WHAT’S it like to be an apprentice? Delve into National Apprenticeship Week (NAW) with Blueberry's Jessica Parker as she discusses her year-long apprenticeship, buying her first home at 23 and her impressive career progression.
Now in its 16th year, NAW 2023 highlights the positive impact that apprenticeships make to individuals, businesses, and the wider economy.
There are thousands of first-rate apprenticeships available throughout the UK in everything from catering, education and hospitality to sales, marketing, and logistics.
And what’s not to love - an apprenticeship gives you hands-on experience, a salary, and the opportunity to train while you work as an apprentice in your chosen field.
To celebrate this year’s theme – Skills for Life – we talk to Jessie about what it’s like to be an apprentice and her professional development within the organisation.
“The wide range of opportunities my apprenticeship has opened up to me is incredible,” said Jessie. “I was given a hands-on role to play in a company who were passionate about sharing their expertise with me. My Blueberry apprenticeship not only kickstarted my career development, but it also helped me to grow in confidence. I’m a much more outgoing person because of it.”
After leaving sixth form with three A-levels in Business, Graphics and Art, Jessie decided to pursue an apprenticeship to continue her learning and gain practical skills. While searching for the perfect discipline, she continued to work part-time as both a waitress and a sales assistant at a funky stationary store.
“I loved the customer service element of my job, as well as the discounts on the cute stationary,” said the 26-year-old. “I won an award for the employee to secure the most loyalty scheme signups and smashed it with a mystery shopper. If I’d have stayed on, the next step for me was in management. I was very aware of how corporate the company was, and I wanted to work somewhere where I’d feel more valued and given real opportunities to grow.”
Drawn to Blueberry’s friendly team spirit, training methods and active social scene, Jessie joined the business at the age of 19 as a customer service apprentice. During her year-long apprenticeship, she had a dedicated key trainer who visited her weekly to help her complete her coursework and ensure that she was settling in well.
“Blueberry was much smaller back in 2015 compared to now. We had around 25 to 30 members of staff, now we have more than 65,” said Jessie, who hails from Leeds. “From day one, I was working with senior team members, including the Managing Director. I had the chance to get involved in everything from account management through to operations and finance.
“Following my apprenticeship, I secured a full-time job as Business Development Executive at Blueberry. A typical day could involve meeting clients, delivering training internally, dealing with the finance and accounts and helping to plan our latest marketing campaigns. I’ve found working for a smaller business has allowed me to strongly focus on my career development. I’ve been able to explore several different areas of the business, which helped me discover a desire to work in finance.”
With Blueberry’s support, Jessie continued her work alongside her studies at Leeds City College where she gained coveted qualifications from the Association of Accounting Technicians (AAT). In 2019-2020, the keen camper completed her AAT Level 2 Foundation Certificate in Accounting and went on to secure an AAT Level 3 Advanced Diploma in Accounting the following academic year.
“Blueberry saw potential in me and helped me with my studies in AAT to become a valuable member of the team,” added the keen hiker and camper. “We’ve moved into a larger office space, doubled in size, and doubled in turnover since I started here. My apprenticeship gave me structured learning whilst also gaining experience in an exciting sector. Every single day is different. Typically, I will create agreements, invoice clients, chase debtors, pay creditors, help with tax returns, YE accounts, payroll tasks and commissions.
“I believe the rewards of apprenticeships are two-fold. An apprentice can receive valuable on-the-job training in their chosen trade. And a business gains a skilled individual who is tailored to their business needs and can develop within the company’s culture. Everything I learnt during my apprenticeship has stuck with me and I continue to reap the rewards of it. I honestly cannot recommend undertaking an apprenticeship highly enough. It has opened up so many doors for me.”
Everyone at Blueberry was delighted for Jessie when she passed her Association of Accounting Technicians Finance exams.
“One of the many reasons I decided to do an apprenticeship was because I wanted to start earning money alongside my studies. I bought my first house with my partner in the summer of 2019 – I was just 23 years old. I was very proud to be in that position at such a young age! I’ve lived in my house for more than three years now and we’re still doing it up.
“I think an apprenticeship is the perfect way to find your feet within a business. Mine developed my confidence and communication skills with clients, staff, and customers. Work wise I am currently working closely with the Finance Manager to further my financial knowledge and skills. Personally, I got engaged in December 2021 – whoop! So, I’m looking forward to all the wedding planning. I’m a really busy bee, I’ve always got something exciting in the diary.”