Through the eyes of an Apprentice: Meg

    We talked to Meg Fenner Jamieson, of the CMD Recruitment marketing team, about how an apprenticeship was the right choice for her career. 

    Our conversation, lightly edited for clarity, follows.


    Jenny Macdonald

    What motivated you to choose an apprenticeship?


    Meg Fenner Jamieson

    I was tired of the education system and didn’t know what I wanted to do at Uni. I wasn’t prepared to choose a course I’d be stuck in for 3-4 years to potentially not want a career in when I left. 

    Apprenticeships were never really shown to me as a valuable option – I feel like schools make University feel like the only choice when actually, apprenticeships are becoming more and more valuable, especially to employers. 

    I saw an advert for apprenticeships, researched the options, and went for it. Now, compared to my friends at university, I’m already qualified, and I’m working and gaining experience in my industry. It just seemed to make sense.

    Being tired of the education system made the decision a lot easier too; you’ve likely heard the saying 'students are treated like kids but expected to act like adults' and it resonated so strongly across my last few months in education. The workload and expectation got higher but the level of respect and trust did not.


    Jenny Macdonald

    What did your friends and family think of your choice?


    Meg Fenner Jamieson

    Haha, my mum was very nervous. After coming to all my parent’s evenings over the years and being told how bright I am and how well I’d do at Uni, I think she thought I was wasting my talents. But reading over the course guidelines and realising the qualifications and experience I would gain she came around pretty quickly, and she now agrees with me that it was the best choice I could have made for my career.

    My friends were all pretty shocked; they were all picking their courses and writing their personal statements, so for me to come back on the first day of A-Levels and announce I was leaving was surprising for them.


    Jenny Macdonald

    How did you find the right apprenticeship for you?


    Meg Fenner Jamieson

    It almost feels like it found me as I was never looking for an apprenticeship or even considering leaving sixth-form until a Skillwise advert popped up on Facebook, promoting a Marketing and Administration course – paid for by my employer whilst gaining a qualification at the same time. 

    At the time, it was the summer between AS Levels and A Levels and I was sat in the break room at my part-time supermarket job. The advert promoted an initial 
    2-week residential where we’d learn alongside other apprentices, the basics of our course. We then returned for 8 weeks with our employer and then attended a final 2-week residential to complete our learning. The quality of training provided during those residentials was the perfect level for beginners like us, and I made friends that I still keep in touch with to this day. 


    Jenny Macdonald

    Where did you work and what did you study?


    Meg Fenner Jamieson

    My employer at the time was a fantastic man named Lee Chappell at Clearsky I.T. who was paramount in allowing me to complete my Level 3 NVQ Diploma in Marketing and Administration. I owe a lot to that man and I feel like a big part of my success during my apprenticeship was due to him always allowing me the opportunities I needed.

    Tip: when interviewing for an apprenticeship, remember that your employer is not only your boss but your teacher. Make sure they’re kind-hearted.


    Jenny Macdonald

    Tell us about your day-to-day routine as an apprentice...


    Meg Fenner Jamieson

    It would depend on the day, but it would generally be a mixture of coursework and office work. As my coursework evidence depended a lot on the work I did for the business, we’d often target specific business-tasks to align with certain parts of my coursework (the sign of a great boss!). One day I may have been typing up evidence from a business exhibition, another day designing a website for a client. The variety of the role was one of the things I loved.


    Jenny Macdonald

    What sort of skills and experience did you gain during your apprenticeship?


    Meg Fenner Jamieson

    Oh, where do I start? First off, let’s make something clear; I knew nothing about marketing before I started my Apprenticeship. Ask me what it was I probably would’ve said TV adverts and been done with it. I would not be in the career I am today without completing the apprenticeship I did.

    Although not all apprenticeships will offer this, I found the 2-week residentials were a great experience for meeting people working towards the same goals and going through the same process I was. We all learnt the 'basics of marketing' together, and used each other as resources when we returned to our own workplace. This itself is a great way to introduce young people to professional networking and the power of strong relationships in business. It’s all about who you know, after all.

    In terms of my technical skill, it’s literally gone from 0 to 100. Maybe more like 0 to 70, but you know what I mean. I now have a strong understanding of copywriting, digital and print marketing, the importance of SEO and PPC, basic web design skills and office admin - and that’s just scratching the surface. The skills I learned during my apprenticeship are currently allowing me to work with one of the top recruitment consultants in Wiltshire alongside a digital marketing manager who’s worked with the likes of The Guardian and Vogue.


    Jenny Macdonald

    What were the best bits?


    Meg Fenner Jamieson

    I feel like the perfect thing about an apprenticeship is you learn so much on the job; although I had set coursework I needed to complete, I picked up so much general business knowledge, because you’re kind of forced to. It’s not like University, where everything you learn is essentially theory – implementing what I learned as I learned it allowed me to understand what practices actually work best in the real world. 

    You also gain a lot of confidence and of course, experience. Not only do I understand the general ‘rules’ of working in a business (or 'company culture' if you’re fancy), I can handle myself professionally and, with a good amount of experience already behind me, I’m taken more seriously by people who often wouldn’t listen to a “youngster” like me.


    Jenny Macdonald

    And the worst?


    Meg Fenner Jamieson

    Unfortunately, the training providers managing my apprenticeship were organised pretty poorly. I had different assessors throughout my course, which kept things quite unhinged, and it was confusing switching coursework between assessors. In the end, my final assessor left the business just before my apprenticeship end date, delaying my qualifications certificates by a good few months.
     
    Tip: Apprentices – regardless of what’s happening with your training providers, keep pushing forward, completing coursework and gathering evidence. As long as you complete everything on your end, it’s up to them to make sure they’re organised!
     
    Tip: Employers – be patient with your apprentices as they manage both workloads, especially as the assessors can be causing background problems you may not see.
     
    And then there's the pay; it’s a well-known fact that apprentice pay is pretty poor in this country. Fortunately, my employer at the time was a kind soul and regularly reviewed and raised my pay before my apprenticeship ended.


    Jenny Macdonald

    How could things improve?


    Meg Fenner Jamieson

    I think there’s a lot that can be done to improve apprenticeships and the way people view them, starting with schools and how we educate students about their choices. When finishing my GCSE’s, it was very clear which options teachers assumed were best for me (and everyone else).

    The typical path 
    of sixth-form – university - career, was pushed onto me as much as everyone else, with college seen as a less attractive option and apprenticeships rarely mentioned – the impression I got from teachers was that apprenticeships were for ‘the uneducated and/or labourers’. Only a good option if you want to be a bricklayer or a hairdresser.

    I cannot tell you how far from the truth this is, and how many different types of apprenticeships there are out there now.


    Jenny Macdonald

    What would your advice be to someone considering an apprenticeship?


    Meg Fenner Jamieson

    I strongly urge anyone considering an apprenticeship to not be put off by the stigma that often comes with. I honestly believe apprenticeships are about to become a huge resource for businesses, as they look for employers with relevant real-world experience.
     
    They’re also a fantastic way to learn on the job, whilst earning money at the same time. Not only that, but you’re gaining experience in an industry you could be choosing a career in, broadening your opportunities further down the line.
     
    If you’re at that choosing stage (whether that’s after GCSEs or A Levels) I cannot stress to you enough the importance of investigating apprenticeships in your area, especially if you want to get out the education system and into the real world.