How my apprenticeship got me a top job at BTJohn Clarke, aged 29 from London.
My ICT Apprenticeship with BT has been the foundation of 11 successful years working within the industry. Since graduation, I have transitioned from engineering into leadership, with four promotions in seven years - putting me in the privileged position of being able to give something back.
I organise events and development opportunities to expand apprentice learning beyond their scheme. I invest my time and effort in apprentices as they are our future leaders and change agents, bringing fresh ideas and enthusiasm to our business.
If you’d like to know my story, please continue reading…
1. What company are you working for? What does the company do?
I work for BT - we use the power of communications to make a better world.
BT is one of the world’s leading communications services companies, serving the needs of customers in the UK and in around 180 countries worldwide.
Most people use BT’s products and services every day. Whether you are calling your friend, surfing the internet or watching television – we make it happen!
2. What's your role within the company? What do you find most interesting and/or enjoyable about the work you're doing?
I am a Technical Manager responsible for one of BT’s largest gateway services, ensuring our IT resources are ready to meet current and future business requirements, as well as the needs of over 185,000 customers.
I also have an informal role as an apprentice coach and mentor. I take apprentices on visits to key sites, such as the BT Tower in London, so they can see the opportunities that exist within the business. I also organise career development days so that they can start to think about what they want to do once they have completed their apprenticeship. It’s incredibly rewarding and to date more than 4000 apprentices have been through these programmes.
3. How do you expect your career to develop at this company?
My career has developed so much since starting my apprenticeship – I’ve already been promoted four times. BT has a great track record of nurturing apprentices, and there are former apprentices working at all levels of the business – even the chairman started his career as an apprentice.
4. What kind of training do you get as part of your apprenticeship?
As an apprentice, I earnt a salary whilst working alongside and learning from experienced BT colleagues to gain job-specific skills. In addition, I spent one week in four at college studying for a BTEC National Award qualification, and completed an NVQ Level 3 during my apprenticeship.
I decided to do an advanced apprenticeship with BT, but there are many different types to choose from, including degree apprenticeships. You can find out more here: http://www.btplc.com/Careercentre/ea...ship/index.htm.
5. Describe a typical study day on your apprenticeship.
Study days can be quite varied in BT, ranging from BTEC and NVQ assignments, to visits to key BT sites and career development days. The BT apprenticeship programme ensures you get a well-rounded development, and empowers apprentices to raise their hand for any opportunity they feel would benefit their learning.
6. How many years will your apprenticeship take? How does the course develop as you progress? What qualification will you come out with?
It took three years to complete my apprenticeship, with responsibilities ramping up over time. As my skills progressed, I started to work on my own and became a subject matter expert – my colleagues now shadow me to learn new skills.
I graduated with a BTEC National Award and NVQ Level 3 in Telecommunications. I also signed up for BT’s continuing education programme, and started a degree in Business Management whilst still an apprentice. BT funded half of the course costs, as well as provided mentors and support to help me achieve the best result possible.
7. Tell us the most interesting thing that's happened during your apprenticeship.
During the second year of my apprenticeship, I was asked to manage a team of eleven other apprentices to deliver a career development seminar for 200 people. It was a huge undertaking, working with many different people across the business, including BT board members. The event was a huge success, and it helped me develop many skills – many of which I still use today.
8. What made you choose an apprenticeship rather than other forms of education?
Before enrolling on an apprenticeship, I was on track for a place at university, but after speaking to my dad I reconsidered my options.
My dad joined BT as an apprentice and worked for the company for 40 years. I spoke to him about career choices and decided it made sense to get a job and develop the skills that employers need straightaway.
I left school in the summer of 2005 and joined BT as an apprentice a couple of months later.
It was an outstanding career choice and I would later go to university part time – I found that having work experience really helped me achieve the best possible result in my degree.
9. How has your apprenticeship developed you as a person?
When I left school I wasn’t sure what I wanted to do, but the apprenticeship gave me the sense of purpose of was looking for.
Working with BT enabled me to see what it was I wanted to do, and gain the skills I needed to progress.
The apprenticeship has made me who I am today, which is why I continue to organise events and opportunities to support the next generation of apprentices. I’ve been through an incredible development journey and the apprenticeship is the foundation upon which I have built a successful career.
10. What's your career ambition? How do you think your apprenticeship will help you achieve that ambition?
My ambition is to one day head up BT’s apprenticeship programme and I feel my background as an apprentice will play a vital role in realising this dream.
The apprenticeship taught me a key learning philosophy – gain hands on experience along with formal qualifications to achieve career success.
This concept has already helped me in my career. For example, whilst studying part time for a degree, I asked for additional responsibilities and coaching at work. This extra learning and support benefitted my academic work, whilst what I learnt at university, helped me to improve in my day job.
I have repeated this model several times to learn and grow – achieving four promotions. The apprenticeship learning philosophy is the key that unlocks your potential.
11. How else do you think your apprenticeship will affect your working life?
There is a strong comradery among the BT apprentices, and this has stayed with us as we have progressed in our careers.
Since 2013, I have chaired BT’s Apprentice Alumni, which helps more than 4000 former apprentices keep in touch and make the most of the grounding they got as an apprentice. There is a real sense of community, with us all working our way up the company together – helping each other to be the best we can be.
12. Who has been the most influential person on your career and training during your apprenticeship?
The most influential person on my career has been my colleague and mentor – Adam Oliver. He is a former graduate who has the same passion for helping Apprentices that I do.
Together, we have organised hundreds of events and opportunities to help Apprentices learn more about the company and themselves.
We work in our spare time (evenings and weekends), running programmes such as Knowing BT and have since taken 3000 apprentices on visits to different parts of the organisation. Also, What Next, an annual career development day for apprentices where they get to speak to and hear from senior BT people, up to and including our CEO.
We know of no other company that invests in Apprentices as we do – all this and more is why I am this year’s Apprenticeship Champion for the UK.
13. How much advice and support about apprenticeships did you get when you were at school/college? How did this compare with the advice you were given about other educational routes?
When I was at school, careers advice was very limited – the only option was university, and there was a lot of peer pressure too.
It was only through speaking to my dad that I got a balanced view and was able to make a more informed decision.
Nowadays, the level of support is much greater, with a lot more assessable information to help students make the right decision for them.
14. What advice would you give to someone thinking of doing an apprenticeship?
I would say do your research and choose carefully – make sure it’s the right company and industry for you and then go for it.
You can learn more, including what apprenticeships are available in your area here: https://www.gov.uk/apprenticeships-guide.
I would also highly recommend BT’s Apprenticeship scheme, which has helped me get to where I am today: http://www.btplc.com/Careercentre/ea...s/apprentices/.
If you have any unanswered questions, please ask the site admins for my email address and I would be more than happy to have a conversation. I wish you the very best for your career. John.
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