Apprentices @ the Combined Authority: Natalie Skeene

Name of apprenticeship standard: Associate Project Manager
Level: 4
Duration: 18 – 24 months
Start date / end date: February 2021 – August 2022

Tell us a bit about your apprenticeship role

I’m completing my apprenticeship as part of my professional development alongside my current role as Project Officer for the Adult Education Budget (AEB). The apprenticeship covers all aspects of project management including stakeholder management, risk management, scheduling, budgeting, procurement, life cycles and much much more! This links up really well with my job role as I’m responsible for “keeping the cogs turning” for the AEB team. This sees me delving into lots of different areas such as procurement, marketing, finance, defining processes, stakeholder/partnership working and managing the teams’ key tasks and deadlines on our project plan.

What made you want to do an apprenticeship?

I was never supported careers wise during school and college. There were no opportunities for work experience and, as I was in top sets the careers advice I got always focused on the academic route. I really wanted to be an actress but when I didn’t make it into drama school I felt like I’d already failed at life and as a result became a bit lost and unsure on what to do for a career.

I started work at an office supplies wholesalers and worked my way up starting as an Admin Assistant and within 3 years I progressed to being an Account Manager – but I still felt like sales wasn’t the career for me. I took a “break” and travelled around the world for 9 months as Cabin Crew for British Airways. When I was ready to keep my feet on solid ground, I luckily found a job at The LEP as a Project Assistant! One of the best decisions I made.

This job sparked my interest in Project Management, and it was through my 1-1s and performance reviews that I asked if there were any professional courses I could do relating to Project Management. I was told about the apprenticeship and well, fast forward to now and here I am, doing the apprenticeship and climbing the career ladder!

What advice would you give to someone considering an apprenticeship?

It is never too late to start an apprenticeship! However, you must be prepared to put the work in and really think about if it is something you are prepared to stick to for 12+ months. Take the time to research and make sure the apprenticeship you choose is something you genuinely find interesting as it will make it a lot more enjoyable.

How has the pandemic affected your experience of the apprenticeship?

I started during the pandemic! Most of my learning so far has been online. For me personally, it was a bit of a struggle at first as I feel like I learn better in a face-to-face environment, however, the support from our Tutor has been excellent. We have just started going to college, so it feels like things are going back to normal now.

What have you enjoyed most about your apprenticeship?

Being able to relate the material learnt to my day-to-day job which helps me to understand why things are done in certain ways. It is also boosting my confidence and I am able to bring new ideas to my team based on what I have learnt which feels great!

Anything else you’d like to add?

It is never too late to start a new career. I think from a young age we are forced to pick what we want to do when we grow up. For people like me it can be really hard to decide and discover what you’re really passionate about until you reach adulthood, by which point you feel like you’re stuck with the choices you made as a teen! But it doesn’t have to be like that at all – apprenticeships are a brilliant way to discover new career paths, gain new skills and just ultimately be in a job that you enjoy 😊