The importance of quality and teamwork in apprenticeships

After being awarded Entrepreneur of the Year 2018, I’ve decided to take a step back from my day to day duties and reflect on my journey so far. Given that it’s National Apprenticeship Week, I’d like to look at how a solid apprenticeship (or lack of), started just 4 years ago, led me into the start of a successful entrepreneurial career.

Having struggled throughout education with the lack of flexibility and autonomy to demonstrate my skills, I was determined to make something of myself through the apprenticeship route. For months I feared that my lower-than-average grades were going to negatively affect me securing a solid apprenticeship - thankfully they didn’t, but it did make it a lot harder.

I started my apprenticeship in July 2015, working as a Business Development Executive for a well-known sports company. It was here where I quickly realised that the world of apprenticeships had a lot of inconsistencies, mainly around the quality and deliverables being so varied from company to company.

On the face of it, I joined a company that had everything going for it. A huge online presence, nationwide expansion, amazing office culture - but crucially no apprenticeship infrastructure. Nothing to help with my development, nobody to ask questions, and nobody that understood what my course entailed. On my first day I was thrown in at the deep end and for 3 months I had no real guidance. Funnily enough, I always look back and think that apprenticeship made me. I had to learn the hard way, but my drive and determination allowed me to quickly get past hurdles where many other apprentices simply crashed. I then decided that if I could match my work ethic with an organisation that had a strong training infrastructure for apprentices I would have a chance to go very far - and I did. So 3 months later I left the glamour of a ‘fashionable’ brand and joined a small startup in the city.

It was in my new apprenticeship where I really started to understand my capabilities. I was working alongside another apprentice and we worked with our Team Leader to ensure that the framework was getting completed to the correct standard. We were encouraged to take time out of our schedules and go for a coffee to sit down and talk about our work, challenges and projects to ensure that we could iron out any inconsistencies and also lack of knowledge that we may have had. Over a period of 2 years we progressed arguably quicker and more successfully than any of the businesses previous hires. Working side by side was an incredible move by the company as without realising, we were driving each other on, increasing our performance and improving our capabilities which benefited all parties. When comparing my first apprenticeship to my second, it was extremely eye opening for me to hit the realisation of what I could be doing right now, had I not have left. What’s more concerning for me is how many other students in this situation currently, without actually realising it?

If I was to advise anybody on an apprenticeship it would be to start building relationships with other students on your course that you can bounce ideas off each other and ultimately make your development much more efficient and effective. Not only will you be able to make a judgement on the quality of your course, but you’ll also be able to action and potentially realign your career if there are things going wrong.

I’m always available to talk to about apprenticeships, and having gone from being an apprentice to an employer I believe I am well suited to be able to offer impartial advice on your career development. Please reach out.

You can connect with Josh Dixon on LinkedIn here.

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