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Making impact: the value of apprenticeships as a route into the working world

New technologies, with its wave of AI and cloud computing, are changing the traditional jobs landscape. Because of this, there is a growing gap in digital skills that needs to be met. Apprenticeships are a great way for young people to develop the vital skills and qualifications they need to future proof their careers. For businesses, it’s a great way to bring in new skills and cultivate talent to help stay competitive.

Apprenticeships are a fantastic way for young people to earn-while-they-learn, as they step into the first role of their digital technology careers. Read about why our business apprentices chose this path to kick-start their careers.


Headshot of Lily Mears, young girl with blonde hair, smiling at the cameraLily Mears, Customer Success Business Manager, Level 4 Apprentice 

Why did you choose to become an apprentice?

I choose to become an apprentice because I knew the practical working and hands on experience suited my learning style better. I have never been one for soaking up knowledge in a classroom based environment so I needed an opportunity that allowed me to learn, on the job but also give me the opportunity to continue learning and gain qualifications.

The apprenticeship allows for you to take what you learn in the theory based content of your qualification and apply it to your day to day job role. From an early age, I’d had an interest in working in the business world, so being able to work for one of the largest organisations has been a real eye opener and a massive learning opportunity.

Can you explain a day in the life of your role?

A day in the life of a business management apprentice can change depending on the asks of the business area. I am a level 4 business management apprentice, working within the Customer Success department at Microsoft. My role is primarily internal with the opportunity for customer interactions on a peer to peer level. Day to day, I get involved in areas such as communications, events, travel and expenses, public speaking and strategic initiatives which contribute to the pillars of success for our business area.

No two days are the same and having a mix of responsibilities has given me a lot contextual insights into how a business runs to support my qualification. As an apprentice, you are also given 10% off the job hours which can go towards social impact and the apprentice community. With the social impact time, I like to visit local schools to talk through my journey and the things I’ve learned along the way with the hope to inspire other students to pursue the apprenticeship route.

What do you want to do in the future?

As a business, Microsoft have been hugely supportive of my early in career journey, helping me to reach my full potential and I’d love to secure a full time role here in the future. After completing my level 4 management consultancy qualification, I’m keen to continue developing my skills and my goal is to progress onto the business management degree.

Joel Roach, STU Degree Apprentice Headshot of Joel Roach

Why did you choose to become an apprentice?

I’d heard about apprenticeships throughout sixth form, but I never paid much attention to them. I had decided early on that I wanted to be a therapist, which involved getting a psychology degree. After A-levels I stuck to the plan and went to university to study psychology. While I was at university, the reality of becoming a therapist became clear: there would be a lot of research and several years of studying before I ever sat down with a client. I was now studying a degree, and accumulating large amounts of debt, for a career I didn’t want.

I started to explore graduate schemes, to figure out what else I could do with my degree. This process involved looking up the names of big companies and seeing what they offered. Big companies like Microsoft. On the same page as the overview of Microsoft’s graduate scheme was information about their apprenticeship program. It said that I could be getting a degree while I worked full-time for one of the world’s most well-known companies, gaining four years of work experience, earning a salary and with no debt at the end of it. So why was I at university?

I applied for the apprenticeship at Microsoft and decided to finish university at the end of my first year. Eighteen months later I’ve settled into my role, and I’m really enjoying it. I get to work on and run projects that have a major impact at the company, and I’m learning things in my apprenticeship that I can use every day.

Can you explain a day in the life of your role?

My role has a broad scope, so everyday is different. Some of the areas I focus on are communications, department-wide events and diversity and inclusion. I’m also involved with the apprentice community at my organisation, this meant that I took part in the planning and running of an onboarding week for a new group of apprentices. I take one day each week away from the office to study for my apprenticeship. This involves reading, attending online lectures and working on assignments. I also attend workshops where I put the things I’m learning about into practice and gain feedback from tutors.

What do you want to do in the future?

After I’ve completed my apprenticeship, I’d love to transition into human resources, where I can actively help shape the workplace and improve the apprenticeship program from a higher level. I’ve got a few years to go before I finish but for now I’m really enjoying my current role.

Madeleine Ricci, STU Degree ApprenticeHeadshot of Madeleine Ricci

Why did you choose to become an apprentice?

Apprenticeships were not promoted or part of conversation at my school, so I began researching all possible options alongside the UCAS process. I found that the opportunities were endless and covered a much broader range of roles and industries than I had first imagined. Narrowing the search down to ‘business’ orientated roles in blue-chip organisations I started applying. The application process was a great learning curve and gave me exposure to different interview and questioning styles, and it made me reflect on what I wanted out of an apprenticeship against university.

It was a difficult to choose between two unknown worlds, and despite being accepted to 4 universities, I knew that if I was successful at getting an apprenticeship role, specifically at level 6, I would accept this over university – not just for the obvious reasons of having my degree paid for, learning on the job and no debt! But because I was keen to get into the world of work. The thought of another 3-4 years of a school-like environment with exams didn’t appeal to me. I also learned from my experiences in different summer placements that a high energy office environment helped me share my opinions and grow in maturity.

So far, my degree apprenticeship has made me become more self-motivated as I can see the impact of my learning in a real-life working environment which is really rewarding. It can be challenging to balance my role and study but learning to communicate and manage my time are invaluable life skills. The best thing about being an apprentice is the confidence you gain from being invested in as a person and being given the opportunity to succeed and add value to the business.

Can you explain a day in the life of your role?

Being an apprentice certainly doesn’t mean you will be assigned coffee runs and photocopying, in fact, you will find that many people want to meet with you over a coffee to discuss your future aspirations and how you are settling into the working world.

My role as a business operations associate in the management team of our sales department means that no two days are the same. I have found this role means I am a problem solver, a point of contact for over 300 employees, a data analytics reporter, an event organiser and much more. I love this role for its variety and ‘get stuff done’ atmosphere as my team works together to change processes, manage our brand reputation and control the day to day running of a department the size of most small businesses.

Outside of my team I love working with other departments across the business to share best practise to improve our business management functions as well as collaborating on different projects and events.

I love getting to work with like-minded people who are also ‘early in career’ as we can motivate and support each other with all aspects of developing a career in a world of industry professionals – something that can be daunting at first.

What do you want to do in the future?

I have learned over the last year of my apprenticeship that just because I am in a set business management role now, doesn’t mean this is for life.

Getting exposure to, and meeting people across the many departments at Microsoft has taught me a lot about myself and the business – and that it is often easier to know what you don’t like than what you do!

By creating lists of aspects of my role that give me energy and those that don’t, I have been able to narrow down a shortlist of criteria that I would want a future role to meet. For me, I am keen to find a role that incorporates operations, people management and events. These are areas I excel in and feel most confident with in my current role. At this stage in my career, I’m keen to keep doors open and explore all avenues.

Developing the skills for future technology

Lily, Joel, and Madeleine are working to become part of a future workforce that is collaborative, communicative, and supportive. With their training and skills, they’re getting ready to help empower people and organisations of now and in the future to be the best they can be.

We also spoke to two Cloud Solution Architects apprentices, who are getting ready to help create the technology that will empower us in the future.

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 Learn more about apprenticeships

Read about our Cloud Solution Architect apprentices