do you like the way they work and what they stand for? Does it 'feel' right when you're going through the recruitment process?

I'm lucky that I have learnt from my first apprenticeship what to look out for in the next, and it's clear that it isn't just about getting a job and learning some new skills.

It's not an easy route – there is a lot of hard work, and you have to juggle many things throughout your week, so it's really important to be in the right place, with the right support to develop who you are as a person to be impactful and to succeed.

Faith, thank you so much for your time and insight. We wish you every success for your apprenticeship and beyond.

Faith has shown us how varied learners’ experiences can be from one apprenticeship to the next. Faith, like so many other we’ve spoken to, is hugelypassionate about her current path and very eloquent about the need for something more than just technical training. She spoke from the heart about her need for support to be in place to develop who she is, and to learn behaviours that help her succeed in all she does.

It is incumbent on us all; employers, learning providers, industry bodies and government, to reflect on such experiences and understand the power of an individual who feels comfortable and is supported in developing who they are and not just what they know.

Faith is the perfect example of a generation that wants to grow and fulfil their potential, understanding that who we are and what we become truly matters.