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08 February 2022

National Apprenticeship Week: Elizabeth Wilcox

National Apprenticeship Week: Elizabeth Wilcox

Ever wondered what it’s like to work at MI5? Or whether you’d fit in at the NHS, Coca-Cola, or Channel 4? National Apprenticeship Week 2022 is the perfect chance for those who are looking for an alternative to university to learn more about the opportunities available to them. 

The theme for National Apprenticeship Week 2022 is 'build the future'; reflecting on how apprenticeships can help individuals to develop the skills and knowledge required for a rewarding career, and businesses to develop a talented workforce that is equipped with future-ready skills.

To understand the benefits apprenticeships have to offer we spoke with Howell's alumna Elizabeth Wilcox about her experience working at J.P. Morgan. She undertook a degree apprenticeship which is an exciting new type of programme offered by some universities. Students can achieve a full bachelor's or master's degree as part of their apprenticeship.

Continue reading for resources on apprenticeships and advice on how/where to find the right one for you.


What did study for your A-Levels and did you also apply for university courses and did you receive any offers?

During my time in college, I studied Economics, Business Studies and ICT. I applied for multiple degree apprenticeships alongside the traditional UCAS route, JPM was among these. University wise I had offers from Durham, Cardiff, CASS Business School and Royal Holloway. The way the system works with JPM is your offer is grade dependent and not confirmed until results day so as a backup, I firmed Finance at Durham. One of the most nerve-racking experiences of my life was on results day after I had accepted my offer for JPM and declined the offer from Durham University. 

Why did you decide on an apprenticeship over university?

It was an important part of the process for me to acknowledge that the reason for me applying to university was to get a career at the end of the process. Apprenticeships allowed me to do this at the same time as achieving my degree, without the burden of student debt, as well as growing my network within the industry and working on the soft skills employers look for. 

How did you find the right apprenticeship for you?

When looking into apprenticeships I utilised a master document produced by UCAS that outlined all of the different apprenticeships that were available. This file didn't include a lot of information on the schemes or companies so I made sure to do some extra reading around these companies and schemes to get a better understanding of whether they were a good fit. One of the other resources I made sure to fully utilise was the resources on offer at Howell's. Mrs Wilks can confirm I spent a lot of my lunchtimes in careers appointments trying to work out what I was looking for exactly in my next steps and giving me the confidence to follow my own path. 

What was the application process like?

The application process for JPM definitely put me through my paces, despite this I enjoyed it and it helped me to gain greater insight into the firm to understand if it would be a good fit for me. The first stage was a telephone interview conducted with Exeter University. After this, there was an assessment centre held at the Canary Wharf, Bank Street office where I now work. This was such an exciting opportunity to see London and see the site where I could be working should things go well. Then I attended an insight evening with the hiring manager that was also held at the Bank street office. Finally there was a video interview. 

What was your apprenticeship like?

The initial role when joining the company was one of the middle office roles, assigned to trade support. This meant that I worked alongside traders in their work to ensure that the trades booked were booked correctly as per what the client was expecting. This was done through the use of reconciliation and also the production of a profit and loss report at the close. From the first day, I was treated as another member of the team and assigned more tasks as my knowledge increased. As well as the technical skills, the increased knowledge of communications, culture and people skills has been a huge learning curve. Due to COVID we have worked from home most days however living in Canary Wharf and going into the office when possible has helped me feel part of the team. Towards the end of last year I applied for a place on the Front Office Apprenticeship, I have been offered a place and I will be joining my new team in the Markets Portfolio Management Front Office this week.

How do you think your apprenticeship has benefited your future career?

My apprenticeship has helped my future career by launching me on the fast-track process, allowing me to work out exactly what employers are looking for in terms of not only knowledge but also soft skills. These are things like how to write an email, communicate with a client and just general lessons that you can't learn through university teaching and traditional style education. It's also allowed me to develop a great understanding of where I'd like my career to take me. Especially in industries like banking, it could be difficult to learn what those roles are like on and day-to-day basis without being in the industry.

Do you have any advice for anyone interested in or applying for an apprenticeship?

My best advice to anyone looking at applying for apprenticeships is to keep it open mind about the different companies that you may want to work in and the different sectors. One of the most important things I found was trying to get an understanding of what I wanted to gain is out of an apprenticeship. Personally, I wanted to achieve a degree, so chose a degree apprenticeship but there are so many different forms of apprenticeships on offer it's important to understand what qualification level you would be looking for.


Resources

UCAS Apprenticeships allows you to search for a wide range of opportunities filtering by date, level and location. Check out the links below to get started.

Download the guides below to to understand the different levels of Apprenticeships and to see the benefits of taking these routes.

Book an appointment with Mrs Wilks

Year 12 and Year 13 students are supported in making informed decisions for their post-A level route through a timetabled programme of careers, world of work, and Higher Education information, guidance and advice activities throughout their College Years. College students can book a one to one chat with our qualified, experienced Careers Adviser, Mrs Jane Wilks.  If you are unable to attend a booked appointment, you must let Mrs Wilks know at the earliest opportunity. Appointments are particularly busy between September and December, so make sure you book in advance.

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