How my apprenticeship made my career

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By Tayla Blackman, Senior Account Manager

To be candid, I never thought I’d end up doing an apprenticeship. I come from a long line of people who went to university and viewed it as the only logical next step after leaving school. I’d loved education and if I’m being honest, I saw apprenticeships as an option for boys who wanted to study construction or engineering. I wrote them off before I’d even explored the possibilities.

The problem I faced with exploring university though was that I had no idea what I wanted to do. I’d always studied fashion at school, but after visiting a few universities, my heart knew it wasn’t the next step for me. I went through the process of applying to keep my options open, but when I was accepted, I knew I couldn’t spend £9,000 a year to pursue something I wasn’t set on. I had no idea where I wanted my life to go and felt stuck.

Having ruled out university but keen to move on from my after school job, I decided to actually do some research into apprenticeships. Within the first 30-seconds, I realised that there were hundreds of different roles available, from construction to digital marketing, PR to business management. It was the perfect solution for me; I could learn a new skill and instead of paying £9,000 a year to learn, I’d could be paid more money to do the same thing.

Following a handful of applications and interviews, I started my Level 3 Digital Marketing Apprenticeship with the South East Midlands Local Enterprise Partnership (SEMLEP) in July 2017. Having no real office experience, I assumed I would spend most of my days making cups of tea (this is back when we had to be in the office nine to five, Monday to Friday!), but I couldn’t have been more wrong. From day one, my colleagues were helping me learn new skills, training me on the areas of the business I didn’t understand, and working alongside me as I adapted to the world of work. The team actively sought out my insights, asking my opinion, and valuing the work I did. The environment was completely different to school, but I absolutely loved it.

18-months into the role, I completed my apprenticeship and got promoted. However, with the world of communications being so vast, there was more I wanted to learn. I found that the apprenticeship structure perfectly suited my learning style and so with the support of SEMLEP, I decided to undertake a Level 4 Public Relations Apprenticeship with the PRCA. This was a big turning point in my career, and one I believe enabled me to get to where I am today.

At SEMLEP, post apprenticeships, the opportunities kept coming. After four years, I found myself in my mentor’s role, working as the Communications Manager. While I enjoyed the role, I wanted to continue to challenge my skills in a different learning environment. That’s why in 2022 I applied for a job with Missive, a London-based integrated PR & communications consultancy that specialises in technology. The agency’s flexible working, team socials, private healthcare, sabbatical offer and a tech and wellbeing allowance sold me, with the yearly company-wide trip, the ‘Missive Massive’ the cherry on the cake.

Today, two years into my time at Missive, I couldn’t be happier. I feel like I’ve found the place I belong. From not knowing what I was going to do at 17 to working as a Senior Account Manager at 24, I cannot believe how far I’ve come professionally and personally.

By earning a wage from 17, I was able to buy my first home at 21. I always wanted to buy my own home and having a monthly wage during my apprenticeships helped me make that ambition a reality. Thanks to flexible work, I’ve managed to fit in running a marathon, bringing a dog into my life and going on many an all-inclusive holiday (Jamaica has to be my favourite!).

My one piece of advice for someone considering an apprenticeship? Stop considering and just do it. Regardless of age, position or location, apprenticeships provide the perfect blend of education and on the job experience. You’ll have the opportunity to walk through so many open doors, learn business-relevant skills and grow your network. I’m thrilled with where I am today – and I truly believe my apprenticeship got me here.

This blog was originally published on the PRCA during National Apprenticeship Week.

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