You’ve read the features, you’ve seen the opportunities on our website, but what’s it really like to be an apprentice?
We thought we’d have a chat with a couple of apprentices from O2 to find out what they get up to and whether they’d recommend it to other people. After all, there’s no better way to gain skills for work than learning on the job…
Jo Douse had the opportunity to go to university but chose to do an apprenticeship instead. “I decided I’d rather get started on my career path early rather than go to university and study a degree that I probably wouldn’t end up having a job using,” he says. Jo’s coming to the end of a higher apprenticeship, which mean he’s spent three years doing placements in various departments at O2, including working on the launch of their 4G services and his current placement in project management.
And it sounds like he’s been kept pretty busy during his time at O2: “I’ve got about three projects I’m managing at the moment,” he says. “I’m working with a small team of engineers, liaising with clients and programme managers to plan projects. It’s also my responsibility to deal with stakeholders in these projects to make sure they’re all happy.”
Through his higher apprenticeship, Jo also studies for a foundation degree with the Open University, but has found it tough to manage his time between studying and working. “We get given a day a week to work on our degree but obviously there is self-study time as well after work,” he explains. “You have to be quite strict and make sure you actually do the work and don’t get behind. But those time management skills are useful in your career as well.”
Even when he is finding it a bit tough, Jo says that the support O2 gives him is great: “I’ve had a good manager as well as various mentors in the business who’ve really helped me pick up skills and decide what I want to do with my career,” he says. “Even the other apprentices help you out – they understand what you’re going through and are in the best position to offer advice.”
Joanne Powell’s on the advanced apprentice programme, which is very similar to the higher programme but is just two years as opposed to three and apprentices work towards a BTEC qualification, rather than a foundation degree. Joanne decided to do an apprenticeship as, at the end of her A-levels, she felt like her college was pushing her into university but she wasn’t sure what she wanted to do.
“I didn’t want to spend three years of my life studying a subject I didn’t know I wanted a career in,” she says, although she admits that she wasn’t specifically looking for a tech job when she saw the O2 apprenticeships being advertised. “I wanted to look for companies that were well-known and had a developed apprenticeship scheme in place. O2 looked really good and there’s a guaranteed job at the end as well as all the experience you get.”
She’s currently working in the supply chain department, specifically on the O2 Recycle campaign. “It’s a lot about partner relationships and working with external suppliers,” she explains. “A colleague and I manage the relationship between us and the external company who run O2 Recycle. We need to make sure that they’re delivering what they said they would in the contract and any issues that come up, we’re the first point of contact at O2.”
One of the best things about doing an apprenticeship is that you get to experience a lot of different parts of the company; Joanne’s worked in messaging and services and security and access control (which is all about helping O2 employees work from home) and she says that those placements helped her to work out where she might like to work when her apprenticeship finishes later this year.
Because of her experience, Joanne promotes the apprenticeship programme at schools and various events around the country. “I know when I was younger my college and school were really pushing everyone towards university and there wasn’t really anything out there to promote apprenticeships, but they really are a great opportunity,” she says.
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