Name: Kiara Orchard
Employer: Sellafield Ltd
Job Title: Project Management Apprentice
"The degree apprenticeship was the best decision I have made."
Project Manager Degree Apprenticeship
What was it about this apprenticeship programme that interested you?
I had a keen interest in the area, and when I saw the apprenticeship advertised I knew it was a fantastic opportunity; to be able to learn theory at university whilst gaining practical knowledge and skills at the same time. Studying a degree, whilst working alongside skilled professionals as well as earning a wage. What couldn't I be interested in!
Why did you choose a degree apprenticeship rather than a traditional undergraduate degree?
I knew the traditional university route was not for me after spending time at summer schools, open days, and lectures. The degree apprenticeship was perfect for me as I knew I wanted to gain my degree, however, I wanted to get a head start in a career I knew I would love. This route sets me up perfectly: I gain my bachelor's degree, as well as 4 years' worth of invaluable experience.
What skills did you want to develop by joining this apprenticeship programme?
I wanted to develop my academic skills whilst studying towards my degree, skills such as academic writing, English, maths. I wanted to gain a broader knowledge of project management also: learning the theory and being able to apply this in the workplace, and understand the context of what I am learning has helped me greatly. I also wanted to improve my communication and presentation skills, and as part of the apprenticeship scheme, I was given the opportunity to present in schools, at open events, help out with mock interviews, etc, all of which have helped give me that boost in confidence.
How has the apprenticeship helped you in your work?
The apprenticeship scheme has helped me greatly at university as I have a greater understanding of the context behind the theory I am learning in lectures. Having placements has also allowed me to consolidate my learning by putting the theory into practice, in real-life situations. This has helped me in assignments also, as I can think back/relate what I am learning to real-life situations I have experienced at work. It has also helped me in the workplace as I have a greater understanding of what we are doing and the reasons why; having the theory there has helped me in many situations.
How has the apprenticeship benefitted your personally?
I would say it’s never too late to consider project management, whether it’s an introductory course or a higher education opportunity – you should definitely go for it. Before I started my apprenticeship I had no prior engineering or technical experience, and I thought you needed that type of knowledge to work in project management. People with varied skills can work in projects: there are so many transferrable skills across different industries and sectors. Starting a career in projects is one of the best decisions I’ve made and I would recommend it to anyone.
What changes have you made to the way you do things at work?
I have a greater understanding of the theory behind what we do in the workplace, I have an idea of what is going on, meaning I am able to contribute and make a change, bringing fresh ideas. I have so much more confidence since joining the scheme. I am able to effectively hold responsibility, gaining trust from my team. I am given work that is important in projects.
What have you found the most interesting or stimulating?
Everything: I have a real passion for what I do. I love learning things and applying them to my role in the workplace.
What is the most important thing you have learned?
Everything I have learned is important, and there is nothing I have learned that I don't use daily. I have been able to develop both personally and professionally
How has the University of Cumbria supported you?
The University has supported me throughout. I have been assigned a personal tutor who I can go to if I have any worries or queries. I meet with my personal tutor and employer every ten weeks to catch up on my progress, any issues at university and in placement, meaning I am always happy and never have any doubts/worries about my progress. The university holds sessions to help us in any way they can; they have been very supportive.
What would you say to anyone considering starting an Apprenticeship?
Definitely do it! I have never looked back since enrolling to the apprenticeship. It is a great way to get the degree you want whilst taking a head start in the profession you want to be in. You gain invaluable experience. The university is very supportive as well as your employer, so there are never any worries. I love what I do.