Posted by on 02 June 2017

62TechnicalSer170313Matt Austin-Abigail Burton

Abigail Burton
Business and Administration Apprenticeship
College of Humanities at the University of Exeter

My name is Abigail Burton, I am doing a level 3 Business and Administration Apprenticeship in the College of Humanities at the University of Exeter (studying one day a week at Exeter College). I am an Apprentice in the Humanities Dean’s Office.

My job role is very diverse and involves meeting and greeting the customers of the Executive Suite, providing lower level support for the Pro-Vice-Chancellor and Associate Dean’s (such as looking after their offices, clearing their confidential waste, greeting their visitors, providing them with tea’s and coffee’s for meetings and making sure their offices are clean and tidy). I also help with recruitment, book rooms, order catering for meetings, print and prepare meeting folders, arrange and advertise Inaugural Lectures and keep records of the honorary members of staff within the College.

I am also a sickness co-ordinator for the College of Humanities so have to ensure our sickness records are kept up to date. I started working here in July 2016 and have been taught and mentored by my colleagues.  As I learn and get to grips with the various processes in the Dean’s Office, I will eventually be able to run functions such as recruitment from start to finish on my own, without assistance.

Before I started at the University, I worked in a Café for 6 years; which wasn’t what I wanted to do career wise. As I was over 18 and knew I would have to pay to go back to college, I felt a bit stuck and didn’t really know what to do where to go or with my life. I knew I wouldn’t be able to progress very far in the Café and thought it would be a good idea to look into an apprenticeship so that I could learn new skills, get a qualification, earn money and completely change my career path.

Although I didn’t have any admin experience, I was offered the job. As I already held a level 2 Business and Enterprise qualification, I was told that I could do a level 3 course instead and that the University would be willing to pay for my course fees, which was brilliant!

Before working at the University, I didn’t really have a career plan, but this administration apprenticeship has opened so many doors for me already; I’m not 100% sure which path I want to take once I’ve completed the apprenticeship, but I know that I definitely have a lot more options now and could go on to be a PA, to work in recruitment, travel and accommodation or events management for example.

I love working for the University and definitely think that even if there isn’t a permanent position in the office I’m working in currently once I’ve completed my apprenticeship, there are many different career paths that University could offer me.

When I was told I’d got the job, I was over the moon, I couldn’t believe that I’d managed to land a job in such a huge, successful organisation and in such a high profile office.

When I first started my apprenticeship, I was a bit nervous and didn’t really have any idea of what to expect but was supported by my colleagues and made to feel like part of the team straight away.

After a couple of months getting used to the job, Tom (my skills officer from Exeter College) came to visit me at work. He talked me through the course and told me what I would need to do to gain the qualification.

I started going to Exeter College once a week in November with lots of other administration apprentices from all different organisations. Tom comes in to the office once every couple of months to watch me in action and see how I am progressing. He sometimes asks me questions and videos my response to use as evidence for my portfolio, he also sets me knowledge questions to answer on a website called OneFile and talks me through what I’m expected to write and do, in order for each unit to be completed. Tom also has access to my answers online and can give me feedback on my work so that if anything isn’t quite right, it’s not a problem.

My lessons at college ran from November to February and were really helpful, it was also nice to meet other apprentices that are in the same boat as me.

I enjoy working at the University because I feel like I’m really part of the team. I’ve been made to feel really welcome and can be honest with my colleagues when I need extra support. Another great thing about working for the University is the fantastic pension scheme and ‘Above and Beyond’ awards that can be given to staff as a reward when they’ve worked really hard.

When I completed my first assignment at college, I was awarded £50 for working so hard on it, which gave me a real boost of confidence and motivation. I also get above the national minimum wage for an apprentice, which is much better than some other employers; it’s also nice to know that the work I do is appreciated and rewarded by the University. I also love that my job is so diverse and that I do different things every day; so it never gets boring.

I think the apprenticeship has definitely helped me to open all kinds of doors for future careers and has helped me to completely change my career path.

Doing an apprenticeship has given me the opportunity to earn good money and gain a qualification as well as experience. Whereas, if I had decided to do a full time college course in business administration without working alongside it, I would have had to pay for it myself and would have gained the qualification but wouldn’t have any actual administration experience, which is what most employers look for first on a CV.

College has been really fun and interesting and I’ve really enjoyed the lessons. Overall, I think working in the Dean’s Office has given me a wide range of skills and has given me really valuable experience to add to my CV. I have also gained motivation and confidence to aim high, especially when I look at colleagues who have completed the same apprenticeship as me and have gone on to be really successful and earn really good money.

I think my advice to other administration apprentices would be to be honest with your colleagues. As an apprentice, you aren’t expected to know everything straight away; that’s what an apprenticeship is all about. For me, I was really worried to begin with and felt like I wasn’t picking things up quickly enough; but my colleagues reassured me that I was doing brilliantly and would soon get the hang of it with some practice.

Working in such a high profile, fast paced office is demanding and I have learnt that it’s completely normal to make mistakes now and then, everybody does. It has also been really helpful for me having colleagues that have done the same course as me, because they know exactly what it feels like to be in my shoes and it’s nice for me to see where I could be in a few years’ time.

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