Executive Support Apprentice at the University of Exeter
Studying with Exeter College
My name is Maddy Geen and I am studying towards my NVQ Level 3 in Business and Administration with Exeter College. I am employed as an apprentice at the University of Exeter Medical School within the Executive Support Team. I am currently the PA to the Director of College Operations and also provide general administrative support to the rest of the Senior Management Team.
I completed my A-Levels at Exeter College in 2016 and then decided I would benefit far more from learning whilst working, rather than studying full time at University. For the Business and Administration Apprenticeship I did not need to have studied A-Levels, however I am very glad I did as I hope it will open even more doors for me in my future career.
When it came to applying for an apprenticeship, I decided to go down two routes. I studied Law at A-Levels which I really enjoyed, so I searched for Paralegal Apprenticeships. However, I noticed that there were not many opportunities locally for aspiring paralegals through the Apprenticeship route, so I also decided to look for Business Administration Apprenticeships.
It was actually my Mum who mentioned to me that Universities are great employers, therefore I decided to have a look on the University of Exeter website. When I saw an Administrative Assistant Apprentice role advertised I applied straight away, knowing that this University is one of the best in the country. An opportunity not to be missed for me!
When it came to preparing for the interview, I ensured that I was as organised as possible and made up a folder of my GCSE/A-Level certificates and any prizes/awards I had won that would help persuade the panel to employ me! It is crucial that you arrive organised for an interview, as this is a must-have trait as an Administrator/PA. In terms of preparing for the interview questions, I tried to think of as many possible questions that they could ask me.
Even though you are applying as an apprentice, it is always better to be over-prepared for any tough questions that might be thrown in, than be caught out! Another key tip for interviews is to ensure you have examples to go with your answers. These can be difficult to think of given that you will probably have limited work and life experiences, but try to think outside of the box. Most of my examples were related to any part-time work, unpaid work placements and school/college.
The final tip I would give with regards to interviewing is thinking of a couple of questions beforehand to ask the panel after the interview. The Chair normally asks at the end of the interview if you have any questions, so it is great if you can think of one or two.
Being an apprentice is really great, I quickly felt very much part of the team and have close bonds with my colleagues. We all support each other in every way and offer help if a member of the team needs a helping hand.
My days are very varied, which I definitely see as a good thing. A lot of my time is spent on the computer – primarily emails, booking travel/accommodation, diary management and producing visitor itineraries. However, I also interact with students on a daily basis which mainly involves directing them to their lectures or walking them to meetings with their tutors.
In terms of balancing studying whilst working, it all depends on how busy I am at work and how much studying I have to do. I go to college once a week (which is mandatory) in order to learn the syllabus for my exams. In the afternoons we normally spend a couple of hours on OneFile – an online system used to document our coursework for the NVQ. There are quite a lot of large tasks to complete, therefore I can ask my line manager to allow me time during the working day to update my OneFile. If it is during a very busy period at work, I would update my OneFile at home.
I feel extremely supported by my line manager and the rest of the Executive Support Team. I can ask them anything and everything – no matter how small or large the question is!
Near the start of my apprenticeship, when I had very limited experience, my line manager was an excellent mentor and suggested to me the most efficient ways of working, which is always helpful. As the months go on, the more comfortable you are in the role, until you get to a point where you are able to help guide/mentor other new colleagues. I always find this quite rewarding and confidence boosting!
In more recent times I have taken part in a Mentoring Workshop at the University, which was super useful as I could gain knowledge and experience from colleagues external to my team. I believe this has helped to prepare me for what’s to come post-apprenticeship!
Overall I would 100% recommend going down the apprenticeship route. The University of Exeter is a great employer and there are plenty apprenticeship opportunities for everyone!