15.10.2015

Apprenticeships have a role in financial services

by Katie Binnion

I don’t carry an oily rag. I don’t wear overalls. And I don’t lie under a motor car all day learning to tinker with a gear box. But I am an apprentice. 

Apprenticeships have changed enormously since the 1950s, when most were in engineering and the craft trades. They can now be found across the spectrum of business sectors, including financial services. And that’s how I came to be involved as an apprentice at Trade and Export Finance Limited as Personal Assistant Executive to the CEO.

Becoming an apprentice with TAEFL marked a turning point in my life; the prospect of combining on-the-job training and experience with formal academic studies leading to an advanced vocational qualification.

Hands-on experience

On the work front, I have been fortunate enough to have had an array of jobs from floristry to waitressing. It meant that I had developed the work ‘discipline’ which is an essential part of the apprenticeship concept. I am proud to say I have had a job of some description since the age of 15. I’ve also managed a household since I was 16 – although I still seem to have trouble keeping my bedroom tidy.

The college side of the apprenticeship is meant to build upon earlier studies: I have 2 diplomas in Business studies (equivalent to an A* at GCSE and AA at A level). These two courses covered many areas of business including Finance, Accounting and Human Resources. It was therefore entirely logical to work in an office environment. Finding the right niche was probably more difficult than I had thought; particularly one which would give me the opportunity to increase my qualifications while working.

My time at TAEFL

Despite having acquired a range of transferable skills from my work experience I found myself applying for many PA roles but being unsuccessful. That was until I applied to TAEFL.

I can remember my interview well. It seemed to last a long time, which made me hopeful. But the questions were tricky – which I liked.  It was more challenging than the other interviews I’d attended.

I must have done well as within the hour I received a phone call from TAEFL offering me the job. I was ‘over the moon’ (which is rather better than being ‘as sick as a parrot’). And so I started the following week.

I was inevitably a bit nervous, but TAEFL welcomed me with open arms. Everyone is very helpful and is willing to spare their time to help.  I feel I have learnt a great deal since becoming an apprentice at TAEFL a mere 6 months ago. In that time, I’ve taken on a broad portfolio of responsibilities. They include:

  • Meeting and greeting clients
  • Managing a client database
  • Monitoring the CEO’s e-mails
  • Using telephony communications

I am also the nominated events organiser at TAEFL having organised an office opening and a breakfast seminar since I joined. There are more events to come, including the Big One – the Christmas party.

As part of my apprenticeship with TAEFL, I study Business and IT at Birmingham Metropolitan College. I have so far passed three exams and have one more to go. I also have a college assessor who comes to visit me at TAEFL every three weeks. I complete coursework and collect evidence for many different units covered with the assessor. The course is spread out over twelve months and in that time I must carry out specific tasks including organising events, Using telephones and email, and managing a diary system.

It’s safe to say that TAEFL is keeping me busy!  Like an increasing number of employers, the company appreciates the benefits of apprenticeship for both sides.  Somehow, I don’t think they will be giving me an oil can and a monkey wrench any time soon.

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