My Apprenticeship

As part of National Apprenticeship Week, I was invited to be interviewed on BBC Radio Shropshire about my apprenticeship at Wenlock Books. Whilst exciting, this very last minute plan resulted in my live radio chat occurring less than 15 minutes after I’d woken up and before I’d managed to get dressed. Consequently the Jasmine speaking on the phone had not eaten or had a drink and was stood in the hallway at the phone in just a t-shirt and pants. Needless to say, not my finest hour (4 minutes).

Because I wasn’t as coherent as I’d have like to have been during my radio interview, I thought that I would discuss my apprenticeship in more detail here.

Back in August 2014, I wasn’t so sure what to do next. I’d just finished my maths A-Level which had taken me an extra year to complete and I was stuck not knowing what to do. My health was improving but I certainly wasn’t anywhere near ready for full-time employment and I didn’t have any interest in spending a 4th year at sixth form doing A-Levels. I was at a bit of a loose end because having just finished full-time education and also having just turned 19, I had lost all of the benefits that under-18s are given. Suddenly I had a prescription to pay for every month but because I wasn’t able to work I had no means to pay for it by myself.

After contacting lots of different government helplines I was faced with 2 options. I could claim benefits and be classed as ‘too unwell for work’ or I could continue as I was. I certainly didn’t need to claim sickness benefits so my only option was to carry on working the Saturday afternoons that I could and be supported by my parents.

I was discussing this with my boss, Anna, and completely out of the blue she suggested I did an apprenticeship with her at the shop. She said she knew someone who had organised one before and was determined to make it work. Hands down, this is the best opportunity that I have ever been given and I am very, very grateful.

As I wasn’t able to do an apprenticeship full-time (between about 30 and 40 hours a week), it took quite a long time to get the process started but we ploughed on and I was enrolled on the 9thof February. Although I’ve not officially been an apprentice for very long, I’ve been working in the shop as an apprentice since September and I absolutely love it.

Below I’ll properly answer the questions that I was asked by Jim Hawkins!

How long is the apprenticeship?
I’m doing a part-time apprenticeship which is 16 hours a week and I work that in 4 sessions of 4 hours. I spend 12 hours a week in the shop and then 4 hours at home where I work on social media and the newsletter. I also have coursework to be completed separately (unpaid) and I meet with my tutor in the shop every few weeks. It’s a 14 month course but that’s not a strict timeframe; I could finish sooner if I complete the coursework before then and equally if it takes me a bit longer, that’s fine too.

What will it lead to?
I’m doing a Level 2 Retail Apprenticeship which is a stand-alone qualification although it can lead to more qualifications. There are 3 levels of Retail Apprenticeships but in a small business it’s not possible to complete a Level 3 because the course involves managing large groups of employees (there’s not many of us at Wenlock Books!) and also involves training (there’s no-one for me to train!). Many of the large retail chains run management training schemes and would accept this qualification as a step towards something bigger but it’s also a respectable apprenticeship to have in other fields of work.

How much do you get paid?
The minimum wage for apprentices aged 16, 17 and 18 or for 19 year olds in their first year of their course is £2.73. I’m very lucky to be paid higher than this; I’m paid higher than the standard minimum wage for my age group (min. wage is £5.13 an hour).

How do your friends feel about your apprenticeship and how do you feel about what they do?
All of my friends are at university which if I hadn’t been unwell, I would be too. I’d never considered doing anything other than university but I love my apprenticeship so much that I can’t imagine doing anything else. I find it so exciting to be able to learn through practical work and I feel valued and useful in a way which has helped my confidence tremendously. It’s so lovely to be able to work in an environment where you can see the difference that your work makes and where customers and employees are treated as friends. This is certainly something that I would never trade for a place at university and I’m no longer viewing university as a must. I’m actually not sure how my friends feel about my apprenticeships – if any of my friends read this, please let me know what you think!

What do you enjoy the most about your apprenticeship?
Being a part of a wonderful community is what I enjoy the most. Every day I get to meet new people who all share a similar interest, be it poetry; books; reading; or supporting independent businesses. I’m able to learn about business by being part of every aspect and that’s an opportunity that small businesses can give you. I’m also very lucky that I work with such an understanding boss because she has allowed me to recover in my own time and has given me a place from home where I feel safe which has calmed my anxiety. Honestly, I love everything about my job and I’m so lucky that I’m able to do it.

If anyone has any other questions, please ask! Also, if you or someone you know is thinking about an apprenticeship then please share this with them and I’ll leave some links below to helpful websites.