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Robert Luxon is currently studying Wood Occupations at our Mid Devon Campus.
After school I started a combined A Level / BTEC course at Exeter College. I chose the subjects I thought I would like but after a year, I realised that I really didn’t enjoy the course and wanted to do something more engaging and practical. Also, as I live near Tiverton, I had to get the bus to Exeter and I found the service unreliable.
After I left Exeter College, I took a summer job (connected with carpentry) and my employer told me that Petroc offers practical courses to prepare for a job I actually want to do. My experience that summer convinced me that carpentry was what I wanted to do and so I enrolled at Petroc on the Apprenticeship in Site Carpentry, so I could keep my job and continue my education.
The course is great. The focus is more on the practical elements of carpentry rather than just reading about it and I have made friends on the course even though I am still in my first week.
Wood Occupations Levels 1 & 2 will enable me to become a carpenter in just a few years or I could continue my study and do the Level 3 course to develop my skills further.
My advice to anyone who is having doubts about their A Level course is simple – ask yourself - is this course taking me to where I want to be? It’s not too late to change your mind or your college. If you feel a move would be best for you, just go for it.
Now I have started at Petroc, I know I am on the path to the job I want. I made the right move.
Bradley is just coming to the end of a Level 2 plumbing apprenticeship with Flowtech Heating Services Ltd
North Devon Campus
“I initially started on a full time Level 1 plumbing course, back in 2013. I had heard really good things about the course from friends, so it was an obvious choice to come to Petroc. And then, after a year, I found employment with Flowtech Heating Services Ltd and switched to the Level 2 plumbing apprenticeship.
I’ve always been interested in plumbing, ever since I completed a work experience placement during school. I like the fact that, with plumbing, there is a real variety of work and you get to work on a lot of different projects. There’s never time to get bored.
I’m lucky that my employer is really supportive of apprenticeships, and makes sure that I get involved in lots of different aspects of plumbing, to give me as much hands-on experience as possible.
Last summer we completed a big project working on a Canadian-style house, with zero heating loss. This was a big challenge and we came up against a lot of hurdles, but it was a fantastic experience and taught me so much about renewables. This is obviously an area of huge growth at the moment, so it was really interesting to see some of the up and coming advances in the industry.
Apprenticeships are a great route into plumbing, as you have the best of both worlds; on-the-job training with people who are out there in the industry, supported by essential theory-based work at college.
I am now just coming to the end of my two-year apprenticeship. My plan is to stay with my current employer for the foreseeable future, and gain more knowledge and experience. I’d also like to think about doing additional training, and perhaps specialising in one particular area.
My long-term goal is to eventually run my own business, and give other people the opportunities that I’ve had through my employer. I like the idea of having the flexibility and independence that comes with being self-employed, but I understand that this is a long way down the line, once I’ve gained far more experience.”
Olly Spear is studying a Foundation Degree in Computing as part of a IT & Telecoms Higher Apprenticeship.
Why did you choose to come to Petroc?
When I finished my GCSEs I knew I wanted to do IT. West Buckland did offer an A Level in IT but it didn't run because there wasn’t enough interest.
I then decided to attend one of the Petroc Open Events and learnt more about the BTEC in Information Technology. I have never been particularly academic, so the fact that there were no exams made it very appealing.
…And what made you pick this particular study programme/course?
After completing the BTEC I was keen to study at HE level, but Tim Barker – my course tutor – informed me about the potential opportunity of a Higher Apprenticeship with Travis Perkins. After meeting with them and taking a competency test I was taken on. I currently work for four days and have one day at college. Having the opportunity to work while gaining a Foundation Degree in Computing is a win-win situation.
Which elements of your study programme/course do you particularly enjoy?
I love doing Java and it's definitely my favourite subject. The way the course is set up - learning three subjects each year – means that you can really develop a solid understand of a topic; I've learnt about so many things that I wouldn’t have known even existed!
What have been the highlights so far (trips, visits, projects etc.)?
Since being on the course my knowledge of programming has shot through the roof. The fact that I am paired with another programmer while at Travis Perkins really helps me develop my skills. My day at college helps me with the theory side of the work I do during the rest of the week, so it’s a great way of learning.
What do you most enjoy about studying at Petroc?
I can’t say what I enjoy the most as I haven't yet completed the course, but currently it has definitely been learning about Java and computer systems.
What do you most plan to do when you leave college?
It all depends on what Travis Perkins say. I would love to go down to Plymouth and gain a full degree, but for the minute I am completely open.
What's the long term plan (further study, career etc.)?
I definitely want to become a computer programmer, and I feel studying an apprenticeship through Petroc is the best method of me doing so.
Any advice for someone thinking of choosing the same course as you?
If you know it's something that you want to, don’t waste any time and definitely do it!
Ben is on an Apprenticeship in Light Vehicle Maintenance & Repair and works at Volkswagen in Barnstaple
Apprenticeship in Light Vehicle Maintenance & Repair
“I originally trained as a plasterer. However, work dried up during the recession so I started thinking about alternative careers.
I’ve always loved cars and really enjoy the challenge of getting something that’s broken working again. I’ve spent many a cold night on my driveway working on either my cars or my friends’ cars over the years. I relax when I work on cars – it’s my way of destressing.
Volkswagen in Barnstaple were looking for a service washer so I applied; this was my foot in the door. I then became a driver, collecting customers’ cars and bringing them into the garage.
After a while I sat down with my boss and said that I was keen to retrain and progress my career, so he called the college to ask about apprenticeship opportunities. Shortly after I had an interview for the motor vehicle apprenticeship and was offered a place.
An apprenticeship really suits my way of learning. I’m much better doing practical, hands-on work and learning on the job. The majority of assessments are practical assessments in the workplace, along with some multiple choice tests and written tests.
I’m so glad I made the switch from plastering. I find this industry so rewarding, as you’re working on someone’s pride and joy. I’d like to see how far I can get within this company, and hopefully work my way up to master technician one day. Then, perhaps, I’d think about setting up my own garage.”
Dan is on a Built Environment Advanced Apprenticeship (distance learning) and works at Lilly Lewarne in Truro
Built Environment Advanced Apprenticeship
Employer: Lilly Lewarne Practice – Chartered Architects
Job title: Trainee Architectural Technician
What were you doing before you started the apprenticeship?
Before this apprenticeship, I completed a Level 2 Diploma in Business Administration, working as a reception worker for the company. My duties were mainly to complete administrative tasks and answer the phone.
What are your main tasks at work?
I am now training as an architectural technician, and assume the role of one. This means that I am completing planning applications and even completing Building Regulations Packages for clients. I am using many programmes for drafting, such as AutoCad and REVIT.
Why did you choose an apprenticeship route?
We felt as a collective that it would be better for me to complete an apprenticeship, as this gave me the best way to learn. I have on-the-job experience, dealing with real clients and completing real work alongside completing the knowledge-based activity that the college work provides. All in all we felt that this is the most efficient way for me and the company.
What do you see as the benefits of doing an apprenticeship?
The ability to have the opportunity in a real working environment. This route benefits by giving experience and, in my opinion, a more practical way of learning. For students such as myself, I learn more in a more practical way than I do in a theory way.
What do you think the benefits are from an employer’s point of view?
The employer gets to see your progression. This is vital so that the employer is happy with the direction everything is heading. The employer will also be able to have input to the education, assisting as much as possible and tailoring the experience accordingly. As well as the learning benefits, the company will also gain a member of the workforce that can contribute whilst learning.
How are you finding the distance learning?
Distance learning is a difficult thing to do; it takes a lot of self-discipline to complete the work asked for and the support is not available in the same way that it is in a classroom. Planning of work is vital and regular contact is a must. The balance between college work and working for the company is hard to find and fitting everything in can promote itself as quite the challenge. However, I get plenty of support from the tutors and when I require assistance I get it.
What is the long-term plan? Where do you see yourself in 10 years’ time?
My future plan is to continue down the architectural route and become a CIAT registered technician. Once I have done that I will look at my options and possibly take the route of becoming a CIAT registered technologist.
Neil is on a Light Vehicle Maintenance & Repair Apprenticeship and works at Paul Blackmore Motor Repairs
Light Vehicle Maintenance & Repair Apprenticeship
Employer: Paul Blackmore Motor Repairs
“I worked in retail for six years as a supermarket supervisor. However, mechanics was something I’d always wanted to do and I knew that if I didn’t take the plunge and do it now then I never would.
I did a part time mechanics course in Exeter about 20 years ago, so the interest has always been there, but I’d lost all confidence in my ability.
To get onto an apprenticeship you have to have an employer, so I approached loads of local garages but didn’t have much luck. Nevertheless, I persisted and eventually Paul Blackmore agreed to take me on.
I think, if you go onto an apprenticeship later in life, then it’s vital that you have the full support of your employer. Paul has worked with the college for years and understands how the programme works, so is very aware of my workload and goes above and beyond to make sure I’m happy and not struggling with anything.
In my previous job I worked with people of all ages, so returning to college, and being in a class with people who were much younger than me, didn’t faze me. At the end of the day we’re all there to achieve the same thing, so we’re all really supportive and encouraging towards each other.
I love the fact that every day is different in this trade and you’re always learning. You never know what you’re going to be working on from one day to the next. After my apprenticeship I hope to become a full time mechanic, and also have the confidence to work on my own cars in my spare time.”
Marcus is on an IT and Telecoms Advanced Apprenticeship and works at Petroc
IT and Telecoms Advanced Apprenticeship
“After completing A Levels at Petroc I went off to university to do media productions. However, I soon realised that the university style of learning wasn’t right for me and I ended up leaving after the first year.
I had always had an interest in web design, so when I saw the vacancy come up for an IT apprentice at Petroc I decided to apply. I liked the idea of earning whilst gaining the qualifications I needed to progress in the industry.
Unlike university, I really like the fact that on an apprenticeship I can apply what I’ve learnt straight away and see how it is relevant in a work environment. An apprenticeship is a really good balance, because you also get to learn about new advances in technology and cover things that you wouldn’t necessarily come across at work.
I work as part of the College Information Services (CIS) team and am the main developer for the applications system. I also have a ‘maintenance day’ once a week, where I cover all emails that come into the office and deal with a wide range of queries from all areas of the college.
I find studying for my qualification fits in well alongside my work. My NVQ assessor visits me once a month, and uses the work I’m doing as evidence for my course. And, on Fridays, I attend lectures for my Foundation Degree in Computing.
When I first started on the apprenticeship I wasn’t expecting to have the amount of freedom that I have. I started off shadowing people, but now I have my own areas that I’m responsible for and manage my own workload. From an employer’s point of view I think there are many benefits of having an apprentice, as you get to build someone up from a base of little or no knowledge. They come with no preconceptions, so you can shape them to fit your particular business and the way you like to work.
In the future I’d definitely like to pursue a career in web design. I like the fact that it gives you the opportunity to combine creativity with the problem-solving that comes with computer programming. The industry is moving rapidly at the moment, with a high demand from businesses for mobile apps, mobile-friendly websites and social media content. I can’t see this slowing down any time soon, so it’s a good time to be in this profession.
Eventually I’d like to move away, to experience either working in a city or even abroad, perhaps working for a marketing or advertising agency as a web designer. I’d also like to do more studying and am already considering doing a final year through the Open University to top up my foundation degree into a full honours degree.”
Jade is on a Business and Administration Apprenticeship and works at Absolute Training and Nutrition
Apprenticeship in Business and Administration Level 2
Employer: Absolute Training and Nutrition
“I knew Marie – the business and administration lecturer – through my friend, so, when I wasn’t sure what to do next career-wise, I went to her for advice. She sold the benefits of an apprenticeship to me, and I decided to apply. I am now a business and administration apprentice with Absolute Training and Nutrition, helping them with the general running of their business.
I’m also a qualified beauty therapist, so they have given me the opportunity to run my own beauty business alongside their business. This is great, as I can offer treatments during my working day and don’t have all the overheads that would come with having my own salon. I like to keep busy, so have also trained as a spin instructor so I can take Absolute Spin classes, too.
Over time I’d like to continue to push the beauty side of the business, as I think it really compliments what they offer. Eventually I’d like to run my own business, but for the time being I’m happy progressing my career with Absolute.”
Will is on a Level 2 Marketing Apprenticeship and works at Far East Direct
Marketing Apprenticeship Level 2
Employer: Far East Direct
“I started off working for Rodney Davies – the Director of Far East Direct – as a manual labourer. However, he must have seen something in me, because shortly after joining the business he offered me a marketing apprenticeship.
I cover all aspects of marketing, including website design and customer mailing. I like the creativity of marketing, and the fact you can be really innovative. Although I cover business admin on my course – which really helps me be organised in the workplace - I prefer the more creative modules.
There are lots of benefits to doing an apprenticeship, but I would say the main ones are the fact you’re getting hands-on experience and also getting paid to learn.
Eventually I’d like to work towards running my own business.”
Charles is on a Level 2 Business Administration Apprenticeship and works at Sally Nichols Associates
Diploma in Business Administration Level 2 (apprenticeship)
Employer: Sally Nichols Associates
“After I completed my A Levels I decided that I didn’t want to go away to university. For a while I was considering applying to the RAF, but then an apprenticeship opportunity came up at my friend’s mum’s mortgage advisors and I decided to go for it.
On a day-to-day basis I am responsible for submitting applications to lenders, chasing offers and corresponding with clients, as well as a lot of compliance work. There are only two of us who work for the business, so I have to be very versatile; my days are very varied. The topics covered at college help me with this, as we cover all the basic skills needed to successfully work in a business setting, such as rights and responsibilities, customer service and effective letter-writing.
I think an apprenticeship is a great way to get in to many different professions, as you have the opportunity to gain qualifications that are just as highly regarded by employers as degrees, and you can also demonstrate that you can work successfully in a workplace.
My employer is very supportive of my training, and we’ve already talked about me doing my CeMap (a recognised mortgage advisor qualification) training after I complete my apprenticeship.
I think this is a great industry to work in, as it can be very rewarding. However, it doesn’t come without stress. At the end of the day it’s your client’s money on the line, so you have a high level of responsibility.
I’d like to stay at Sally Nichols Associates for the foreseeable future, as I can definitely see potential to expand the business. Maybe one day I will move away, perhaps to experience what it’s like working in this industry in a city, but for the time being I’m happy to stay in North Devon.”
Jacob is on an Advanced Apprenticeship in Site Carpentry and works for A&M Carpenters in Tiverton.
Advanced Apprenticeship in Site Carpentry
Employer: A&M Carpenters, Tiverton
“After I finished school I spent a year working and playing cricket in Australia. During this time I did some carpentry work and really enjoyed it, so started thinking about it as a possible career option.
On my return I started a carpentry apprenticeship in Taunton. However, after I completed the Level 1 and moved onto the Level 2, I found the way the course was structured and taught didn’t suit me. It was at this time that I moved employers – to A&M Carpenters in Tiverton – and they had really strong links with the college, so I decided to embark on a Level 3 apprenticeship with Petroc, instead.
Personally, I struggled with school. I’ve always learnt far better in a hands-on environment, and am not suited to the classroom. That’s one of the main reasons I chose the apprenticeship route; you’re immersed in the industry, learning from those who have been in your shoes and have years of invaluable experience. I also love that you can put what you’ve learnt into practice straight away.
I like the fact that carpentry allows me to work outside. I particularly enjoy working on roofs, something which I get to do a lot at work; it’s only simple gable to gable work, but it’s really rewarding when you step back and look at what you’ve produced at the end of a project.
My college work and the work I do on site overlaps all the time, plus there are things I do at work that I don’t do in college and vice versa, so I feel like I’m getting a really solid understanding of all the different aspects of carpentry. The workshops at college really do replicate a real work environment, plus we have access to all the tools and materials we could ever need. The lecturers are second to none and are always prepared to go above and beyond to make sure you fully understand everything, especially if there are certain areas that you’re struggling with and need to go over again.
After the ‘credit crunch’ I know the industry slowed right down. However, it feels like it’s definitely on the up again now. Just here in Tiverton there are plenty of opportunities for skilled carpenters, with hundreds of new houses already going up, plus other planned developments such as the new school. It definitely seems like a good time to be starting a career in the construction industry.
Looking at the bigger picture, I can eventually see myself being self-employed, running my own business with a team of people working for me – that’s the long-term goal. However, in the short term I’m really happy working for A&M Carpenters. They really support apprentices and understand how the whole programme works. They currently have five apprentices, plus lots of employees who have climbed up through the ranks since completing their apprenticeship, so I think there will be opportunities there if I work hard and show commitment to the business.”
Kane is on a Business Administration Apprenticeship with Collyers Estate Agents
Employer: Collyers Estate Agents
“I worked at B&Q for five years and, although I enjoyed it, by the end I’d had enough of retail and wanted to try something different.
My best friend is an estate agent in London, and hearing about his job made me start thinking that I, too, would like to work in the property sector. I like the fact that it’s so varied; one day you could be dealing with a Grade 2 listed building and the next you could be selling a new build.
There are no recognised qualifications for estate agency, so most people use an apprenticeship as a route in. So, this is why I applied for an apprenticeship with Collyers in Barnstaple.
There are lots of benefits to an apprenticeship, but I think the main one for me is the on-the-job experience; nothing beats being in the workplace for learning about how a business operates. At college I learn basic administration skills, which I can then apply directly to my job, which I also find very beneficial.
To be a good estate agent you have to be very flexible and able to easily adapt to different settings. You also have to have good social skills to be able to quickly build a good rapport with a client, as it’s really important that they trust you and see you as reliable.
Over the next few years I hope to work my way up within the business and perhaps in the future do more training to give me the skills to move into a managerial role.”
Vincent is on the Diploma in Business Administration Level 3 Apprenticeship at our North Devon Campus and works at The Ultimate Adventure Centre
Diploma in Business Administration Level 3 (apprenticeship)
Employer: The Ultimate Adventure Centre
“I was working as a door-to-door salesman, but wasn’t really enjoying it. I knew I needed to do more studying to increase my opportunities, but wasn’t sure I wanted to go into full time education. Then, a friend from school who now owns his own adventure centre, offered me an apprenticeship. This was an amazing opportunity; a foot in the door and a chance to get onto the career ladder.
I studied Level 2 business back in 2013, so I already had some knowledge which I could apply to my role as a business admin apprentice. It’s a small office at The Ultimate Adventure Centre, so everyone has to be versatile and it means my days are very varied. On the whole, though, I am responsible for taking bookings and liaising with customers.
I was never really interested in learning at school. However, on the apprenticeship I’m the complete opposite – I love to learn, and I think this is because I can automatically apply what I’ve learnt to what I’m doing at work. I can see the benefits straight away.
When I started at the adventure centre I was really shy and I remember I was actually shaking the first time I had to speak to a customer on the phone. Now, thanks to everything I’m learning on the apprenticeship, I’ve grown in confidence and am now more than happy speaking to people both on the phone and face-to-face.
I think, if you’re planning to either run your own company or work your way up in business, it’s really important to have a good understanding of how every aspect of the business works. That’s why the business admin apprenticeship appealed to me so much – I think good administration can really hold a business together and is fundamental to its success.
Just recently, I’ve been promoted to booking supervisor. This is really exciting, and gives me the opportunity to push myself and learn new skills. It’s funny, last week I was involved in the interview process to fill my old role – I can’t believe I was in that very position just a year ago. I’ve come so far in 12 months.
In my new role I’ll be managing staff, so it will require me to be more involved in decision-making and take on more responsibility. I hope I will be an empathetic and fair manager, as I have been in their shoes and know what they’re going through. I want to be one of those managers who really understands the business because they’ve worked their way up from the bottom and worked in lots of different roles.
One day I’d love to run my own catering business but in the meantime I’m very happy where I am and would love the opportunity to take on even more responsibility in the future.”
Hollie is on a Level 2 Marketing Apprenticeship with Salt Media.
Apprenticeship in Marketing
Employer: Salt Media
“I’ve always wanted to work in advertising. My mum worked for an advertising agency, so I guess it’s something I’ve always been surrounded by and had a natural interest in. I enjoy the whole process; from seeing something at the idea stage, right through to the final product.
At Salt Media I’m a Publishing, Marketing and Design Apprentice. My job is really varied, but my main tasks involve sending marketing mail outs, helping with promotional events and liaising with clients.
I never really enjoyed school, and couldn’t wait to get out into the workplace. However, I knew I wanted to carry on learning, so an apprenticeship seemed like the perfect combination. I like the fact that you’re learning ‘on the go’ and can apply what you’ve learnt at college straight away in the workplace. My college course teaches me how businesses work and the importance of processes and procedures; it basically gives me an overall picture and understanding of the industry.
There are lots of benefits that come with an apprenticeship, but I would say one of the main differences between this and a full time course is the fact you get paid. For me, it makes me take learning more seriously, as I’ve got responsibilities and colleagues I don’t want to let down. It makes me try harder.
I absolutely love where I work and would like the opportunity to continue studying where I am and maybe work my way up in the future.”
Marcus is on a Level 2 apprenticeship in Site Carpentry at our Mid Devon Campus
Extended Diploma in Site Carpentry Level 2 (apprenticeship)
Mid Devon Campus
Employer: Mark Fisher Carpenters Ltd
“I grew up helping my dad, who is a carpenter, and always really enjoyed it, so studying carpentry at college just seemed like the obvious choice after I completed my GCSEs. I am currently on a Level 2 apprenticeship, working for my dad – Mark Fisher Carpenters Ltd, based in Tiverton.
I really like the fact that every day is different, depending on what projects my dad is currently working on. At the moment we’re doing a barn conversion, installing the timber frame and fitting the windows, doors, skirting and architrave.
This is a very practical course, as you would expect, which really suits me, as I’ve always learnt better doing hands-on work, rather than in an academic environment.
I feel like I’ve got a good balance by doing an apprenticeship, as there are some things which I learn at college which I don’t have the opportunity to do at work, and vice versa. This gives me a much more varied skills set than if I was just in the workplace or just on a college course. An apprenticeship gives you a lot of options, as you have the skills to either go and work for someone else, do contract work or even set up your own business.
After I complete this study programme I’ll be moving onto the Level 3. The plan is to stay with my dad and then maybe one day become a partner in his business. The industry definitely seems to be picking up at the moment, and there seems to be a lot of upcoming work on new builds and restorations, so I’m excited for the future.”
Kiera is on a Level 3 hairdressing apprenticeship and works at Petroc's very own Hair Academy
NVQ 3 Diploma in Hairdressing (apprenticeship)
“I originally started at college on a Health & Social Care course, but after a year I realised it wasn’t right for me. For a while I was at a bit of a loss as to what to do next, but my mum said ‘You’ve always been great at doing hair, why don’t you try that instead?’
I’m so glad she did, as enrolling on the Level 2 Diploma in Hairdressing was the best decision I ever made – I absolutely loved it!
I’ve always been a very practical person. Someone can explain something to me several times and I won’t understand it, but as soon as they demonstrate it I get it straight away. I’ve always learnt far better that way.
I love the social side of hairdressing. I really enjoy talking to different people and making them feel relaxed and comfortable in the salon. I also like the fact that it’s a very varied job; no two days are ever the same.
When I completed the Level 2 course my lecturer said that there would be an apprenticeship position coming up at the Hair Academy, and encouraged me to apply. So I did. I went in for an interview and was fortunate enough to be offered the job.
On the Level 3 apprenticeship I spend Mondays in class, as a student. Then, on Tuesdays and Thursdays I help with the Level 2 students. As I’ve ‘been there and done it’ I know what they’re going through, and I think they find it easy to come to me for help and advice. On Wednesdays I help the stylists in the salon. This usually involves making teas and coffees for their clients, getting their colours and foils, washing their clients’ hair etc. On Fridays I run my own column and help in the salon, as well as preparing the salon for shut down over the weekend.
The Level 3 course is a lot more in depth than Level 2; you cover topics such as colour correction and restyles. Everything is expected to be completed to a much higher standard, too.
There are loads of benefits to doing an apprenticeship. Firstly, you’re earning as well as learning, which is obviously a big advantage. I think I get the best of both worlds, as I get to spend so much time with lecturers and tutors, which I appreciate I wouldn’t get in any other salon. I’m in a learning environment every single day, and have all the support which comes with that, so I know I’m really lucky.
Away from the Hair Academy I do a bit of mobile hairdressing, mainly for friends and family, which has been good for building my confidence and getting myself known locally. In the future I like the idea of being self-employed or freelance, perhaps doing wedding hair or even working in TV and film.”
Coby is on a Level 2 Plumbing Apprenticeship at our Mid Devon Campus
Level 2 Plumbing Apprenticeship
Former school: Tiverton High School
Why did you choose to study plumbing?
I have always been good with my hands and enjoyed the more practical subjects at school. A friend of mine was a plumber and recommended the course to me. Petroc is just down the road so I joined the Level 1 course.
What are your plans for the future?
I want to complete my Level 2, move to the Level 3 and complete the gas safe to become a fully qualified plumber. Eventually, I would like to set up on my own.
What are the advantages of an apprenticeship?
Getting paid to learn what you love. Doing different things at work every day.
Selena is on the Level 3 Apprenticeship in Business and Administration
Level 3 Apprenticeship in Business and Administration
Employer: Bay Lift Services Ltd
“I went onto an apprenticeship straight from school. For me, it was the obvious choice, as I was really keen to start working, but also wanted to earn my own money. I’ve always wanted to work in an office, and I thought the business and administration apprenticeship would give me a good range of skills that I could apply to lots of different work situations.
At Bay Lift Services I started off as a general apprentice but, over time, I’ve worked my way up and have been given more responsibility; I’m now the repairs administrator and am responsible for raising orders for parts. I find the work really interesting, as I get to liaise with lots of different people from all over the country.
As part of my course I’ve been able to choose units that directly relate to what I do at work, which has been really helpful. Also, whenever I’ve needed clarification on anything at work or needed extra help, college have been really supportive.
The company I work for are doing well and expanding, so I think there will be lots of opportunities over the next few years. Next year I’ll be doing the level 4 apprenticeship, which will hopefully give me the knowledge and experience to move into a managerial role in the future.”
Tim is currently on a Level 2 Apprenticeship in Painting and Decorating
Level 2 Apprenticeship in Painting and Decorating
“Originally I started at Petroc on a plumbing course, but this didn’t really work out and I found myself looking for other options. I knew I wanted to stay in the construction sector, so applied for a painting and decorating apprenticeship with Alec and Sue from Perfect Finish.
Right from the start they’ve been really supportive, and always let me get involved in whatever they’re doing, so I get lots of varied, practical experience.
As well as having good hand-eye coordination, you also need a number of other skills to be a successful painter and decorator, such as being good with customers, reliable, willing to work long hours and, sometimes, get up very early in the morning. It’s also a very physically demanding job, so you have to have a good level of fitness.
I enjoy both the theory as well as the practical. I make sure I ask lots of questions in class, as I find I learn a lot more if I’m getting involved and not just sitting there listening; I probably drive the people in my class mad, but I want to make sure I get as much out of the lesson as possible. So far it’s paying off, as I’ve got distinctions in nearly all of my modules this year.
Also, I competed in the South West regional heat for CITB’s Skillbuild competition and came second, which I was really pleased about. It was a tough day, with an early start, and we were only given the drawings on the day and then had to plan out our design and decide what order to do everything in, to ensure we finished on time. Luckily I’m pretty organised, so coped well with this, but there were a few people who struggled and didn’t finish.
Next year I’ll be progressing onto the second year of my course, which I’m already looking forward to. I hope to stay with Perfect Finish for a long time and maybe, one day, I’ll have the opportunity to take on the business or start my own.
This profession isn’t for everyone; you’re dependent on the weather so when it’s good you have to work extremely hard to make up for all the days when it’s raining and you can only do interior work. However, if you’re committed to what you do and build a good reputation for yourself you’ll always find work.”
Lea is on a Level 2 Apprenticeship in Business Administration
Level 2 Apprenticeship in Business Administration
“I originally started at Petroc on an A Level programme, but I felt under pressure due to the exams and didn’t really enjoy it.
I decided I wanted to go down the apprenticeship route instead, and started looking for employment. After applying for a lot of vacancies I was lucky enough to secure an apprenticeship with Inventive, a small design company based in Bishops Tawton, in their finance department. I find the apprenticeship suits my way of studying far better than A Levels, as it is all coursework-based.
On a typical day I work using their bespoke finance software to input jobs. I also proofread design jobs and liaise with clients. I’ve been able to select my modules at college to support my job, and have found the email and spreadsheet modules particularly helpful.
I have now been offered a permanent position at Inventive, and am gradually being given more responsibility. It’s a growing business so there should hopefully be plenty of opportunities to work my way up in the future. There are already talks of me moving up to a higher position, and getting another apprentice who I would be responsible for training.”
James is on a higher apprenticeship with Actavis (through the South West Apprenticeship Company)
Business and Administration Higher Apprenticeship (Level 4)
Employer: Actavis (through the South West Apprenticeship Company)
“I originally did work experience with a graphic design company, as I knew I wanted to pursue a career in the creative industries. However, no apprenticeships or jobs came up in this area so I decided to broaden my search.
I then saw the vacancy in the internal communications department at Actavis, and decided to apply, as I knew it would incorporate aspects of marketing, which meant I could use my creative side.
When I started with Actavis I didn’t know much about them, but as time has gone on I’ve become more and more engaged in what they do. I like the fact that each day is different, as I am constantly managing relationships between different stakeholders and different customers.
Everything I do at college underpins what I do in the workplace. It’s almost like I learn the core basics that apply to all businesses at college, and then have the opportunity to take this knowledge to work and put it straight into practice. The communications unit has been particularly useful, and has enabled me to improve the way I work with different departments within the business.
There are many benefits to doing an apprenticeship. I like having the two different sides; the classroom-based theory and the workplace element. I find it’s a good balance and makes me more rounded as an employee. The work experience element was a big draw for me, as I know how highly employers view real-life experience. It shows I have built life skills and know how to manage relationships in a professional way in the workplace. To have this on my CV at such a young age will hopefully increase my employability in the future.
From an employer’s point of view, they get to build an apprentice from the ground up. They can grow talent from the local area and then cherry pick the best of the best.
I think a lot of people don’t consider an apprenticeship, because they only think they can do one in stereotypical areas such as plumbing or construction. However, it’s not like that anymore. There are loads of business-type apprenticeships that can lead to management courses and university-level qualifications.
I’d like to stay with Actavis for the foreseeable future. It’s a fast-paced company with lots of opportunities, and I’d like to progress within my role. In the future I can see myself moving into a HR or Marketing position. The business administration apprenticeship has given me a great core understanding, which will enable me to then specialise in one particular area.
Through the South West Apprenticeship Company, Actavis and Petroc I feel like I have more than enough support with my apprenticeship and there’s always someone I can go to if I have a problem or need clarification on something.”
Sophie is on a higher apprenticeship at Actavis (through the South West Apprenticeship Company)
“I am a packaging technologist at Actavis, looking after the design and development of the packaging and bringing in new products. It’s a very specialist role and I find it really interesting.
I did A Levels, but found that I enjoyed working and earning money more than I enjoyed studying, so started to look for ways to combine the two. An apprenticeship seemed like the perfect solution.
Doing an apprenticeship really builds up your confidence, as you learn how to build real-life working relationships and also how to handle the stress and pressure that comes with working in a fast-paced company.
When I learn something in the classroom I find I can apply it to what I do at work straight away, and this is when it just ‘clicks’. It makes me understand why we learn the things we do – the classroom work provides the theory behind what I do at work. Everything I do at college supports what I do at Actavis, but in particular I find the work we do on spreadsheets, sensitive data, policies and procedures very useful.
Once I complete my apprenticeship I hope to be taken on at Actavis as a full time employee. I’d like to progress through the company, and eventually gain more responsibility and move into a management position. I’ve already talked with my employer about what courses I’d like to do next, so I think they’d support me to do more training in the future.
Before I started at Actavis I had no idea how many different types of apprenticeships there were. I’d really recommend the business administration route to anyone, as it’s a very broad qualification and can be applied to so many job roles in many different industries.”
Issie is on a higher apprenticeship at RES Devon Ltd
Employer: RES Devon Ltd
“I went straight from school onto a Level 2 apprenticeship with RES Devon, a renewable energy solutions company on Pottington. I started off as an admin assistant.
After a year the office manager at the company left, and I moved up to cover the role and at the same time embarked on a Level 3 apprenticeship. And, then, after a short break I progressed onto the Level 4 apprenticeship.
After GCSEs I knew that I wasn’t suited to learning in the classroom, and wanted to get out into the workplace and start earning and learning on the job. I’m so glad I realised this way of learning suited me early on, and didn’t go down the A Level route. Although A Levels are obviously for some people, I knew that they wouldn’t suit me.
I really like that, with an apprenticeship, you learn something in the classroom one day and then the next day you can apply it to the workplace rather than having to wait a year or so until you finish your course (by which time you might have forgotten it!).
Doing an apprenticeship has given me so much confidence. I used to be really shy, but being in an office with people who are older than me has meant I’ve had to grow up quickly and learn how to communicate with lots of different people. Also, as it’s quite a small firm I cover lots of different tasks, so have been able to acquire a broad range of office-based skills during my time at the company.
When I first started my apprenticeship I didn’t know where it would lead. I never, ever thought I’d now be doing a university-level qualification!
I think I will stay with my employer once I complete my apprenticeship, as they have invested a lot in me and have shaped me to fit the needs of their business. My role is very industry-specific and as a result I have a lot of specialist knowledge, which is obviously of benefit to the company. In the future I would like to progress into sales, or even into a management role. My employer is always keen to support training so hopefully I’ll have the opportunity to gain more qualifications over the coming years.”
Edward is on a Level 4 IT and Telecoms Advanced Apprenticeship
IT and Telecoms Advanced Apprenticeship Level 4 (Mid Devon Campus)
Employer: Kandy Solutions Ltd
“As well as being an apprentice, I am also studying a part time Foundation Degree in Computing at Petroc. I find the two work quite well together.
I originally started on an apprenticeship with a web development company, but unfortunately they had to downsize and I was let off. However, this didn’t put me off, as I could see the benefits of the apprenticeship route and, when a vacancy came up at Kandy Solutions, I applied for it and got the job.
I like the fact that, with an apprenticeship, you get actual industry experience and knowledge; something employers are always looking for. My assessor visits me in the workplace every other week and we work through the apprenticeship criteria, ensuring everything I’m doing at work relates to my qualification. The onsite assessment suits the type of business I work for, as we are only a team of three so spending time away from the office would impact on the business quite significantly.
Looking to the future, I hope to stay with my current employer and secure a full time position. I’d also like to top up my Foundation Degree into a full Honours degree, which will hopefully be available at Petroc by the time I’m at that stage.”
Sophie is on a Level 2 apprenticeship at Golds in Barnstaple
Hairdressing Apprenticeship Level 2
“I chose an apprenticeship because I thought it would be easier to learn in the hands-on environment of a salon. Also, the fact you get paid is a bonus.
I knew I didn’t want to come to college full time, as I was worried I might get bored. I like the fact that, with an apprenticeship, you get to try lots of different things and have a good balance of theory and practical learning.
Since I was little I’ve always wanted to be a hairdresser. I’d always ask for dolls for Christmas so I could practise doing their hair! So, for me, it was obvious which apprenticeship to pursue.
In the salon I like watching how the other stylists manage their time – something which is key to being successful as a hairdresser – and have picked up a lot of techniques from them. If I don’t understand anything they’re always really keen to help me, as is my employer.
I’m currently debating whether to do the Level 3 course. In the future I’d like to use my skills to travel the world, possibly on a cruise ship, so want to get the qualifications I need to do that. Eventually I’d like to either work as a mobile hairdresser or have my own little salon.
If you like learning on the job and are a hard worker, I’d definitely recommend an apprenticeship. It’s an opportunity to make a good impression in front of a potential employer, and could lead to a permanent job. It’s a foot in the door to the industry you want to work in.”
Find out more about the Hairdressing Apprenticeship at Level 2.
Lewis is on a Level 3 apprenticeship with Actavis (through the South West Apprenticeship Company)
Engineering Advance Apprenticeship Level 3 – North Devon
“I started at Petroc on an A Level programme, but I knew I didn’t want to go to university so, instead, started working full time when I finished.
However, I couldn’t see any career advances in my job, so decided to return to college to get some more qualifications. I’d already got used to working and getting paid, though, so wanted a way of combining both study and employment. This is why I chose an apprenticeship.
I chose engineering because I’d studied it for two years at school and really enjoyed it. Plus, there are lots of different avenues you can take within the industry.
As well as getting paid, I like the fact that, with an apprenticeship, you have the opportunity to put the skills you’ve learn in the classroom into practice immediately. Also, an apprenticeship gives you the chance to get used to working with people and how teams operate; a vital skills in the workplace.
From an employer’s point of view, they benefit from having an employee that they can shape to fit their business.
My goal is to get fully qualified and then move into management or project work. Like I said, there are lots of opportunities in this industry, so I’ll just see where my career takes me.
I’ve learnt quite a lot from the path I’ve taken through education. If I was to advise someone similar to me, who doesn’t necessarily want to follow the A Levels/university route, I’d say definitely consider an apprenticeship. You get real-life work experience and build contacts to help you find employment. In many ways I’d say that, because of this, apprentices have a head start over people who spend years and years studying before looking for a job.”
Peter embarked on an apprenticeship and turned his life around.
NVQ Professional Cookery Level 2 (Apprenticeship)
Employer: Manor House Café
“Finding an apprenticeship was a turning point for me.
I’ll be the first to admit that I was a difficult teenager. I fell into the wrong crowd and got wrapped up in a world of drugs, mainly cannabis, and got kicked out of school and fired from numerous jobs.
About a year ago I thought ‘enough is enough’ and was determined to sort my life out. I’d heard that apprenticeships were a good way to get into an industry, so started asking around in cafés and restaurants in my home town of Ilfracombe.
When I was at NDPLS [North Devon Personalised Learning Service] I did some professional cookery, and found it really interesting. In fact, my teachers there tried to encourage me to do cookery at college, but my head wasn’t in the right space at that time and I refused.
Anyway, after asking three times (!), I eventually got a job at Manor House Café.
At the very beginning, they made it clear that they had a strict no drugs policy. I knew there and then that I had to kick the habit if I wanted to succeed. If it wasn’t for my employer I don’t think I would have quit and who knows where I’d be now.
It’s been tough at times, I’m not going to lie. Friends sometimes mock me because I earn a lot less than them. But, I just think, at least I’m not in a dead-end job. I’m working my way up. And, I’m getting so much more from my employer than just a wage; they’re investing time in me and teaching me the skills I need to climb in this industry. You have to start somewhere!
My employer shows a real interest in what I’m doing on my course and after my ‘college day’ we spend time at work going over the new dishes I’ve learnt and he helps me with anything I’m unsure of. This works the other way too, and my lecturer at college is always there to offer advice with things I’m struggling with at work.
I definitely made the right choice in terms of entering the catering industry, as there are so many different job options. Everyone needs to eat so there’s always a need for a chef, wherever you are in the world.
I’d like to use my profession to travel in the future and am currently looking into how to become a chef in the Armed Forces.”
Adam is on a Level 2 Plumbing and Heating Apprenticeship
Plumbing and Heating Apprenticeship Level 2
Employer: Barton Plumbing and Heating, Tiverton
“At school I was never particularly academic, so I knew I wanted to do a course at college where I’d be doing a lot of hands-on learning.
I’d heard that there is money to be made in the trades, if you’re prepared to work hard and put in the hours. I’ve always considered myself a hard worker, so I started looking into the possibility of doing an apprenticeship.
I‘d also heard that there was a lot of plumbing work in the area, so I asked around many different employers. However, they all said they weren’t taking on apprentices at the moment.
Petroc knew I was looking for an apprenticeship and not long after this an employer contacted the college to say they were looking for an apprentice, and then the college contacted me.
I’m so glad I chose the apprenticeship route. The fact you get paid and you learn is a win-win situation.
And, from an employer’s perspective, they get to teach you exactly what it is their clients need and expect and shape you to fit their business.
As well as learning on the job, I also spend a day at college. The facilities in the new Future Technologies Centre are fantastic. There’s always plenty of room to work and I’ve never gone to get something and it not be there; it’s well stocked with all the latest equipment.
When I complete the Level 2 I will go straight onto the Level 3 apprenticeship. Then I’d like to start specialising and will look into additional courses.
Although I’m happy working as an employee at the moment, eventually I can 100% imagine running my own business and maybe even taking on an apprentice of my own one day.”
Callum is on a motor vehicle apprenticeship at our Mid Devon Campus
Case Study: Callum Macdougall
Light Vehicle Maintenance and Repair Advanced Apprenticeship (Level 3)
"Ever since I was young I’ve been interested in mechanics. I loved cars as a kid, and so did all my friends, so I always wanted to pursue a career in this field.
When I finished school I already knew I’d prefer a course where I could learn hands-on, rather than sitting in a classroom. Originally I applied for an apprenticeship programming laser machinery, but this fell through, so I took it upon myself to go out and find myself an employer so I could do a motor vehicle apprenticeship.
I approached Auto Service Garage in Seaton and I must have made a good impression because, the following Monday, I started my apprenticeship!
There are many benefits of doing an apprenticeship. For me, the main selling point was the fact I could learn on the job – I’ve always learnt better that way. I love being able to watch someone do something and then try it for myself straight afterwards. I think I get the best of both worlds because I get to be out and about in a real working environment, and then come to college one day a week to learn the theory to back up what I’m learning in the workplace.
The facilities in the new Future Technologies Centre are excellent. The workshop is twice the size of the one we had before and we’re using all new tools and ramps and there’s always a really wide range of vehicles for us to work on. It definitely feels like a real-life working environment.
At the moment my short-term goal is to successfully complete my Level 3 apprenticeship. After that, I plan to take a three-day course to become an MOT tester and also do an air conditioning course, as this will make me more employable and open up more job opportunities in the future."
Jack studied the Plumbing and Heating Advanced Apprenticeship (Gas) Level 3 and went on to win the UK Copper Board National Apprentice of the Year competition.
"After I returned from travelling, I was out of work and was willing to give anything a go to earn some money.
A local plumber, and a friend of mine, offered me a job as a labourer at his firm in Ashwater. At the time I just thought ‘I’ll wing it’, expecting to move onto something else after a year or so.
However, I grew to really love the job and also realised that I was actually quite good at learning on the job and picking things up quickly. Shortly after joining, my employer offered me an apprenticeship. I had already studied A Levels at Petroc, so it seemed like a natural choice to also do my apprenticeship through the college.
After that, everything just fell into place. I realised that I could make a career out of this if I wanted, and successfully became a certified plumber after completing the Level 2 qualification, and went on to win the UK Copper Board National Apprentice of the Year competition.
I’m currently on the Level 3 apprenticeship, to become a gas engineer. This will open up more opportunities for me, as I’ll be more skilled and therefore more employable. Ultimately, this will hopefully mean I can earn a higher wage when I complete my course.
Eventually I can see myself doing the Level 4, which is a degree-level qualification. However, this is something most people do after they have been working in the industry for a while and have gained lots of experience, so it’ll be something to consider down the line. For now I’ll continue working for my current employer, as he’s been so supportive and is always opening up opportunities for me to try new things and increase my skills. I am now involved in pricing and invoicing for jobs, as well as shadowing on more complex projects, which are all skills that’ll set me in good stead for the future.
I’d recommend an apprenticeship to anyone, as it’s a great way of gaining hands-on, real world experiences, all whilst getting paid. As a result of winning the national competition I’ve given several talks to students about the benefits of doing an apprenticeship, and everyone I’ve spoken to says they find hands-on, practical work a far more enjoyable way of learning."
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