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Building the future

To mark National Apprenticeship Week in the UK, our colleagues share their personal experiences of apprenticeships 

Build the Future text

From 7 – 13 February we are celebrating National Apprenticeship Week in the UK, joining individuals and organisations to shine a light on the positive impact that apprenticeships have. The theme for National Apprenticeship Week 2022 is 'build the future'; reflecting on how apprenticeships can help individuals to develop the skills and knowledge required for a rewarding career, and businesses to develop a talented workforce that is equipped with future-ready skills.  

At Cambridge University Press & Assessment, we have more than 200 active apprentices, which is around 8% of our UK-based employees, and all our apprenticeship openings are advertised on our Careers pages. "We are serious about creating opportunities and nurturing talent. We're very proud of all of our team who have completed an apprenticeship and those who are working their way through one now,” says chief people officer at Cambridge University Press & Assessment, Janet Scotcher.  

Three of our colleagues explain what they got out of their apprenticeship. Find out more about our apprenticeships programme.

Patrick Robbie, data science apprentice  

Why did you choose to do an apprenticeship? 

I had previously studied in university and left with a degree that I hadn’t ended up using. I was working in retail management having also done bar management and wanted to retrain and get back to science, where my knowledge base and skill sets lie. I saw an advert about recruitment for the apprenticeship program and felt it was a great way to retrain, gain a degree and new skills at a great organisation without having to stop working or shoulder a large amount of student debt. Also, the idea of graduating and already having four years of experience appealed to me. Data science is a growing area with much interest from employers in the qualification. 

How is the apprenticeship structured? 

Before covid the structure was an intense week in university at the start of the term with online resources and sessions held remotely throughout the term. Since covid this has turned into a purely distanced delivery and this has been in the form of e-learning on an educational data science platform and weekly live and interactive sessions for certain modules. This blends well with the job as you get 20% of your work time to do your university work and this is obligatory for both the employer and the university. I was easily able to set my day a week study to coincide with my lectures and work I needed to do for assignments. 

What are the highlights for you so far? 

I have really enjoyed learning at a university level again and this is compounded by being able to practice what I learn constantly in the workplace. Seeing the benefits that the new taught materials can bring to the business makes you understand why the apprenticeships are so important. I have already, even though I am only in third year, used my knowledge to do projects that haven’t been done in certain business units before. For example, I created a Microsoft PowerApp in Cambridge International Network as a novel way of collecting data and there are now multiple new PowerApps within the team for this purpose. I was also involved in a project where I used Machine learning to try to target the marketing of Cambridge National more efficiently in OCR. Being innovative and able to experiment with new techniques definitely motivates me in my work. 

How does the apprenticeship fit in with your existing workload? 

I was taken on as an assistant data scientist and an apprentice at the same time. I have found that it isn’t difficult to fit the apprenticeship around work, as long as you are clear with your manager and strict with yourself about getting your study time. I also found I am completing my work to a better standard and in novel more effective ways with what I learn. I am constantly able to bring new ideas and techniques to my work, through my knowledge growth I can understand new techniques that aren’t necessarily taught by the course by reading into them. 

How has the apprenticeship helped in your career? 

It also opens up new career options, since starting using the knowledge I have already gained in two and a half years I have had options for new roles both permanent and currently I am on secondment to a project management position of a merger project for eight months. I have a lot more skills now to use in my work and approach things in a different mindset. It has helped me challenge my own, and sometimes the organisation’s, way of doing things and replace them with new more efficient procedures. I really feel I am staying ahead of the curve with new techniques. 

Why would you recommend an apprenticeship to others? 

An apprenticeship is ideal if you want to expand your knowledge base and gain professional development. Through Anglia Ruskin University you are also integrated into being a student again and get a taste for studying and university life while still working and being with the organisation. There is a sense of real friendship and comradery between the apprentices both within Cambridge University Press & Assessment and outside. The support I get from the management and organisation has always meant I can balance my work and study; this makes the whole process less time stressful. With the apprenticeship there is also a requirement for a workplace mentor for the course, I have found this invaluable and has really helped me in both work and study. I would be missing a key point if I didn’t say the student discounts weren’t good too! 

Carri Pavitt, stakeholder relations and events manager 

In the video below, Carri talks about her experience of the leadership and management apprenticeship.  

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Simon Butteriss, assistant director group print & operations  

My apprenticeship journey started with a simple question from my Dad: “Don’t you think it’s a good idea to earn while you learn?” 

As it happened, I did think it was a good idea. The way in which apprenticeships are supported by organisations and the UK government may have changed a lot over the years but the premise and opportunity remain the same. For me, and for others that I have had the pleasure to introduce into apprenticeships during my career, an apprenticeship is opportunity. 

It is an opportunity to develop skills and experience, learning both practically and theoretically what it takes to succeed in a particular career. It’s an opportunity to work with passionate people keen to share their knowledge and watch you grow as an individual. I consider myself incredibly fortunate to have had that opportunity at the very beginning of my working life. A generation later having supported dozens of early career and mature apprentices I am proud to be working in an organisation that sees the opportunity apprenticeships bring for organisations and people. 

Investing in people is never a waste. There’s an old “share” that does the rounds on LinkedIn every now and again that says something like “what if I invest my people and they leave?” and then beneath it says “what if I don’t invest in my people and they stay?” I’ve seen this so many times and cannot believe it still needs sharing! People and education are at the heart of societal development, without it we are lost. At Cambridge University Press & Assessment this is a core value.

In my time with the organisation, I’ve seen apprentices in customer services, data science, engineering, electrical installation, operations management, team leadership, publishing, project management and more. The one thing that is common to everyone across this diverse range of career paths is a will to learn, develop and contribute by using the skills learnt. Great organisations value their apprentices and in return they get motivated and more committed staff. 

Little in life comes without a little hard work of course. Being an apprentice is a two-way commitment, the organisation and your mentors commit time and money in your development and in return there’s the need to repay that by engaging with learning, both practical and theoretical. That means balancing the two elements simultaneously, sometimes that can mean a very busy time, but I assure you the reward is worth the effort. 

Teams within my division have multiple apprentices in the fields mentioned earlier but we are always looking to expand our offering working with our internal apprenticeship specialists. A recently launched “Improvement Practitioner” apprenticeship is at the heart of what we do in Group Print & Operations, this framework equips individuals with the skills to identify opportunities for improvement, systematic problem solving and change management, core skills that underpin any successful organisation. We are soon to also launch a distribution supervisor apprenticeship, this seeks to introduce staff to our practical world of distribution and warehousing and what it takes to support our learners across the globe, no mean feat you’ll appreciate! 

If you are seeking opportunity, look no further than an apprenticeship; what-ever your aspirations are I’m sure there is something for you. 

Join in the conversation  

Join in the conversation by following us at @CambPressAssess on Twitter and using the hashtag #NAW2022. 

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