There is much to celebrate this week with #NationalApprenticeshipWeek. It’s a time to both recognise and appreciate success stories and extend the message to audiences that are less familiar with the value apprentices bring to a business. We are moving into an era which looks beyond the traditional route into employment. Today, there are multiple avenues – each with its own set of attributes that make it more suitable to the individual. Here at Wilbury Stratton, we have sat down with our apprentice to understand from his perspective the benefits of apprenticeships, talk to him about his ambitions, and find out how he’s found his time at the company so far.
George Ralph – Data & Systems Administrator and Research Analyst
Hi George! You started your apprenticeship with Wilbury Stratton almost a year ago. What made you apply?
When I left college, I was at a bit of a crossroads. I was wondering whether to go straight into the workplace or go to university. I didn’t want to be in full-time education anymore and I saw that Wilbury Stratton was advertising an apprenticeship scheme in something that I was interested in – business administration.
As I had just come out of college, I had up to date knowledge in areas like Microsoft Office and general technology. I thought these skills would match up well to the role’s requirements so decided to apply.
And you’ve done a great job…what would you say your biggest strengths are?
I would say that my biggest strengths are in efficiency and problem solving. I am also strong on organisation – I organise my calendar days in advance to make sure that when I come into the office I can crack on. I would also say that my strength lies is communication and adding to the culture of the business. As an apprentice, I’d never assume that I would get involved with the business on a social level yet I seem to have achieved that at Wilbury Stratton – mainly because the business has taken me under its wing – turning me into a much more confident person.
We agree! But with apprenticeships all about learning and development, what other skill sets are you looking to improve upon?
I want to improve my professional confidence. I want to get to the stage where my colleagues don’t see me as an apprentice anymore. I want to be able to get on the phone with ease and speak to people across multiple industries with no trouble. I am constantly learning new things and I want to build the confidence to truly establish myself in the corporate world.
So you’ve been working as an apprentice with us for over a year now. But where do you see yourself in five years?
I see myself at Wilbury Stratton. I want to be more integrated into the research team and become more senior. I really like this company and I can see growth opportunities and a great career path for me. Also, since we recently opened our offices in Kuala Lumpur and London, I am excited about the prospects for the company. I want to stay a part of an organisation that is growing its global presence.
And what’s it been like to work at Wilbury Stratton?
I came from a very quiet town in West Sussex – the type of place where certain styles of jeans haven’t quite made it to fruition yet. That said, being at a company like Wilbury Stratton – in the centre of such a great city – is a breath of fresh air and has opened my eyes to new opportunities.
There’s a lot of bad stigma attached to corporates, but coming to Wilbury Stratton, I feel very comfortable. The culture is great to be a part of because everyone gets along with each other. You can dress casually and joke around, but at the same time we produce high-quality work. The culture is a modern outlook on what corporate offices should be. Dan Chester [our MD] has been the main reason for this – but I also think that it’s very typical of an office in Brighton. You don’t just know people on a professional level, you know them on a personal level.
The culture has even paved the way for the creation of my proudest role at the company, Chief Breakfast Officer – the person responsible for making sure everyone gets a decent breakfast on Friday mornings!
And aside from bacon sandwiches, is there anything else Wilbury Stratton has taught you?
It’s OK to have weaknesses and it’s OK to be wrong. When you first enter the workplace, you think you need to be right all the time but Wilbury has taught me that it’s OK to make mistakes because they will help you get to where you want to be later in life.
If you could give a piece of advice to new apprentices, what would it be?
Be yourself. Everybody accepts you for who you are. Work hard. In some companies you just turn up, do your work, get paid and that’s it. At Wilbury Stratton, if you work hard then you will get rewarded. A good work ethic does not go unnoticed – and this really drives me to do the best I can possibly do!
Finally, why is it important that companies offer apprenticeship schemes?
Apprenticeships are good for people who want to get into work straight away. You don’t necessarily need a qualification to kick-start your career. Apprenticeships get your foot in the door of a business. University degrees do not always guarantee you a job – especially when some of them are not specific to an industry. Logistically, university does not always prepare someone for a 9-5 job. University almost gives you too much freedom and it’s then a lot harder to transition into a full-time role. For companies, apprenticeships provide a constant influx of fresh ideas – mainly because apprentices are young and provide a modern way of thinking to the workplace.