Apprentice Diaries

Our First Apprentice

If I rewind to 1991, I can remember my first day as an Apprentice at Nortel Networks in Paignton, Devon. Nortel was a ‘massive’ telecoms company with c2000+ people at the time. Not only was I the youngest in the company, but also 1 of only 2 apprentices taken on that year, and apart from a small intake the following year, one of the last apprentices. I can clearly remember being extremely nervous, and not knowing much about the world of work, let alone anything at all about laser diodes, PUMP lasers, telecoms transceivers or much at all.  Not wanting to go down the university route, but keen to earn a living and have a career, Nortel was the greatest start I could have imagined. Thinking about it now, it was impossible to know how much I was about to learn in such a short period of time.

Fast forward now to 2019, and apprenticeships are making a massive come back. The country is starting to realise that we need to invest in the next generation, and that a young person, with the right attitude, and the right support, can quickly become a benefit to a company.So, after couple of weeks of interviews, and some much-needed help and support from South Devon College, Jasmine started with us on the 11th February 2019. Over the next 12 months Jasmine will be our Business/Admin Apprentice and she will be helping us with all sorts of work across all parts of the business. The plan is for her to study for an NVQ2 in Business Administration with South Devon College, and over the next 12 months she will be learning and helping us with all sort of things, across almost all aspects of the business.

For the project side of her NVQ, Jasmine will be taking over this part of the website ‘Apprentice Diaries’. In short it will become a monthly ‘diary’ of what happens in the office, what Jasmine has been doing and maybe the odd picture or video of the team and the office. We hope it will give an insight into the ‘world of the apprentice’ as well as the world of technical recruitment.

Maybe next year we will make the movie!

Lee Mulligan – Managing Director – 8th March 2019

My First Month with Advanced – 15th March 2019

I’m Jasmine and I’m the new apprentice at Advanced Technical Recruitment. We hope that these monthly diaries will give you a nice insight into the life of an apprentice, as well as the world of recruitment with Advanced.

A few months ago, I had this big realisation that I wanted full-time work and to try something new, something I could really get stuck into. I knew I wasn’t qualified to leap straight into an admin role without any prior experience in that field, so I decided that an apprenticeship would be the best choice for me so that I could eventually get a NVQ, as well as gain valuable experience and knowledge along the way. Now I’m a month into my apprenticeship with Advanced and I know I’ve made the right decision!

What a month I’ve had. My first day feels like quite some time ago now, but I vividly remember the butterflies in my stomach as I stepped into the office on my first day, admittedly knowing very little about the kind of technical roles that Advanced recruits for. I was nervous about meeting my new co-workers, and nervous that I’d struggle with the work itself since everything was so new to me. It took me no time at all to realise, however, that my nerves were misplaced; I couldn’t have asked for a nicer group of people to work with. Right from day one, everyone has made me feel welcome and comfortable, helping me without hesitation when I have felt unsure of how to do something.

I believe you can learn quite a lot simply from being in an office environment – I already have! I didn’t know much at all about technical jobs (or recruitment for that matter) when I started here, but I’ve found that I’ve picked up on bits of information just from being here as part of the office, and hearing the others discussing what they’re up to.

I’ve been kept nice and busy working on the company’s huge database, as well as putting together spreadsheets of potential new business leads for the consultants. I’ve even been given some proper responsibility – it is now my job to post new vacancies onto our website, as well as Jobsite and CV Library. This means that the time consultants would have spent doing this themselves can now be used in other ways, so it frees up some time for them. Although this may sound like only a small thing, it genuinely means a lot to me that I have been trusted with this task after only having been here a matter of weeks. On top of tasks for Advanced, I’ve got college assignments for my diploma to keep me occupied too. I can already tell it’s going to be a busy but productive year for me. I’m excited to find out how much I progress as the months go by and I’m looking forward to learning more and more in my time here!

2 Months at Advanced – 23rd April 2019

Now that I’ve spent 2 months here, I’m really starting to settle in and get to know everyone better. I even brought in a little fake plant to have on my desk to add a nice touch of green. I’ve gotten busier and busier with new tasks and mini projects to work on and I’m gradually feeling more confident as time goes on – although there’s still a long way to go before I become a recruitment expert like the others! Some of the things I’ve done so far are:

  • Client + candidate upload – I’ve been entering our clients’ and candidates’ details onto our huge database so that the consultants can add notes and keep track of their correspondence with them. Doing this also means that any companies we haven’t been in touch with yet may receive our mailers giving them info about what we do so they consider us for help with recruitment.
  • Job posts/ads – I’m in charge of putting up posts on our website when new jobs come up that need filling, making sure the ads look good and the layout is consistent. I also post job ads on Jobsite and CV Library, while keeping track of how many ad credits we have remaining and when each job post is due to expire, as well as deciding how best to utilise the amount of ad credits we can use.
  • New business letters – I’ve also put together several new business letters that go out to potential new clients. This involves packing some information about Advanced in with a consultant’s business card and a letter into an envelope, using a franking machine to stamp it and sending the letters off in the post.
  • Generating new business leads – Sometimes I do some sleuth work, searching for technical companies we haven’t worked with before. So far, I’ve looked for leads by having a look at the companies that are tenants at various science parks around the country, seeing what they do, and, if they sound right for us, pass some info about them on to the consultants so they can try and contact them.

It’s been really good for me to have some proper routine, getting used to 9-5 work, and feeling like I’m using my time productively. I’m learning how to better manage and allocate my time as well as knowing which tasks to prioritise over others so that I can make myself as useful here as possible. It’s been a very positive experience for me so far, which bodes well for the next 10 months as an apprentice here!

3 Months at Advanced – 22nd May 2019

Three months as an apprentice down, nine to go. As time goes by, I’m picking up more knowledge and working on lots of different tasks. I’ve also started attending college once a week for my diploma, so I’ve been working on assignments and I’ve had the chance to meet other admin apprentices working for all sorts of companies around Devon. Some of the apprentices in my class are fresh out of secondary school looking to start their careers, others are in their late 20s-late 30s, or married with children, which just goes to show that apprentices come in many ages and come from many walks of life. According to statistics, 41% of apprentices that started in 2017/18 were aged 25 and over (Powell, 2019), which may surprise some, as the common assumption is that most apprentices are 16-19.

All apprentices have their own reasons for choosing an apprenticeship as their next step in life. In my case, I took my A-Levels and finished them last summer, but admittedly didn’t do particularly well. You learn a lot during your GCSE years, but one thing they don’t seem to teach you is that A-Levels aren’t a good fit for everyone, and that there are other, perfectly valid options aside from A-Levels and university. One size definitely does NOT fit all, and I personally found that A-Levels weren’t right for me at all.

Following this, I had lots of time to think about what I wanted to do next. I ended up choosing the apprenticeship route because I realised I wanted to move away from education and start my career, in spite of my poor grades and my only work experience being in hospitality. How better to do this than to begin working while also gaining a qualification?

So far, I’ve found that my apprenticeship is a significantly better match for me than A-Levels were, and indeed any other work I’ve done previously, as I’ve enjoyed working full time and getting used to office life. It’s been a much-needed step out of my comfort zone, and I feel all the better for doing it. To anyone feeling like university isn’t for them, and anyone unsure of how to get themselves started in a career, I would absolutely recommend looking into what apprenticeships are available near you! Who knows, it could get you involved in a field you never pictured yourself working in!

 

Month 4 with Advanced – 17th June 2019

A few months ago, I didn’t expect I’d learn as much as I have a third of the way into the apprenticeship. Although I don’t claim to have become an expert in physics or know everything about technical roles, my understanding has definitely grown over time. For instance, I could now look at a candidate’s CV and soon be able to tell which industry sector I should sort them into based on their experience and the keywords I’ve learned to look out for.

I’ve recently been allocated a ‘phone day’ each week – one day a week, I now answer incoming calls and direct them to the appropriate person depending on what the call is about. I do still find it to be quite nerve-wracking, as I worry, I’ll say the wrong thing or not know how best to help the person calling. However, I’ve found I always handle calls better than I thought I was going to, and each week I notice myself improving and feeling slightly more confident the more I pick up the phone. Nothing has gone horrifically wrong yet anyway, which I see as a win! I’ve also been sending out business letters each week to companies that may be interested in our help with the recruitment process in order to build up more business and clients.

This month I have also taken and passed my Functional Skills ICT test at college, as I needed a qualification in ICT for my diploma. College assignments and deadlines have been keeping me busy too, as well as my daily responsibilities at work, like posting and keeping track of job adverts online. As the year goes on, I imagine I’ll have even more responsibilities on my plate so that I can be as helpful to the team as possible.

5 Months at Advanced – 16th July 2019

Having known very little about recruitment before starting this apprenticeship, gaining experience within a recruitment agency has been quite an eye-opener for me.

I thought that recruiters only go as far as arranging first interviews for candidates and then leave everything else up to the client to organise, but this is not the case at all! I’ve since learned that the consultants here at Advanced help both candidates and clients with the process right up to the new employee’s first day on the job, even checking in with them a month or two later to see if everything is going well on both ends.

I have also learned that recruitment is a candidate driven industry – without skilled job seekers to contact and put forward to fill vacancies, agencies will struggle to bring in money. Unless those job seekers with great experience answer the phone to discuss a role, we can’t pass their CV on to the client to consider them for an interview. Although clients pay agencies for their service and provide them with roles to fill, it’s the job seekers who call the shots in recruitment!

It’s interesting being part of a recruitment environment, hearing the consultants on the phone taking care to build good relationships with their clients. I can tell they put a lot of work into providing the best service they can to both employers and job seekers, and they have a lot of industry knowledge – something I hope I’ll improve on the longer I’m here!

6 Months at Advanced – 15th August 2019

Apprenticeship = 50% complete! It’s mad that I’m now halfway through my apprenticeship here. This last month has been an interesting one!

Earlier in the month, we at Advanced had a team-building day out in sunny Torbay. We started in Paignton to try and tackle an escape room – one of many new experiences I’ve had in the last six months! We split into two teams (boys vs girls) and were determined to beat each other and escape the room first. It was really interesting to be in a situation where we needed to use teamwork and brainpower in a different way from how we use it in the office. Considering we had to escape the room within an hour, our ladies team remained level-headed for the most part, although I’ll admit there were certain clues right under our noses that we took a while to notice. We escaped the room with time to spare, beating the boys by just a few minutes.

Afterwards we went over to Brixham to board a boat called the Vigilance for a 3-hour sail in the Bay. The sun shone for us all day, and the sea was nice and calm. The crew even let us all take the helm for a few minutes each. All in all, it was a great day!

Back in the office, Rhys celebrated his 2nd anniversary of working at Advanced, and I’ve been kept busy on the lookout for great new candidates and trying to find new business leads for the consultants. My responsibilities keep growing and my role here evolves as time goes on, giving me a chance to develop and keep learning new skills.

Month 7 at Advanced – 30th September 2019

This month has been a pretty busy one for me. I’ve been spending lots of time adding great candidates to our ever-growing database. Doing this means that we have candidates’ info ready so we can contact them about new vacancies matching their experience and requirements. I’ve done so much candidate upload in my 7 months here I think I could do it in my sleep, which is nice for me considering I thought I’d never wrap my head around using the database when I first started here!

In fact, there’s a lot I thought I’d never be able to do, so it’s definitely been valuable for me to show myself that I can improve on certain things despite initial doubts. For instance, I was quite scared at first about answering the phone and making calls, but as I’ve gotten more and more used to it, my nerves have gone away. It sounds like a silly thing to have been nervous about in the first place, but everyone has their own little anxieties – it’s just a case of pushing them away and realising it’s not nearly as scary as you thought.

I’ve learned that September is a busy month here, as most people are back at work after their summer holidays and ready to speak to us. It’s definitely getting chillier in here, but I’m embracing autumn and very much looking forward to decorating the office for Halloween next month!

 

Around this time of year is also trade-show season in the technical world. Exhibitions and trade-shows provide us opportunities for new business and networking, so naturally we’ve been preparing for upcoming exhibitions and trying to get into contact with some of the other companies attending them. Our directors Lee and Iona will be attending Photonex 2019 this October, our biggest exhibition of the year, which you can read about here.

 

8 Months at Advanced – 30th October 2019

Another month gone already and only a few more left until I complete my apprenticeship. Evidently time flies when you’re learning to do admin!

Lee and Iona attended Photonex 2019 earlier this month, an event focused on technology in the Photonics & Optics industry. Events like these involve some preparation, for instance making sure to neatly pack up our pop-up stands that go on display so that they’re ready to take to the exhibition. We also like to try and get in contact with the other companies attending the event so that they already know about us when they arrive and may be interested in having a chat to find out more about what we do.

This month I’ve been quite busy uploading both clients and candidates to our database, as well as searching on the online job boards for both experienced candidates and recent physics graduates. As always, I’ve been posting job adverts online and keeping track of the adverts on my spreadsheet. Last week our website hits were way up which is great – it’s good to see results driven from hard work, particularly that of our marketer Beth!

I’ve also decorated the office for Halloween, my second favourite holiday! While this was a fun task for me that really got me into the spooky spirit, I’ve learned that decorating provides an opportunity for marketing as it helps to draw attention our way. Using photos of our display, we posted on social media about Halloween, putting in a few of our current vacancies, hopefully directing viewers towards our website. Playing a part in this has helped me get a better understanding of the different techniques companies can use to generate interest in them. It’s all useful experience for me!

Check Back Soon for Month 9

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