Apprenticeships: Our experience

National Apprenticeship Week 2021 will take place from 8 to 14 February 2021. The annual week-long celebration of apprenticeships shines a light on the amazing work being done by employers and apprenticeships across the country.

To show the value apprenticeships offer both individuals and businesses, Karen Clarke, Communications Manager and Tayla Blackman, Communications Officer at SEMLEP share their experience of the last three years.

Why we hired an apprentice #NAW2021

The saying is, “you get out of it what you put in.” SEMLEP has always been an advocate of growing local talent and apprenticeships are an import route to get into work for many people, whether that be for the first job, retaining for a different career or upskilling to take next steps.

The decision to employ an apprentice had already been taken by the time I joined SEMLEP. I confess, at the start, I wasn’t totally bought into the idea. Can I start a new job and immediately take on the responsibility of training a new, inexperienced person? Didn’t I have enough to be getting on with?  But I was transported back to when I started my first fulltime role. My label was not apprentice, but work-placement student. I reflected on the guidance and patience my peers and bosses provided, the very steep learning curve I journeyed and the friends that have contributed to my life over the past 20 years since.

As with all recruitment, to get the right person you must have the right approach. If the processes, systems and culture support apprentices, there is every opportunity for an organisation to find the person with the same values, skills and work ethic you’re looking for.

When I first interviewed Tayla, I knew immediately that it was a match! The responsibility of guiding an apprentice through a course and applying new knowledge, gives you an important lesson in the value of life-long learning. Tayla has progressed from a level 3 apprentice, through level 4; from an assistant role, to officer responsibility and is now leading on all of SEMLEP’s major programme campaigns. A progression absolutely deserved, recognised and celebrated by our whole organisation. Tayla has brought so much more to SEMLEP than being one of two in the comms team. Her talents, determination and appetite to learn has helped our whole organisation grow. As the saying goes, you get out of it, what you put in.

Why I chose to do an apprenticeship #NAW2021

At age 6, I wanted to be an astronaut. By age 14, I wanted to be a teacher and by age 16, I had no idea. When it was time for me to know what I wanted to do, I had absolutely no idea.

I knew university was not for me, but to keep my options open, I applied to university and was accepted to study fashion design.

At the same time, I started to research apprenticeships. I loved the idea of getting paid, getting experience, and getting a qualification. The only thing that was holding me back was my perception that they were only for people who could not get into university (I was very wrong!).

Using GOV.UK, I started looking into the different types of apprenticeships available locally. I had no idea of the vast range of apprenticeships available. From engineering to marketing, every sector has endless apprenticeship opportunities. So, I applied for every apprenticeship that interested me.

Ten applications and two interviews later, I had secured my job at SEMLEP as the Social Media and Digital Marketing Apprentice.

Three years later, I cannot begin to name everything I have learnt. The team at SEMLEP have supported me through two apprenticeships and invested in my career time and time again.

Through my apprenticeship, I’ve got the career I always wanted, colleagues I love, skills that will continue to benefit me now and, in the future, as well as a good salary and work life balance.

Did I make the right decision? Absolutely. I am proud of my journey and where I am now. I would honestly recommend the apprenticeship route to everyone. It’s a fantastic way to unlock opportunities.

If you’re thinking about hiring an apprentice, SEMLEP’s Growth Hub can help. Contact the team today to find out about hiring an apprentice today. Visit, call 0300 01234 35 or email the team on [email protected].