Mitch completed his apprenticeship with DPD Group in 2014, achieving an OCR Level 3 Diploma in Business and Administration. Here, he talks about why he did an apprenticeship, how he secured an interview, and the great opportunities it led to.
What made you decide to do an apprenticeship in Business and Administration?
At the time, I wasn’t enjoying college. I picked subjects that I enjoyed but had no real end goal. It was also at a time when my mum had to leave her job, in order to care for my sister. I wanted to be working towards a qualification, whilst being able to earn money; with the hope to alleviate some of the financial pressure my mum was under.
So, I completed my first year of college, whilst searching for an Apprenticeship. The research itself took me a fair few weeks (5-6), as I had no real idea what I was looking for. Business and Administration stood out due to the number of advertised vacancies.
When I started looking into the opportunities, I saw the potential to ‘get my foot in the door’ at some huge companies. Hence my decision to apply to DPD Group UK.
Was it the only apprenticeship you applied for?
No, I also applied for an Aeronautical Engineering Apprenticeship with the Ministry of Defence. I made it through to the final stage of interviews, which was a competency-based set of questions. This process did take some time, and DPD offered me the job within the space of time that I was waiting to hear back from the MOD.
How was the application process? What advice would you give to others about to start their application?
For me, the application process went smoothly due to the research I put in. I read through the job and employer descriptions, then combined this with my own research to edit my CV, and cover letter.
If I can give one bit of advice for the application, it would be to find out the values and aims of the employer. I couldn’t find these on their website, so I actually called through to their head office, and just had a conversation with one of the staff members. From this conversation, I was a lot more confident with writing my application.
How did you prepare for the interview, and how did it go in the end?
Firstly I was emailed an invite for a telephone interview. I made sure that I was set up in a quiet room, away from any distractions. All my research was printed out, ready for the call. This research was on the background of the company and also on the role itself. Finally, I had a page of questions to ask towards the end of the interview.
After a successful telephone interview, I was invited to the next stage of the process; the face-to-face interview. I prepared by revising my research, ensuring I was dressed appropriately, and triple checking my travel plans.
I can confidently say the biggest contributing factor to the interview success was the fact that I learned the values of the company and wrote down different ways in which I had previously demonstrated each one - Respect, Accountability, Passion, Flexibility, Hard work and Honesty. My interview feedback stated that what set me apart was the fact I had obviously shown the initiative to research what the company were looking for in their employees.
Describe a typical week.
Initially, I was spending four days a week working in the office, alongside one day of study at City of Bristol College. The idea of this apprenticeship was for me to spend three months within each department of the Credit and Billing team of DPD. Each team would have different roles, so the actual workload was varied.
After working hard in the first team, I was offered a full-time position, with the understanding that I could still continue with the qualification. This meant that I was no longer going to City of Bristol, apart from when I needed to do the computer-based assessments.
Did you receive any support or mentoring throughout your apprenticeship?
I was supported by a few different people at any one time. Day-to-day support was provided by an allocated OJT (on-job-trainer), within the team I was working for. This was usually someone that was experienced within the role and was training me on that particular job.
I also had a member of the Senior Leadership Team who carried out one-to-ones, and oversaw the apprenticeship plan as a whole. We sat down once a month to go through progress, as well as discussing areas of interest or concern. Finally, I had an assessor who worked for City of Bristol College.
How were you assessed?
An assessor from City of Bristol College carried out a workplace visit once a month. He sat down next to me, observing me carrying out my regular role.
There was a check-list of modules and tasks which I needed to demonstrate, in order to pass the practical side of the NVQ. These tasks required a few different types of evidence. For example, recorded discussions, written tasks and comments from my trainer. The tasks were essential to achieve a certain amount of credits for each level of the NVQ.
Internally, I was assessed by my OJT at the end of each week. This was then discussed at my monthly one-to-one with the lead contact for apprenticeships at DPD. The main focus of this was to make sure I was happy, but it also served as a company induction.
The other part of the assessments was my online exams for various modules. These were spread out at different points of the apprenticeship.
Initially, the idea of me attending college was to get ready for the exams. However, the college provided my workplace with the materials for me to prepare and revise. I then went into a controlled exam environment within City of Bristol College, to carry out the computer-based assessments. Once I had passed the theory and practical side, the NVQ was complete.
What were the highlights of your apprenticeship?
I really enjoyed the fact that I had another incentive to motivate me whilst working. I had a focused goal to work towards, whilst still earning money.
On a personal level, the apprenticeship exposed me to a huge array of roles within Business and Administration. I was able to build my interpersonal skills by speaking to a wide variety of colleagues, including senior management. It set me on my way to develop a strong business etiquette.
What elements did you find the most challenging?
As I was becoming more experienced within my permanent role, my responsibilities and workload increased. At points, it was quite difficult to juggle some assessment tasks and my daily work responsibilities.
That being said, the assessor was very understanding when I needed to do urgent work. He was quite happy to let me carry on and observe how I handled that situation. The support of DPD was also fantastic. Throughout the entire process, they made sure I was happy and comfortable.
What happened after you completed the apprenticeship, and how did it help to prepare you for your future?
When I completed the apprenticeship, I continued to secure promotions within DPD Group UK. They saw that I was committed to self-development, which led to them investing in further qualifications for me to work towards. I went on to obtain a diploma in Credit Management (ICM), which was paid for by DPD, with the understanding that I continue to work for them for a minimum of 6 months after passing.
From then on, my foundations were set within DPD, and it was down to me to push for progression. They created a programme similar to that of a graduate scheme, whereby I spent some time with different departments to see which role I wanted to aim towards. I was then supported with my decision to work towards becoming an Account Manager.
None of the above would have been possible without the apprenticeship. Not only did it help me ‘get my foot in the door’, it also taught me loads of transferable skills, strong business etiquette, confidence, and the hunger to develop and progress.
If you’d like to find out more, take a look at our guide on Business, administration and management apprenticeships.