Full steam ahead for apprentices returning to the workplace
The past year has been challenging for apprentices, particularly those beginning their first training contract during the pandemic. But Chesterfield’s financial and legal businesses have adapted well to the ‘new normal’.
Liz Fisher, Associate Partner at Mitchells Chartered Accountants explains: “We were lucky at Mitchells in that our IT allowed us to work from home instantly without any additional set up required. We’ve had a skeleton staff within the office throughout the pandemic and the number of people in the office is gradually increasing.”
The financial and professional services sector is the largest business sector in Chesterfield; it has experienced a strong level of growth in the past five years, with the number of businesses increasing to more than 700. There are around 7,300 jobs in this sector locally including apprenticeships. More about this sector can be found on the My Future careers platform.
Working from home
Working from home has its benefits and drawbacks. Many apprentices don’t mind working from home due to there being no commute, more flexibility, and less distractions.
Heather Ebbage, an apprentice Accounts Assistant at Innspired Accountancy explains: “The office was closed when I first started working for Innspired, this meant I was working from home. Being new to the industry, I found this difficult.”
“We returned back to the office in January with it being the busiest time of the year for accountants due to the Self-Assessment deadline. I feel that since being in the office, my development has increased tenfold, experiencing the office environment, listening to experienced colleagues dealing with clients queries and being able to discuss my queries with my managers face to face (socially distanced of course) have all meant that I am getting a better understanding of the industry and what my role will look like as I progress through my qualification.”
However, technology has made working from home much easier by enabling effective communication with colleagues and tutors. Abigail Denman, Level 3 Financial Services Administrator at Rosewood Wealth Management, says: “I have managed to stay in touch with my tutor through Google Meets and Zoom meetings. However, if I need to speak to my tutor in between the meetings I can always get in touch via email.”
Support from colleagues, employers, and providers
Support from colleagues, employers and providers during the pandemic has meant apprentices could continue developing during their apprenticeships.
Jess Bradfield completed her Level 2 Business Administration apprenticeship at BRM Solicitors during the recent lockdown and has now taken the role of Paralegal in the company’s Wills and Probate team. She explains: “The training I received was different from how it is usually done, however I have still progressed as expected. My apprenticeship allowed me to develop numerous different skills, as well as a general knowledge about the legal sector. I felt more comfortable moving into my new role as a result of this.”
Lorna Finlay, Level 7 Accountancy and Taxation apprentice at Chesterfield College, found she has been able to develop her confidence whilst completing her apprenticeship during the pandemic. She says: “I like the fact that I am encouraged to develop my knowledge, skills and behaviours. The tracker I need to complete to pass my apprenticeship allows me to reflect on my personal development and identify areas for improvement. I believe this has boosted my confidence greatly.”
Returning to the office
Whilst apprenticeships have been able to continue during the pandemic, many apprentices are looking forward to returning to the office and seeing colleagues in person.
Jenny Beagan, Senior Processing Customer Services Advocate was recently awarded Apprentice of the Year by provider Workpays. She says: “During the pandemic I have been lucky enough to be able to come into work as a lot of my role consists of writing out to customers or printing requests from customers. I have liked having the routine of coming to work, however we must follow strict guidelines in our day to day working.”
“I am looking forward to colleagues returning back to the office and getting back to the new normal way of working, it will be great to see colleagues again who we haven’t seen for over a year.”
Following on from what the apprentices said, it is likely that the hybrid working model will continue and be a mix between home and office working.
If you would like to start a career in this sector, check out the current apprenticeship vacancies in the local area.