So, you want to be an apprentice?

6th March 2017
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To be an incredible apprentice, you need three things.

The first is curiosity — wanting to know what the company does, what are the different roles in the business, why do things that way, how else could it be done. It’s important to constantly ask questions.

Next is a willingness to learn, try new things and pick up new skills. It’s a journey, and that means treading on new ground. Apprentices don’t necessarily need to have particular experience or skills. We understand they’re at the beginning of a career and therefore potential is more important than proof.

And lastly, enthusiasm. It separates the good from the best. The most enthusiastic and willing to roll their sleeves up often benefit the most from their time as an apprentice.

At Starling, we’re committed to developing our people and helping them grow, no matter what route they take into their career: apprentices, Passport to Starling, interns or grads and plenty-experienced hires. We know that an apprenticeship can provide alternative routes into work, and the best talent doesn’t always come out of a university.

Therefore, to mark National Apprenticeship Week, I wanted to introduce you to some of our apprentices — our Systems Administrator, Kyle Paxton, and our Office Manager, Kim Oryekot. There’s also a few words from our Head of Information Security, Simon Waring, who started his apprenticeship back when the computer was a new thing (quite a long time ago).

Kim Office Manager apprentice advice

I knew I didn’t want to go to university. It didn’t work with my style of learning. I’ve always preferred learning practically, so an apprenticeship made complete sense as a next step.

I also love the variety of apprenticeships. There are so many options and paths to explore. Originally, I was at college studying Engineering, but offering technical support just wasn’t for me.

My friend recommended an apprenticeship to me because I could work and learn the way I wanted. A few months later I started to check them out online, applied, attended an interview and here I am!

The best advice I’ve received was to say ‘no’ to people. It sounds strange, but when you’ve just started as an apprentice you want to do anything and everything. I found it really hard to say ‘no’ initially but it’s easy to get overloaded by volunteering to do things and saying ‘yes’ to too many people.

If I was to describe my internship in three words, I’d say it was different, daunting (because you’re the youngest in a workplace full of professionals), and challenging. I’m learning so many new things every day in a real, working environment.

But that’s half the fun. From communication and management skills to office upkeep, I’m getting a firm grasp on project administration.

Kyle Systems Administrator apprentice advice

An apprenticeship made sense for me. I wanted to gain some work experience and don’t think the current education system works for everyone. For instance, I initially went to college and studied accounting — studying T graphs and things — it felt like the 1900s. Not for me! I prefer working with like-minded people and learning from them.

I always wanted to work in IT and enjoy working with computers.

There’s definitely a technology trend in my family, with my grandad and uncle both interested in electronics. Plus, I love gaming and it gives me an excuse to spend even more time on computers.

Simon now mentors me as an apprentice. He often says,‘Always ask ‘why?’. It helps you get context on a situation and helps me understand whether that’s exactly what people need, or whether I can help in a different way. Usually you get told off for saying ‘why?’ but it’s helped me on so many occasions.

My apprenticeship has been vigorous and completely eye-opening.

Simon Head of Information Security apprentice advice

I started tinkering aged 8 or 9.

From transistor radios and burglar alarms to continuity testing water detectors — I loved building bits and bobs from basic components. I was fascinated by anything electronic. I’d take things apart and see how they worked and then try to put them together again — often having more pieces left over than when I started!

It was the combination of work and education that made it right for me. As a ‘traditional’ apprenticeship, it meant starting from the absolute ground up. The programme was four years, working for a company called Rank Cintel. It helped me get practical on the job training while doing education, rather than a purely academic and theoretical path into a career. I basically couldn’t wait to get out of school and starting work. Part of this involved attending a day-release to college, studying a HND in Electronic Engineering. It was all very practical — what I would study at college I would put into practise at work.

By the time I had finished my apprenticeship, computers had already started to move on. But I was then designing and building computers from scratch. Every chip and every connection.
At each step I would learn something new, but I wanted to know that little bit more, which led me to operating systems, writing software. Huge computers were being developed. It was incredible how fast the rate of change was.

And it was through this — learning to put things together— we were working to understand how to stop people doing things they shouldn’t. That really caught my attention. By putting things into place, it was fascinating to me to work out how to secure it — which is what brought me to where I am today.

What stuck with me from my apprenticeship to now is the constant learning of new information. It’s important to always want to know a little bit more.

Knowing how things work, how to hack into them and then how to fix them is something that is constantly changing – no one will ever know everything. You’ve just got to try your best to know the most.

With apprenticeships today there are many more opportunities. It’s less specific. You don’t have to define your end goal from the outset. So while of course it’s vital to ensure you get the right thing for you — that you find somewhere you can have that real working experience — part of the difficulty is choice.

Saying that, aspiring apprentices still need to be driven, self motivated and disciplined. They’ve got to make sure they’re looking for opportunities. It speaks volumes when you’re not necessarily being asked to do things all the time, but asking to do stuff.

Ultimately, if you’re not interested in the field you’re going into, you’re not going to be successful. You need to do something you’re interested in, otherwise it’s hard to make yourself work hard at it.

The best advice I ever received was ‘No one will ever give you anything, you have to take it’.

Now I’ll pass that same advice on: opportunities will come your way, but it’s up to you to seize them. No one is going to deliver you an education, career, or experience on a plate. You have to go out there and take it.

Interested?

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