I joined Parliament through an apprenticeship scheme two years ago. Fast forward to 2017, I’m now a 21-year-old Support Desk Analyst in PDS and I'm no longer the new kid on the block. Far from it - PDS has since recruited two newer apprentices.
As it’s National Apprenticeship Week, I was reminded of the balancing act you need to become an apprentice. ‘Earning while you’re learning’ isn’t as easy as it sounds.
I heard about apprenticeships in Parliament through the London Apprenticeship Company (LAC). I immediately got a sense of excitement at the thought of working in Parliament.
Soon after, I was lining up at Millbank House as part of the selection process. The wait was nerve-wracking, to say the least. I felt intimidated by the other 25 young adults in the room, all well-dressed with a serious look on their face. I was encouraged by the diversity in the room, with lots of women and people coming from ethnic minority backgrounds. We were then asked to go to a conference room where we met different teams that we could work in.
I got to meet lots of teams but the one that stood out to me was the Web & Intranet Service*. The Web & Intranet Service managed Parliament’s website, intranet, and social media channels. I chose this team as my preference and I was fortunate enough to be offered a post with them.
Earning while you’re learning
In a typical week, I had a variety of 'business as usual' tasks and supported digital account managers and project managers with their work. My job was to respond to enquiries by email and phone and make occasional updates to the website and intranet. Within a few months, I was shadowing account managers and project managers on the team.
As my confidence grew, it became clear that I wanted to stay in the team and develop my skills further. Things don’t always go as planned, though.
Striking a balance
At college on Fridays, it was like being back at school. Sitting in a room with a bunch of strangers close to my age, having regular breaks and doing team exercises. It seemed as though college was just fun and games but this was not to last. Once we started the course in Business Administration, we all knew we had a lot of work to do. To get the qualification, I would have to sit exams in English, Maths, and ICT. I also had to document my experience of the work placement.
Sharing and learning
Back at work, I became the longest serving web assistant as others moved on. This meant that I had more responsibility as new web assistants were being recruited and would need to be brought up to speed. I loved sharing what I had learnt with others. I also found it easy to relate to my colleagues as I too was relatively new.
A race to the finish
During the later stages of the apprenticeship, I found myself in a race against time on two fronts. I had to finish my coursework before the deadline and I wanted to secure a permanent role in Parliament. I studied regularly at weekends and worked on job applications with a career coach during the week. Neither were easy. It had been a few years since I did an exam so I was a bit rusty.
Never give up
A breakthrough came though as I passed my exams and started getting interviews. I went to three interviews but was unsuccessful. It was a difficult time for me but I got a fourth interview not long after. Thankfully, it was fourth time lucky for me. I had landed my first full-time job as Support Desk Analyst in PDS.
A solid foundation
My experience as an apprentice was positive overall. I was helping to plan and support projects, which I really enjoyed. I also got to meet people like John Bercow (Speaker of the House of Commons) and David Natzler (Clerk of the House of Commons). The apprenticeship came to an end in September 2015 and by then I had my qualification in Business Administration and got myself my first full-time job. I’m so grateful that I signed up to be an apprentice.
Find out more about apprenticeships and placements at Parliament.
*Editor's note: the Web and Intranet Service is no longer a team within PDS - it has been replaced with the web development team, design, user research, performance analysis, and content team.