Think Pieces

National Apprenticeship Week: The reality of my digital apprenticeship in 2022

I've written a lot of blogs over the years at Reason Digital, but I've never written about being an apprentice here. So, what better time to talk about my journey than this year's #NationalApprenticeshipWeek?

By Amy Johnson · February 9, 2022

Rewinding to August 2019

Tired, burnt out, and fed up with another 3am finish at my cinema job, I went to sleep telling myself I’d open Indeed when I woke up. I knew the normal A-Level to uni route wasn’t for me but wasn’t exactly overjoyed at the future prospects of my current situation.

At the time, ‘apprenticeships’, to me, had a bit of a one-note connotation. My mind conjured up things like ‘plumbing’, ‘engineering’, and ‘lower wages than I’m even on right now’. None of those things fit with my skills or desires, and I definitely couldn’t afford jumping down to what I assumed were £4 an hour positions, so I’d never even considered searching for one.

I don’t know what made me search for one, but I did. I found out you could do an apprenticeship at degree level, meaning I wouldn’t be repeating ‘Level 3’ qualifications I already had.

I scrolled for a while through lab scientist apprenticeships, retail management apprenticeships, and more, then I saw one that actually fit my interests: ‘Digital marketing degree apprentice’ with a location in Manchester city centre. Not exactly a fortune, but more money than I was making on minimum wage at the cinema. And, what’s more, my degree would be funded for me, removing the drain of student loans.

The more I researched the company that was advertising the role – Reason Digital – the more I got kind of obsessed with the idea of working there. A ethically-focused mission? Operating as a social enterprise? Northern Quarter office? And a team of people that I just knew would be a blast to work with? I applied straight away and kept my fingers crossed for a positive call back.

rainbow pride bunting hanging in office
a rooftop view of Stevenson's Square in the Northern Quarter of Manchester
nathan and Emma chat in the office

Fast forward to National Apprenticeship Week, February 2022

Safe to say I got that positive call I was hoping for, and I’m now well over halfway through my four-year course.

As part of my apprenticeship, I study at Manchester Metropolitan University on average twice a month, with an assignment to hand in every 6 or 7 weeks. The 2019-2023 cohort I’m part of is truly eclectic, hailing from Somerset to St. Helens, with a 30-odd year age range and a bizarrely wide variety of employers.

I learn a lot during my university days. My tutors are often ex, or current, industry professionals, and the assignments really do cover all the bases to shape people into a well-rounded digital marketer. But I’d say the most value I’ve taken from this course so far has been from Reason Digital – and that’s what sets degree apprenticeships apart in subjects like marketing.

Studying a degree full time would of course be a great opportunity but, in my first entry level job I think I would feel completely unprepared to put those learnings into practice in a workplace.

Not only have I got almost three years of uni under my belt, but three years of experience in a 40-person strong digital agency. An agency that has weathered the storm of the pandemic, making a massive digital impact (together with many awesome UK charities) along the way.

a group photo of Reason Digital

Of course, no one has a perfect work life, but I genuinely do love my job. At Reason, we work with organisations that care and improve people’s lives, and it’s a privilege to do so. What’s more, my colleagues are some of the most knowledgeable, passionate, yet approachable people I’ve ever worked with.

Especially in the past year or so, there’s a real culture of training, mentoring, and development for the more junior team members which makes it a great place for an apprentice like myself to work. Just sitting in and observing meetings, or listening to my colleagues chat when we’re in the office, my brain becomes a sponge and the stuff I learn from them is invaluable.

Not to mention one of my favourite things about Reason Digital – the way we approach mental health. No stigma, no judgement, just human-centred decisions which make the world of difference. My direct manager Emma is especially great at this; our candid and clear line of communication is a dream for any apprentice.

My job became easier and far more interesting since Amy joined us as an apprentice. The insight and curiosity she brings to her role provides Reason (and me!) with a fresh perspective.

I absolutely recommend degree apprenticeships to others - it's low cost, it brings new talent into the company and you get to invest in young people by providing the opportunity to get a degree.

I would highlight the importance of finding the right person for the role. It feels like this job and organisation was made for Amy and with some time and support invested at the start, she works fantastically both with the full team as well as independently. We don't see her as an apprentice - she's a valuable asset to our team.

Emma, Head of Marketing

emma smiling

A win-win situation

To any employer considering hiring an apprentice – do it! I can’t overstate the value an apprentice could bring to your team. It keeps you up to date with fresh thinking and new practices. The skills and ideas that people in my class have brought to their respective organisations is truly impressive.

And to anyone toying with the idea of getting an apprenticeship – go for it! As long as the company seems like a good fit for you, and you’re passionate about the subject you’ll be studying, it’s totally worth it.

Building real industry experience, learning from both academic lecturers and colleagues, coming out the other side with a bachelor’s degree, all while knowing your student debt isn’t racking up… sounds like a no-brainer to me.