Posted by on 16 January 2020


Rebecca Cresswell

Administrative Assistant – Accommodation (Apprentice)
Commercial Residential & Campus Services

Before working at the University of Exeter, I was in secondary school completing my GCSE’s with three part-time jobs on the side. I worked in a pub doing front of house (waitressing) most weekends and some evenings straight after school and also cleaned in a printing company’s warehouse/offices.

At the weekends and during my holidays I volunteered at a horse trekking stable to help take care of the horses, clean the stables, take paying customers out on the hills for rides out and make sure that the customers were safe, happy and enjoying themselves.  As I came to the end of my time at school, I was very indecisive of what I wanted to do. I have always known that an apprenticeship was an option as it suited a more practical person like myself.

As I looked into the scheme further, I decided it was definitely something that was right for me, but couldn’t find anything that interested me enough to go for it. I wanted to make sure that it wasn’t something that was going to waste my time and not be able to have a successful future in.
After finding an apprenticeship on the University of Exeter jobs website, I knew that this was an amazing opportunity for me to develop my skills and make the best of me and my future.

My family were very supportive and loved the idea of an apprenticeship as you learn while you get paid and get experience at the same time. My brother is doing an engineering apprenticeship so he also recommended that I apply for one due to it being both hands-on and an opportunity to enjoy what I am are learning about.

Apprenticeships are a good way of getting into the career path you are wanting to follow as businesses are looking for people with relevant experience and qualifications.

The reason why I decided to do an apprenticeship within the University of Exeter was that it is such a big organisation with lots of opportunities and paths to be able to progress as well as multiple different departments that you can be in. Even if you don’t want to work in them all there is a department here that everyone will enjoy to work in.  In addition to this, the University also has lots of opportunities for staff, like courses they offer to carry on with your personal development so that you can gain new transferable skills which help you to take on anything the workplace throws at you.

The University of Exeter also pays apprentices well and offers a lot more leave (39 days including bank holidays) for staff to maximise staff’s wellbeing. I find that the University is an amazing place which offers me the chance to become whomever I would like to be!

Doing an apprenticeship means that I can continue with a career afterwards, whether that is the job I am in now or another role at the University, and will potentially give me the skills and qualifications I need to continue my studies up to degree level.

My work varies depending on the time of year, most days are different. So I need to plan my days, and weeks, in advance. Day-to-day I may find myself doing a variety of tasks, depending on the number of staff we have in the office that day to cover. There is always something going on and it is a really busy office to work in.

A few of the jobs that I do daily are answering external and internal telephone calls regarding the student accommodation, answering emails and SID enquiries (electronic enquiries) from staff and students, allocating students into residences, managing and updating Studentpad (software a bit like Zoopla…) as well as assisting the landlords/private providers when they are unsure of how to do something.  These are all time-consuming jobs and the queries can be anything from a room move to information about our residences to interrupting and withdrawing from the University. As I am always answering different calls from landlords, colleagues and students, it is broadening my knowledge of not only my department but of the University as a whole.

Balancing working whilst studying in an apprenticeship is very easy. I have found that most of the work that we have been set to do is completed in class, but if we have full coverage of the office, I can spend a few hours to complete assignments or carry out research for the work that we have been set.  This is also useful as I can talk to my colleagues or even arrange meetings if I need to speak to people about the work that has been set.
I feel like my work-study balance is stress-free and my study has a positive impact on my job as the apprenticeship I am doing gives me further knowledge and improves skills that I need for my job.

Being an apprentice at the University of Exeter means that I can learn new skills and put them into practice. This for me is a positive experience as I feel that sitting in a classroom all day, every day wouldn’t get the best out of me, and doesn’t suit my learning style. I enjoy putting what I have learnt into practice as I feel that this is the only way you can improve. I have used my new skills by understanding the principles I have learnt at College and then applying them to my daily work activities.

Being in a working environment is very different from school and was a massive step for me, but it has made me more professional and assertive with the way I handle situations and life in general.  I feel that the staff at the University of Exeter treat me the same as they treat other colleagues, even though I am 17. This also adds to the experience as it makes me feel like I am at work and just learning new things, rather than being at school and being treated like a child.

The top things I have learnt so far on my apprenticeship are how to work in a team, and improving my vocabulary and communication skills to sound more professional within the workplace.

After looking back, I can see that all of the things I’m learning at Exeter College are being put into practice throughout the day, and the work that I do is very useful and has helped me improve and grow into my role. Some of the transferable skills I have learnt so far are communication skills, presenting presentations using PowerPoint, and interview skills which can all be used in most jobs.

Recently, I created and presented a PowerPoint presentation on ‘My Organisation’ which included information about the whole University, my team, my role and what we do/offer. I feel this has positively impacted me as it has increased my knowledge of the University and my department.

The support that I receive from not only my family but my team as a whole is incredible and I am very grateful to be working in such a collaborative team.

My team are always willing to help me progress and increase my knowledge of our processes and what we do. They help to identify areas where my knowledge is insufficient, and develop me, as these are key in my role so that I can provide full support for my team.  Examples of this are when I first started and needed to learn how to use SID and how to allocate students; my manager booked me a meeting with someone to walk me through the online SID online system properly and then they sat down and helped me step-by-step go through Room Service which is the main system we use in the Accommodation Office.  My colleagues have helped me massively by just giving me time to be able to go over things I need to work on and to be able to prepare for upcoming assessments.

I have also been given opportunities to shadow other members in other residences team to see how they work and what they do to build on my professional network. This helps me develop new working relationships with our work colleagues that will potentially help me in the future. Along with this, my team has made sure that we have enough office cover so that I have been able to go on courses. I have just started a “Springboard” course to help with my personal development, increase self-awareness, and to help me decide where I want my career path to go and how to get there.

In the University, all staff are very lucky as we are given the opportunity to go on University run courses for personal and professional development.
Being an apprentice at the University of Exeter is very beneficial and opens multiple opportunities for you and your future. Working at the University has broadened my knowledge of not only the University and my role, but has increased my knowledge of the world around me due to the diversity and scale of how much there is to learn about the business and the people within it.

I feel that the environment that I am working in at the University is very positive. There are many experienced colleagues that I have been able to speak with to gain the skills and knowledge I need to become well rounded and progress my career further.  I am on a permanent contract which means I have a full-time job when I complete my apprenticeship.

The University is also able to offer further opportunities that will help you progress, including the opportunity to be able to do higher and degree apprenticeships, providing you have the required entry qualifications and it will benefit your job.

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