Mr Apprenticeship (or How I Learned To Stop Worrying and Love Work-Based Learning)

Around April time(ish), I finished my apprenticeship. It was a shorter NVQ, running over the course of a year and resulting in a certificate in Business Administration. As someone who dropped out of sixth form (and college, but who’s counting), it’s really nice to have a verified body actually recognise that I am capable of something. Until now, my ability to back up my skillset has pretty much amounted to looking you in the eye and saying ‘trust me’.

But certificates aside, there’s a whole lot more than the apprenticeship has brought to my attention. Aside from the actual course material, I learned a lot of other useful information. That’s right, in a cliché movie type fashion, the apprenticeship also taught me about MYSELF. I know, it sounds cringe-worthy, but bear with me on this one.

There’s a different feel to work-based learning that there is to conventional learning, like at school or college. I know that this is probably obvious without me having to say it. And of course, this is personal opinion and not fact. Every apprenticeship is different, and everyone operates differently. But for me, I felt much more confident and capable in an apprenticeship than I did in school. It’s empowering to be part of the team: you begin to feel like you’re succeeding before you’ve even finished.

The Resourcerer’s Apprenticeship

(See what I did there? I’m a master of barely recognisable reference puns.)

An apprenticeship is a fantastic way to learn your work, while you work.

So what did I learn about myself? I found that the ‘academic’ style of learning just isn’t my thing. While I never had any major issues with school – I did okay in exams, I liked my teachers and I could pay attention in class if I was inclined to – I hated every second of the learning experience. I didn’t enjoy myself and found it kind of patronising. Combine that with the pretty uninspiring environment that exam culture brings to learning, and you’re left with someone who just isn’t into learning.

The differentiator was the flow of work more than anything else. I had free reign to cover assignments in my own time and on my own schedule. I had free time in the day? Time to add another couple of hundred words to this months workload. Something came up in the office while I was working on an assignment? That’s no big deal, I can come back to it. Throw in the lack of a class schedule or impending exams breathing down your neck and the time you spend on your work becomes enjoyable.

When things are enjoyable, you put more effort into them.

And when responsibility is thrust upon you as an opportunity, you learn to manage it. I learned to manage my workload more independently and ‘work off my own initiative’. By having a more in-depth understanding of what criteria I’m writing to, I became more able to self-assess the suitability of my work. And by being able to be in control of which work I handle and when has given me more experience in monitoring my own progress. All these analytical skills are vital in any workplace to ensure your own development. They’re applicable anywhere, in virtually any workplace.

School and Other Lessons

"I don't love studying. I hate studying. I love learning." There are multiple ways to learn, not just school or an apprenticeship.

To cut to the chase, there’s a lot of different ways of learning. Not every single method is going to work for you. If school plays to your abilities and works in a way that you’re comfortable and successful with, that’s fantastic news and you should stick with it. But if you’re feeling limited or restricted to work in the way that you want to, you might find it liberating to try something different. Some people like work-based learning, some people like night classes. Some people like to learn from home. It’s all good. Find what works for you and go for it.

With that in mind, it’s also worth noting that there is nothing stopping you from chasing whatever you want to do. No matter your circumstance, there’s something you can do to make progress in whatever you want.

Feel like you’re too old for that course? Nope. Nola Ochs received her master’s degree at 98 years old. You’re not past it.

Don’t have enough money to get started on that course? The Open University offers free courses to lots of different subjects, and eDX offers courses in pretty much everything for free or a small price.

Haven’t got the time? There’s plenty of flexible learning and short-term courses that you can do at your own pace from your sofa. Back in January, I made a newsletter with lots of these opportunities. Want to sign up for me to send them to you? You got it.

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