Posted by on 25 November 2019

Becky Critoph
Business Administration Apprentice,
Office of Vice-Chancellor & Senior Executive
(Business Administrator Level 3)

Tell us a bit about yourself.
Before I started my apprenticeship, I was at university for a few years, before leaving for various reasons, but partly because I struggled with the theoretical element of University, as I am quite a practical person.

I needed a job once I had left, and an apprenticeship seemed like a great alternative way to still get a qualification but without having to do full-time study and while doing something practical.

What made you decide to do an apprenticeship at the University of Exeter?
I decided to do an apprenticeship with the University as I felt I already knew a bit about the University environment and the processes of such a large institution, having attended university before.

I had also heard many good things about the University being a good employer and a lovely place to work, even though I had only just moved to Exeter before starting my apprenticeship.

Can you give us an idea of a typical day?
In my role, each day is different, as I split my time between helping the Vice Chancellor’s Personal Assistant (PA) and the Council Coordinator, as well as doing general office tasks.

This means that sometimes I am greeting visitors and making them drinks, ordering catering for meetings, printing and compiling meeting packs of papers, and doing research on various accommodation and travel options to find possibilities, which work around the Vice Chancellor’s complex diary.

I book a lot of accommodation and travel for council members, and help my colleague to organise the logistics of their six-weekly meetings, ensuring that everyone gets to everywhere they need to go across their visits.

I help with the Senior Management group meetings, noting attendees and apologies, sorting out their name badges and booking catering, meeting rooms and campus services teams to set up for the meeting.

I am involved in formatting and collecting the papers for the weekly meeting of the Vice Chancellor’s Executive Group, which takes up a day of my week.

For the office in general, I distribute and log the post, order stationery, take minutes at our team meetings and help with the finances by raising Purchase Orders and scanning receipts for expenses.

How do you balance studying whilst working at the same time?
I struggled to set aside time for my college work when I first started working at the university as I was attending college one day a week for the first six months, during which time I needed to prepare for the exams we were doing.

After my time in the classroom finished, however, I found it much easier to focus on the remaining part of my college work, which involves providing evidence of tasks that I do in my job, such as event planning, implementing new office procedures, and providing administrative support for meetings. I have set aside Wednesday’s to do this, and now everyone in the office knows not to disturb me on that day so that I can get on with my college work; sometimes this involves working elsewhere so I do not get distracted.

What is the best thing about being an apprentice?
I have enjoyed being an apprentice, as it provides a great stepping-stone into the workplace environment by helping you to firstly get used to work without too much responsibility, but also allows you to flourish as much as you want, (or can) in the role, as time goes on. Being an apprentice has given me a lot of confidence going forward about what I am capable of doing.

Secondly, it has given me a great insight into working in an office and the processes involved (such as managing finances and keeping records).

Thirdly, I feel that, because we studied business administration at college, we have been given an advantage for our future careers, in this or other companies, as we learned about our rights as workers, how to negotiate, the principles of leadership and management, as well as IT skills for business.

How have you put into practice what you have learnt on your apprenticeship?
A lot of the apprenticeship is based on what you learn just by doing your job. This means that you are learning by practising and trying new skills and it also means that you will not forget what you have learnt, because you are applying what the theory to your workplace straight away.

The college modules that you get assigned are specific to the area you are working in, but if you have a good line manager and a good supervisor from the college they will make sure that your modules aren’t just really easy things, but are tasks which will push you to learn new knowledge and skills. This means that every apprenticeship, and the skills that you gain from it, are personal and can be completely tailored to your interests.

How are you supported by your team?
I have been really well supported by my team; they have given me responsibility and have trusted me with tasks, even though I am just an apprentice.

The team have put in the time to guide me through new processes, teaching me skills so that I can do more and in return, I can help them with more things. They have also been proactive in suggesting areas of growth for me, asking if I would like to help them with jobs or providing opportunities for me to shadow them or others (such as allowing me to shadow a colleague, minuting a senior meeting, and helping to set up for the Professional Services Recognition Awards).

This has given me insight into other areas of the University and new experiences.

Why should someone consider doing an apprenticeship at the University of Exeter?
I strongly recommend an apprenticeship; generally, because if you don’t have a set plan for what you want to do, it is a great way to start on the career ladder; but mostly, because an apprenticeship will give you loads of skills which are transferable, you will have grown so much and have been given lots of opportunities which other forms of education don’t give you.

This means that even if you decide you do not want to carry on in the specific area your apprenticeship was in, you will have a year or a year and a half of valuable experience on your CV to help you with your next step.

Then on top of that, if your apprenticeship is at the University, you will have great benefits, you will be supported by a great apprenticeship team, work for an employer who believes in the benefits of hiring and training apprentices, and you will be working on a lovely campus with loads of amenities nearby.

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