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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!
Lucy is in her second year of the Level 3 BTEC Extended Diploma in Business.
Lucy is in her second year of the Level 3 Extended Diploma in Business at our Mid Devon Campus.
She previously went to Cullompton Community College.
Lucy started an A-level course at Exeter college but soon realised that she wanted to study a more project-based business course. She found that Petroc Mid Devon offered a Level 3 Business course and, as she could drive here each day instead of using public transport, she decided to switch.
Currently in her 2nd year, Lucy really enjoys the practical elements of the course and the creative projects she works on – the BTEC suits her better as she finds she enjoys course work more than essay-writing.
“Petroc offers more of a community feel than my previous college and I feel like the staff here are all family members, helping me to succeed. The flexibility of timetables here means I can work part-time too," she said.
Lucy plans to achieve a law degree and hopes to practise family law.
“Self-belief is really important – at Petroc, I quickly realised I was on the right course, as my grades improved dramatically”.
Nikki Page is studying the Foundation Degree in Computing at our North Devon Campus.
It was the location for sure; being so close makes it very convenient for me.
What made you pick this particular study programme?
I never chose a career when I left school. In a previous job I became interested in computers and soon went to another job where I was tasked to test faulty parts in computers. At the beginning I was tasked with thousands of item numbers which I would have to input by hand each and every day – very time consuming as you can imagine. After a short while I created a bespoke system which made the process of inputting the item numbers automated – it was at this point that I realised I wanted to become a developer.
I did apply for a number of jobs but I didn't have the qualifications required, so when I saw that Petroc offered the Foundation Degree in Computing I applied without hesitation.
Which elements of your study programme do you particularly enjoy?
I enjoy the programming side the most, particularly as it’s the aspect that I hold the most experience in.
What have been the highlights? Winning the Best Student Award in IT & Engineering at the college’s annual awards was a huge highlight. Because I'm a mature student, when I first applied I had no idea about the ability of the other learners and I was worried they would be well ahead. With this in mind, to get such an accolade was fantastic!
It’s a quiet and relaxed atmosphere. I've also had largely the same class throughout my time studying here, so it makes it easy to talk to likeminded people about the topic. In comparison to other Higher Education providers, our classes are much smaller so we're spoilt in terms of access to lecturers’ knowledge.
What do you plan to do when you immediately leave college?
I'm hoping that my studies will help me get a job in a SCRUM team – a group of developers that work together to find solutions to computer-based problems.
Advice for anybody thinking about studying the same course as you?
If it’s something that you want to do, do it as soon as possible. It's too easy to let time fly! As a mature student, I wish I had enrolled here sooner.
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.”
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)
North Devon Campus
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.”
Toby is on the Extended Diploma in Business and hopes to go to Harper Adams University after he finishes college.
Level 3 Extended Diploma in Business
Former school: Budehaven Community School
“I come from a farming background, growing up on a dairy farm, and ever since I was about 10 I’ve wanted to become an auctioneer.
I chose to study business at college, as I knew it would give me the basic skills needed to pursue a career in this industry, such as an understanding of finance and balance sheets. To be a successful auctioneer you need to have good communication skills, both written and verbal, as well as excellent numeracy skills and an ability to process financial data; all things which I cover on my course.
Alongside my course, I also get involved in lots of other extra-curricular activities. Until recently I was the Student Union’s Entertainment Officer, organising tech dances, the freshers’ fayre and the laser tag, as well as other college events.
I also do a show on Fresh FM – our student radio station. I really enjoy it and it’s been really good for building my confidence and also for meeting lots of new friends.
I think it’s so important to get involved at college; I believe the more you put in, the more you get out. Plus it looks great on your CV to show that you’re keen to get involved and can balance other responsibilities alongside studying.
When I first started at college I was a bit nervous, as it’s a long way from Bude and I was worried I wouldn’t know anyone. However, I soon realised that everyone is in the same boat and it didn’t take long to settle in. Like I said previously, I think the fact that I got involved with the extra-curricular activities really helped. Plus, the support from tutors and lecturers has been fantastic and I feel like there’s always someone I can talk to if needed.
After college I plan to go to Harper Adams University to study Rural Enterprise and Land Management and then, hopefully, I’d like to work abroad as a dairy auctioneer, perhaps in either Canada or Holland, as I think it would be a great experience to work in a different country and learn about their cultures and customs.”
Sophie is on a higher apprenticeship at Actavis (through the South West Apprenticeship Company)
Business and Administration Higher Apprenticeship (Level 4)
Employer: 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.”
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)
“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.”
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.”
Helena studied Level 3 Business at Petroc and has recently joined PricewaterhouseCoopers on their graduate scheme
Extended Diploma in Business (Level 3)
“I started at Petroc on an A Level programme, but it wasn’t for me so I took a year out and got a job at Tesco. I then returned to college and started on a business course, as I wanted to do something that would increase my employability and give me a broad range of skills that I could apply to lots of different jobs.
I had never studied business before, so it was a bit of a gamble. However, almost immediately I knew I’d made the right choice; I loved it and ended up getting distinctions on all 18 modules.
At the time I was exam phobic, so the fact the course was all coursework based really suited my way of learning. Also, all the lecturers on the course were really supportive and genuinely cared about you and showed an interest in your ambitions and plans for the future.
After Petroc, I went to Royal Holloway University in London to study Business Management. Initially I found it a big step up from college, and also struggled being so far from home. However, it didn’t take me long to settle in and when I started I already knew that I wanted to do my very best to get a First, so I just kept thinking of the end goal when things got tough. And it worked! Last week I got my results and passed my degree with a First.
During my second year at university I carried out a week’s placement at PricewaterhouseCoopers, on their Shadow Female Leader Programme. They’re one of the top employers for females, and support women in leadership positions, so it was a fantastic opportunity to see what I could achieve if I work hard.
At the end of the placement I was offered a place on their graduate scheme, and from this September I’ll be doing HR consulting. I’ve always been really interested in HR, and even carried out work experience in Petroc’s HR department when I was at college.
In my role I’ll be working with clients, developing their HR strategy and looking at ways to change their reward scheme etc. It’ll all be about taking a step back and looking at the bigger picture, which is the part of HR that I most enjoy.
PricewaterhouseCoopers are a global company, so there will be plenty of opportunities for me to travel. I’m already planning to apply for a two year placement in New York, to gain experience and build my confidence.
I know it’ll be a high pressured job but I think I have a good work ethic, and am pretty good at coping with stress, so hopefully I’ll be ok. I’m also going to be studying an ACA to become a qualified accountant alongside my job, so I’ll have to manage my time well. My goal is to become a director within ten years!
My advice to anyone applying for competitive graduate jobs would be to demonstrate that you’re willing and able to do more than just study. These days everyone has a ‘good’ degree, so you have to be able to offer more. When I was at uni I took part in the IBM University Business Challenge and our team came eighth out of 312. I also led the ambassador programme whilst at uni, which I hope shows I can juggle lots of different things at once; something which is essential if you want to be successful in the workplace.”
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.”
Chloe is on a traineeship programme and works at North Devon Homes in their customer care team.
Employer: North Devon Homes
“I initially started at college on a travel and tourism course but, although I got good grades, I realised I didn’t want to go into that industry. However, I did really enjoy the business aspects of the course, so instead started thinking about what I could study in that area.
A friend of mine recommended a traineeship; a ‘dedicated programme for 16-24 year olds, which focusses on helping people find employment and gain the necessary skills through a substantial work placement.’
On the traineeship I work at North Devon Homes four days a week, as part of their customer care team, and will be here for eight weeks in total. In this role I’m developing a wide range of skills; I carry out general admin tasks, including processing customer feedback sheets and logging the incoming post. I’m learning the importance of team work and always offer to help others when I can. I really enjoy being in an office environment and am interested to learn more about the different job roles within the business.
The position I filled was initially advertised as an apprenticeship, but following advice from the college the company decided to go down a traineeship route instead. So, depending on my performance, I’m hoping to role straight onto an apprenticeship with North Devon Homes after I finish my traineeship. The feedback from my employer has been really positive so far, so I’m hopeful this will be the case.
A traineeship is a great option for an employer, as it gives both them and the student the opportunity to see if they are suited to the job before committing to a more long-term arrangement. That way, the employer can rest assured that they have employed someone who is competent and committed to the job.
I can see myself staying at North Devon Homes for a long time, as there are so many opportunities to progress within the business. I hope that I’ll also get the chance to do more training in the future.”
Update: Chloe has since been offered an apprenticeship at North Devon Homes, starting 7 March 2016.
What does Chloe’s manager say…?
Allison Bird is the Customer Services Manager at North Devon Homes and overseas Chloe’s traineeship placement.
“A traineeship gives someone who is looking for employment the chance to learn about an area that they might not necessarily have considered otherwise. Housing is a sector that people don’t always consider but, in fact, once they get here they realise how rewarding it can be.
The skills that students learn here are very portable and can be applied to a variety of different sectors. From an employer’s perspective, it’s nice to know you’ve given someone skills that will stay with them forever.
We’re always very keen to support both traineeships and apprenticeships, as we understand how important it is to give someone hands-on experience. I particularly like the fact that the Petroc assessors come out to the workplace and see the students in a working environment, so they get a really good understanding of how they are applying what they’ve learnt at college to their job.
Also, having the assessment onsite helps us build solid relationships with the college. We are now at a stage where we can go to Petroc and say ‘right, we have this vacancy to fill – what are our options?’. That’s actually how we discovered traineeships. I hadn’t heard of them until I spoke to someone at the college, but now I would definitely recommend them to other employers.”
Kane is on a Business Administration Apprenticeship with Collyers Estate Agents
Diploma in Business Administration Level 2 (apprenticeship)
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.”
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