Massive decision: do I go to university or find an apprenticeship to kick-start my career?

Hi, I’m Kyran Whitehead, an Associate Project Manager and a former civil service fast track apprentice. Back in September 2014 I’d just finished college and faced a massive decision: do I go to university, or do I find an apprenticeship to kick-start my career? It wasn’t an easy choice as my school friends were all going to university but I decided taking an apprenticeship and pursuing a career earlier, while continuing my education vocationally, was the best option for me.

When I first saw the civil service fast track apprenticeship scheme advertised online I applied. I was impressed by both the high starting wage and the opportunities and qualifications I could get.

A warm welcome

Starting at HMRC was a bit overwhelming just because of the size of the department and the amount of people who worked in my office. The first weeks involved lots of e-learning, but I welcomed that. It was a nice way to adapt to an environment I had never been in before. I was introduced to other apprentices and the team I would be working with. It was a lot to take in, and in such a short space of time, but my colleagues made me feel welcome.

The fact that I had only recently left education helped me greatly when it came to completing the assignments for the apprenticeship as I was still used to writing in the format required. The assignments covered topics that naturally aligned with my role, which made it easier to manage both the apprenticeship and a full time job at the same time.

Within the first two weeks I attended an induction event in London where I met apprentices from around the country. Meeting hundreds of people who were in the same place as me, senior people who took a real interest in us, and a Q&A session with the Deputy Prime Minister at the time, Nick Clegg, were real highlights.

Exciting opportunities

During my apprenticeship I worked in IT Delivery as a project support officer.  When I started I had a very limited understanding of project management and no idea about the role of a Project Support Officer. I would never have expected to be involved with creating and transforming digital tax platforms that would be used by people across the country. This was exciting for me as I felt part of changes which would affect millions of people on a daily basis.

At the same time I was I was asked to help market the 2015/16 apprenticeship scheme.  I gave my ideas on a new slogan, website and brochure and ended up being included as the representative for all Project Delivery apprentices in the scheme.

All of these opportunities helped me gather the evidence I needed to achieve the highest grade in my apprenticeship programme, as well as giving me job satisfaction and the versatility of expanding my role.

Building my knowledge

My apprenticeship gave me a perfect platform to build my knowledge of the wider civil service and the way the organisation works. In many instances along the way, I was asked to fill in for my manager, or take over project work.  This is a challenging position to be put in, but I was able to draw on experience from the apprenticeship to handle it all successfully. The main thing I took from the two years was a great network of friends and colleagues from around the country, and I can’t stress enough the importance of this.

Now I work within HMRC’s IT Delivery function, and have just been promoted to associate project manager. I know the qualifications I have achieved and essential life skills gained, along with the work I have been doing over the last three years, will allow me to progress further within the Civil Service. Who knows how far I’ll get?

Kyran Whitehead, Associate Project Manager

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Kyran came to us via the Civil Service fast track apprenticeship scheme which is open for applications right now!

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