Because of my GCSE results, I was right on the borderline for being able to join the College’s Level 3 programme. Having made a commitment to my tutor, I knew I really had to sort myself out and take better control of my future.  

My time at College included the rocky period of the pandemic. For the first six months of College, I was adapting to my new subjects and then the first lockdown happened and online learning became the norm. As I entered the Upper Sixth, classroom learning was slowly phased back in and at that point I pushed myself further to give myself the best chance when leaving College. Despite that tough time, the teaching was still second to none and that really helped me achieve the best grades that I could.

To take the pressure off, I did decide to take a year out to work while applying to both university and apprenticeships with my actual results. With strong final grades in Double Business and Sport, I did secure a good uni offer, but in my heart, I knew that an apprenticeship was the right route.

The hardest part of applying for apprenticeships is that rejection is part of the journey, as they’re getting more competitive. I applied for a huge number of roles before I hit on success, picking myself up whenever I had a knock-back. Each time I learnt from the experience and tried to improve my application or interview for the next opportunity – I always asked for feedback. But I approached each application with the mindset of “What’s the worst that can happen?”, which helped. After about six or seven months of applying, I got offered the apprenticeship at Vodafone – it was incredibly pleasing knowing that all my hard work behind-the-scenes had finally paid off.

As a network engineering apprentice, I spend 4 days a week working and then one day a week on studies either in lectures, completing assignments or doing self-learning towards my degree. I currently work in a network finance team where we look at and organise the budget for network projects such as the new 5G rollout and other projects. I’ve also spent time presenting research on the future of rail travel and the technology that surrounds that.

Vodafone are great at gradually introducing you to the soft skills you need to be a professional member of the team. They don’t throw you in the deep end and everyone I’ve met has been helpful and wants the best for you – after all, you’re the future of the company.

If I could give any advice on applying for apprenticeships, it would be to stick at it. Do your research, find out what you’re interested in and go for it. Learn how to speak about yourself and how things like your hobbies and interests show who you are – they want to know they will be working with.

Rejection will happen but trust that if you put in your ‘all’, you’ll eventually get there. And take your time if needs be – my year out opened my eyes to the real world and helped me work out what I actually wanted from my career. I’m so happy at Vodafone. Persistence pays off – the more you put in the more you get out!

Josh Alder

Reigate College: 2019-2021

Higher Education: Level 6 Degree Apprenticeship in Digital & Technology Solutions, Lancaster University

Currently: Network Engineering Apprentice, Vodafone

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