An apprenticeship might once have suggested someone starting their career and brought to mind a list of hands-on industries, but an on-going revolution sees all staff and sectors now tackling a qualification that can stretch beyond degree level.
Determined to help apprentices of all levels succeed, the University of Gloucestershire is leading the way when it comes to delivering a range of higher, tailor-made options – allowing businesses to invest in, retain and develop their staff.
Its Business School is already synonymous with The Growth Hub and GFirst LEP, all of which are under one roof on its Oxstalls site, and its growing catalogue of apprenticeships are proof of its desire to continue to listen, learn and deliver what business wants.
But, no matter how good the course or what level the apprenticeship, the hard work to get over the line with that precious qualification and experience is only going to come from one place – the apprentice who steps up and tests themselves.
About the apprentice: Naimat Kaur, St James’s Place Wealth Management
It could be said that Naimat Kaur has the best of both worlds – a job with possibly the county’s biggest business and a place on a top apprenticeship.
Ms Kaur is not only completing a bachelors degree in cyber security at the University of Gloucestershire, she is also a cyber security degree apprentice working for Cirencester-based St. James’s Place Wealth Management.
The world of finance is exacting and the firm, which already has a long history of investing in staff training, has built an exciting working relationship with the University of Gloucestershire to deliver the training it requires.
For those unfamiliar with St. James’ Place, when Ms Kaur qualifies she will already be working for the biggest business in Gloucestershire by turnover, a firm currently looking after £129 billion+ of investments.
What was your first ever job?
This apprentice is actually my first job. It is my first stepping stone into the corporate world. At the beginning it felt strange being a full-time student and then suddenly working 9-5 in an office, however I’ve gradually adapted myself to this change.
What do you do?
I am a cyber security degree apprentice working for St. James Place Wealth Management. Alongside that I am also completing a degree in cyber security at the University of Gloucestershire.
Can you tell us a bit about your working week?
My role is to ensure St. James’ Place employees, clients and partners are not exposed to any unnecessary risk. I ensure that all internal and external public facing assets are scanned to identify vulnerabilities that cyber criminals can potentially exploit and liaise with different teams to drive the number of vulnerabilities down.
Another major part of my role is to work with the development team to ensure any applications to be released are secure and include best security practices.
I work 9am to 5pm, so generally my evenings and spare time are spent completing university work. Maintaining a work/life balance is something I’m still yet to master, however I get 20 per cent off job training and block study release from work, which allows me to dedicate equal time to work and my qualification.
Why, on top of your busy working week, add an apprenticeship?
An apprenticeship is a perfect combination of study and work. This route is allowing me to gain experience in a functional work environment, as well as working towards an honour’s degree. It has filled me with confidence and I would recommend anyone to go for an apprenticeship, as the lessons are invaluable and possibilities are endless.
How did you feel about a return to the classroom?
Unfortunately, due to Covid-19, I’ve only actually had one face-to-face lecture so far and meetings have all completed remotely through Teams. However, I am very excited for face-to-face learning to start again in September 2021.
How many hours a week do you dedicate to the course?
Attendance at university is roughly one week each month. However, there is a good deal of self-studying and reading in preparation for each assignment, so most of my evenings are spent doing this.
Can you use your own business as a case study during the course?
A lot of the content I learn on my course links really well with the tasks I perform at work. Even with assignments I can apply concepts used at work to get a better understanding of the theory learnt at university.
Is being alongside other apprentices a positive too and do you support one another?
I have a great cohort, we get along really well. We all come from different technical backgrounds and work in different industries, so we try to support each other as much as possible.
When did you start the course and how soon were you able to start applying some of what you are learning to your day job?
I started the course in September 2020 and I’m just about to finish my first year of university. After the first two modules’ things started to link up really well with tasks and responsibilities at work.
What have been the benefits to you so far?
I have personally found this way of learning very useful. It allows me to understand how the theoretical concepts learnt are applied in a practical work environment. I really thrive off of success, so I put a lot of efforts into my assignments to create innovative reports and applications.
A major misconception is that you are by yourself at university with minimum support. However, I have received a great amount of support from my lecturers with assignments and questions regarding lecturers.
Would you recommend the course to others, why and what advice would you give them?
I would definitely recommend this course. Learning and working with experienced professionals has enabled me to grow a wide network. My advice to anyone who is considering this course is to really push yourself academically by pre-reading.
What do you think this will give you?
On a personal level, I think this apprenticeship will shape me as a person. It will add to my skill set and allow me to grow as a person.