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Exploring alternative routes: BT apprenticeships

Starting your career can feel overwhelming at the best of times, let alone during a global pandemic. Young adults leaving college will be questioning their next move, weighing up the pros and cons of each option and perhaps considering if an apprenticeship is the right route for them. 

As part of the plan to re-energise the economy, Chancellor Rishi Sunak has announced £1.6 billion funding to scale up employment and apprenticeships for young people. Employers will also be paid £2,000 for every trainee under 25 they take on. It’s encouraging to see this support from the government for apprenticeships, which provide vital training for young people but are often viewed as secondary to the traditional university route.


BT has long supported apprentices and graduates; in this piece BT degree apprentices Callum Elsdon, Ross Perretta and Luke Hughes explain why choosing an apprenticeship at BT was the right avenue for them.


Opportunity to work whilst getting a degree

For apprentices at BT, there is no need to choose between getting a degree and heading straight into work. It’s possible to attain a degree whilst completing the apprenticeship simultaneously. It was this combination of work experience at a FTSE 100 company and a fully funded degree that attracted Callum, Ross and Luke to the role.


“I didn’t feel like going to university was the right option for me,” says Callum. “I personally didn’t see it as good value for money and I wanted to get some real hands-on experience from the get-go.”


Luke agrees, “finishing the four-year apprenticeship with a degree and tangible, real world experience definitely appealed to me. We were able to put the theory we learnt at university immediately into practice, which was really useful in expanding our skills and understanding.”


For Ross, the value of on-the-job experience suited his needs, “I didn’t want to go into full time studying; I’ve always had an interest in IT and wanted a role which offered the flexibility of both work and university.”


However, juggling studying alongside work is not a task to be taken lightly. “Studying alongside working a full-time job hasn’t always been easy, that’s one of the personal key challenges I’ve needed to overcome,” Callum says. “However, the support from the teams I was a part of during my apprenticeship ensured I was given the help and flexibility I needed to get the work done.”


Flexibility in learning

At BT, the apprentices rotate into different teams every six months, giving them exposure to different parts of the business. Working with the Media & Broadcast (M&B) team provided the apprentices with both technical and commercial experience. One of Ross’ stand out experiences was creating a Remotely Managed Cabinet which was later taken to Premier League stadiums around the country to play a part in broadcasting live matches. “It was great to be really involved in this project and see my work used as part of a real solution. Apprentices at BT are given a lot of responsibility which I don’t think other learning environments offer.”


Callum also reflected on the commercial experience gained whilst working with the M&B team, enjoying the independence given on projects including delivering cricket to the UK and televising Wimbledon.


Access to key mentors

Working as an apprentice at BT means you get to work closely with a range of mentors and experts – as Ross alluded to, there is a collaborative learning environment engrained within the fibre of BT which enables collective problem-solving across the team. Apprentices are encouraged to ask as many questions as possible and learn from senior colleagues’ expertise, with help always at hand.


Apprentices are also given the opportunity to attend networking events at BT and wider industry events. During his time working with the M&B team, Callum attended the International Broadcasting Convention in Amsterdam, which gave him the chance to interact with industry leaders and build relationships with colleagues: “It’s great to have an established network in the industry, this will really support me throughout my career and having access to this expertise was useful for my university studies too.”


Advice for incoming apprentices

Ross, Callum and Luke reflected on their apprenticeship journey and offered advice to those following in their footsteps. “Ask lots of questions,” says Luke. “At first, there’s so much terminology to get grips with so it’s important to keep asking questions – everyone is happy to help and no query is too small.”


When thinking about the options available to current students, Ross wants to see a move away from the distinction between apprenticeships and university, explaining: “Apprenticeships aren’t just a back-up for people who don’t want to go to university; they’re an option everyone should think about.”


Callum agrees, “I would like to see apprenticeships taken more seriously as a viable option for those leaving college. Many think they’re inferior, but you can gain a degree and real work experience at the same time.” His advice? “Don’t write off university entirely, but seriously consider an apprenticeship – they offer loads of opportunities.”

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