National Apprenticeship Week

National Apprenticeship Week

Published: 10th February 2021

An insight into life as an apprentice


As a young person there are so many options available and apprenticeships provide a well-structured programme combining practical skills and education. The reasons for choosing an apprenticeship vary: perhaps you are glad to leave the academic world behind and start earning, you might be overwhelmed by the choices out there or, especially with the pandemic you are not sure university is the right choice for you.

There is so much information about the courses and apprenticeships you can undertake that hearing from two current apprentices may provide valuable insight. Rochdale Sixth Form College (RSFC) has spoken to Ellie Down who is currently working at RSFC on her Business Administration Apprenticeship and Evan Brigham who is a former student working at Rochdale Council on his Business Administration Apprenticeship about their experiences.

Why did you decide to follow the apprenticeship route?

Evan commented, “I did look at university, but I decided an apprenticeship was more suitable for me. I learn much better and faster when I am working and doing the task rather than listening to someone tell me how to do it. So being able to gain a qualification whilst earning a good wage and enjoying it is a very big plus.”

Like Evan, Ellie also did not think university would suit her, “I honestly never thought I would be an administrator but once I got to RSFC I knew I was where I was meant to be. I could tell this would give me the freedom to learn and meet new people whilst growing up from that awkward teen to an adult. I have been given endless opportunities that many young people my age will not have been given. There is a realism working as an apprentice: working life is tough and although I believe those who go to university are brilliant at what they do, I think apprentices have the upper hand.”

What are you enjoying about your apprenticeship?

The working environment we find ourselves in is vital to provide the ability to perform and excel, “The council is also very supportive and has given me the space to grow as an employee” commented Evan, “Working for Rochdale council every day is different and every day I have to overcome challenges. I think this makes me enjoy it more as I am never bored and always busy”.

For Ellie the experience at RSFC “has changed my outlook on education and has given me something positive to wake up and do every day: I have a purpose. I don’t hate working, I really love it (younger me would have rolled her eyes)”.

What challenges do you face with your apprenticeship?

Work life balance is a struggle for most of us but with the addition of studying the challenge is greater, Evan felt, “doing an apprenticeship can be an overload of information at times but I think doing A levels has helped me deal with it. I can process all the information as it is similar to A Levels, constantly learning something new, although the things you learn are very different.”

Ellie, who is approaching the end of her apprenticeship commented “It’s hard work! But very worth the effort. Keeping a positive attitude when something didn’t go to plan was hard. I struggled to confidently communicate any concerns or questions I had at the beginning, learning to be more outspoken to colleagues to get the results that I wanted to achieve was hard. Learning to trust in myself has given me a lot more confidence.”

To someone looking at applying for an apprenticeship, what advice would you give them?

“Seize the opportunity. An apprenticeship is perfect for anyone who doesn’t know what is next for them. I found it scary stepping out of my comfort zone but there are so many people that are rooting for you to succeed” was Ellie’s advice.

Evan, who is currently working on supporting the promotion of apprenticeships, understands the “pandemic has made getting an apprenticeship harder, but you will find the job for you. It may just take a little longer than expected but it is definitely worth the wait. Whilst searching for a job it is always a good idea to be proactive: try and improve your CV, try and get a part time job for experience or complete extra courses online – the ‘Get Rochdale Working’ page has a lot of free courses available.”

Richard Ronksley, principal of Rochdale Sixth Form College commented: “Along with Higher education, and entry to high quality employment, apprenticeships are an important third pathway for our college leavers. The very best apprenticeships provide young people with valuable and meaningful employment alongside excellent on the job training.”

Richard’s top tip for anyone considering an apprenticeship is that anyone considering an apprenticeship should research them in as thorough a way as if they were applying for a job or a university course:

  • What level is the apprenticeship? It should be at least level 3 (ideally higher) for any student leaving the college.
  • What kind of employer will you be working for? Think about the career opportunities, staff wellbeing, and union recognition. A useful additional check is to see if the firm is Investors in People certified.
  • How good is the quality of training? Read the Ofsted report.

Recruitment for the next cohort of apprenticeships at the council is open. There are a variety of vacancies and can be applied for at

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   Ellie Down