“I still can’t believe it, it hasn’t quite sunk in yet!”
Fantastic Futures student Naimat is reflecting on her offer of a Degree Apprenticeship, studying Cyber Security at the University of Gloucester with St James’s Place.
“Initially I was unsure of apprenticeships. I had a lot of misconceptions about what they were and thought they might limit me more than university. That completely changed when I went to an information evening with Nationwide, where all the different options were completely broken down and explained to me. After that, I knew a Degree Apprenticeship was what I wanted.”
With the support of her mentor Julie, Naimat took to researching different companies and began the process of applying.
“The digital interviews were really daunting to start with, I’d never done anything like them before. My mentor Julie helped me to prepare for what to expect and I practiced a lot beforehand. During the interview you’re also given the time to prepare each answer as they come, and it wasn’t as scary as I had expected.
“I actually really enjoyed the assessment centres! They’re a great opportunity to meet other candidates, and see people working in a professional environment. Everyone there wants you to do well, and are so supportive.”
The application process for such competitive positions can be tough at the best of times, but this was made even more difficult in March with the Covid-19 pandemic.
“It was a really frightening time, I was so unsure of what I was going to do” explained Naimat, “All of the assessment centres were either delayed or cancelled, and I was really worried about the impact this would have on my plans for the future, on my career.
“As time went on, I felt sure that I would just have to go to university, though that wasn’t what I truly wanted.”
Naimat reached a breakthrough when she made a last minute application to St James’s Place.
“I applied on the final day, which I absolutely would not recommend! There’s so much work to do for an application, so it was fairly stressful. I’d lost all hope for getting an apprenticeship, so it was such a shock when I got to the next stage.”
And ultimately, Naimat passed all the stages to be offered a role with the organisation.
“I felt so strongly during the assessments that my personality fitted their culture. They really value each other and were so friendly. I knew it was where I wanted to be, and thankfully they saw it too!”
Looking back on her experience, Naimat has some pearls of wisdom for students thinking about applying for an apprenticeship.
“Do your research! From learning about the company to understanding the different tests available, it’s really important that you’re prepared. You’ll start to see patterns in the tasks they set you, which means you can prepare for each assessment with some expectations of what will happen.
“My number one piece of advice would be to be yourself. They can see through you when you try to pretend, and ultimately you want to work for a company that matches your culture, and your values. So be yourself, be honest, and you will find the fit that’s right for you.”
Naimat is excited to start her new role in the autumn and take her next step in her career as she leaves school, and the Villiers Park programme.
“I just want to say thank you to Villiers Park, and especially to my mentor Julie. It meant so much to have someone outside of the college environment to talk to and support me through the whole process.”