Katie Fiddaman is completing a Chartered Manager Degree Apprenticeship with Pearson College London. By the end of her three-year apprenticeship she’ll have gained a full BA (Hons) degree in Business Management, as well as Chartered Manager (CMgr) status. Here she tells us about her experiences so far, what she hopes to do in the future, and how to prepare for the interview.
What made you decide to do a degree apprenticeship?
When I found out about the degree apprenticeship pathway as an alternative to the traditional higher education route, I knew it was what I wanted to do. Since the age of fifteen, I’d worked part time in various roles, such as childcare and waitressing, and I always liked the concept of earning money; however, the value of a degree still resonated with me.
I applied for university with everyone else at my college, but it wasn’t something that I got excited about, unlike my friends. The degree apprenticeship scheme has given me the perfect balance between the working, earning and learning that I desired.
Was it the only apprenticeship you applied for?
I previously applied for two degree apprenticeships prior to the one I am on now. I decided to persevere and try for a third time, as I was very close at the last stages of the previous schemes I’d applied for, and I knew that this was what I wanted to do.
How was the application process? What advice would you give to others about to start their application?
The application process closely mirrored a job application process. It began with an application form online and then a verbal and numerical reasoning test. Then, once I’d passed those, I was put through to a professional workshop, where I took part in various activities such as a Watson Glazer test (a critical thinking test), a group activity with other applicants, and a writing task.
It finished with an interview with one of the academics from Pearson College London, which was mostly competency-based. A few days later, I received an email inviting me to an interview with my current line manager, which was the final stage.
The main bit of advice I can give to others is to do your research. Research the company you are looking to work for, the job role you are applying for and, if possible, look up the interviewers on LinkedIn. I would also say that being yourself is important because you need to show the interviewer who you are, as well as what attributes and qualifications you can bring to the table.
How did you find the interview and how did you prepare for it?
The interview was tough as, whilst I’m someone who thrives in group situations, I’ve always found one-to-one interviews difficult. I prepared by thinking of potential questions that they might ask me and gathering answers to these questions.
It’s always important to have an example to support your claims in an interview: anyone can say that they’re a good leader, for example, but you need to prove it in order to make an impression. It’s important to have a few solid examples of skills you’ve demonstrated in the past to use in the interview.
Describe a typical week.
I know it sounds cliché, but no day is the same where I work, which makes it an extremely exciting role. Some of the tasks that I have within my role as Communications, PR and Content Assistant include creating social media, website and blog content, pitching ideas and articles to trade publications and general team support, such as phone and email enquiries and booking meeting rooms. In terms of structure, I work Monday to Thursday and then attend university to complete my degree on Fridays.
Do you receive any support or mentoring?
The support is incredible - everyone wants you to do well. It starts with my line manager, who supports me with any work concerns I may have, and she is the person I report to directly.
I also have three mentors who guide me in other areas of the programme. The first is my Company Mentor, who is there as a support for anything non-work or work-related that I want to talk about. He focuses our sessions around different skills, and recommends to me things to read to further my personal and professional development.
The second mentor is an Academic Mentor, who monitors my academic progress and is there to support me if I’m struggling with anything in terms of the degree side of the apprenticeship.
The final mentor is a Senior Sponsored Mentor, who is an individual with a high-level role within Pearson Plc. My mentor is the HR Director of Italy, Germany, Austria and Switzerland. The idea behind having this mentor is to give a further level of guidance and support from a high level; the skills that I am developing from my senior mentor are invaluable.
How are you assessed?
I’m assessed through a combination of exams, coursework and presentations. However, the coursework is in the format of documents that I would be required to submit in the working world, such as proposals and reports. I think the presentation assessment element is really important as it’s a skill that nearly everyone will require at some point in their career.
What have been the highlights of your apprenticeship so far?
It is hard to pick out highlights from such an amazing opportunity. However, the main highlights for me would be having my work published by external publications, being asked to participate in activities for the executive team and having the opportunity to join the Young Apprentice Ambassador Network (YAAN).
The YAAN is a group of current and previous apprentices aged between 18 and 26 who promote apprenticeships across the UK. I joined because I wasn’t given apprenticeships as an alternative choice to university and wasn’t educated about them enough.
Therefore, I wanted to be part of a programme that helps to inform more young people about the alternatives to the traditional route.
What elements have you found the most challenging so far?
The time management required to juggle a degree and a full-time job has been challenging as I have to give up a fair amount of my spare time in order to complete my academic studies to a high level. The other thing that is easy to forget, but is still important, is maintaining a social life. So, I would say that keeping a balance between all aspects of life is challenging, but definitely possible.
What do you hope to do after you’ve finished this apprenticeship? Do you feel the experience and training has prepared you well for this?
With the qualifications and experience I will have when I graduate from my apprenticeship, I hope to work my way up into a managerial role and build my career from there. I think by the end of the three years, I will definitely have the experience to set me up for a successful future.
If you’d like to find out more, take a look at our guide on Business, administration and management apprenticeships.
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Podcast: 'Apprentice Talks'
Co-founder Katie Fiddaman has a brilliant podcast that aims to give insight into what it's like to be an apprentice.