At the end of last year we were looking at our options for replacing one of our research team who has taken a sabbatical to look after her 3 small children. Rather than replace like with like, we decided to give a young person with little or no work experience an opportunity to learn about market research and develop skills in the industry. This was, in part, because we work with Thames Valley Local Enterprise Partnership in giving career talks to secondary students, emphasising that market research requires a diverse set of skills, some of which they may already have when they leave school. University is not for everyone, so we feel that it is important for students to know that there are options for them.
We decided to ‘try out’ the Government’s National Apprenticeship Service rather than employ a university graduate, and having interviewed a selection of applicants on the NAS website and shortlisted by our appointed training provider, we offered the role of Assistant Research Exec (apprentice) to Will. In the five months he has been with us we have been very pleased with Will’s enthusiasm and interest in the work, and his contribution as a Generation Z representative, has been valuable. He is a fast learner and a real asset to WDG Research.
Will is working and learning on the job, but he is also carrying out coursework for a level 2 Marketing qualification which he will complete ahead of the anticipated time of 18 months. He does not attend college but allocates time for coursework during the working day, and he has one on one time with his trainer every 6 – 8 weeks. Below is Will’s account of being an apprentice and working in a market research agency.
I have been an apprentice at WDG Research for roughly 5 months and I have learnt a lot in this short time about market research. Already I have been involved with a number of different projects and have helped to prepare proposals and quotes for many more.
The first job I worked on involved focus groups discussing what people thought about health and wellbeing and how it affects what they buy. It was a very interesting project as people talked about their experiences with food and what aspects of health and wellbeing influences their choices and motivates them. These ranged from product quality and cost, to ethical issues, as well as many more influences, which gave us the information to present back to the client. My role was assisting the moderator and observing in the viewing facility, taking notes on each of the groups so that we could refer to them later. I found the analysis stage to be extensive and detailed but something that afterwards was worth the time spent on it. Being involved and dissecting what each group said and structuring it in a format that is easy to follow and understand is crucial to the work.
Other projects included focus groups to understand the potential of a new leisure facility, and another managing an online community for toothpaste users. These, together with the other jobs we have lined up, means that we are heading into a busy period, allowing me to be thrown in “at the deep end” and of course, learning more about the job.
What I like about the Government’s apprenticeship scheme is that you learn while you work. Where university students learn theory and information, and may do a few weeks in the workplace before going back to university, as an apprentice I am constantly expanding my knowledge while being employed. Not only that, but I will have a qualification at the end of my apprenticeship as well as practical and valuable experience. The duration of my apprenticeship is determined by how long it will take me to complete the coursework for my qualification. My trainer suggests a year to 18 months for my Level 2 Marketing qualification.
University students are paying to learn and gain relatively no experience. I, on the other hand, am getting paid to learn and gain some qualifications as well. Many students believe that apprenticeships aren’t for them, however they couldn’t be more wrong. The aim of both university study and apprenticeships is to gain qualifications to enter the workplace, to make a career for yourself and to earn enough money to live off securely. The difference is that university courses take 3 times longer, cost £27,000 plus accommodation, food etc and you have no real practical experience in the workplace.
Being an apprentice has taught me that holding down a job is very different to being in secondary education: at school you could get away with not completing your work, or not following up on specific tasks, however, in a job you need to be on the ball about each and every aspect of your work.
As I have stated, apprenticeships are a fantastic way to enter the job market. They help people to learn and get a qualification, gaining valuable experience (something which a lot of employers are looking for right now), earn money (rather than accrue student debt) and be involved in projects from the start. In addition, when the apprenticeship is concluded there is a good chance that you will be offered a permanent position with the company, especially if you have put in hard work and shown yourself to be a committed and loyal member of the team.