How to make the best of your apprenticeship during the lockdown

Daniell Morrisey 0:01 

Hello and welcome to this podcast looking at how you can make the very best of your apprenticeship during the lockdown. Many apprentices are on the front line of fighting COVID-19. Working in the NHS and care services, the armed forces, agriculture, retail, journalism, and in so many areas to keep the country going. We've also though, seen companies facing huge financial difficulty and apprentices losing jobs. Some have been furloughed. That expression that's new to many of us, meaning a temporary layoff from work. Many others are working in new ways from home. I'm Daniell Morrisey and I head up the editorial schemes at the BBC that's in journalism and radio and television production. We've got around 260 apprentices and trainees in lots of disciplines all over the country, the other areas including business, engineering, and technology. I'm joined today by Ann Potterton head of apprentices at BT and Elspeth Morrison, who's a voice coach and works a lot with young people around confidence. Ann tell us a bit about yourself and BT.



Ann 1:04 

Great. Well, thank you very much for having me. And I hope you are all as well as you can be during these really difficult times. So, a little bit about BT. We are the largest private training provider in the country. We have about 5,000 apprentices on programmes at the moment, including about 3,000 Openreach engineers, so some of those guys keeping your Zoom and your other apps going, as well as the 999 calls and all of our hospitals, are actually our apprentices. So, we're super proud of those. In addition, like Daniell at the BBC, we have a whole range of apprenticeships from you know, engineering, technology, business, payroll, HR, finance, you name it, we do it, but I also have experience at the other end of the scale, because before coming to BT, I worked for a telecoms institute and we did apprenticeships for really small organisations. People who maybe took on one or two apprentices. So, I do have an understanding of what it's like to be an apprentice in a small organisation as well. And about me, I've got a dream job. I love helping apprentices. So that's probably all you need to know about me for the purposes of this.



Daniell 2:17 

Perfect, thanks, Ann. Elspeth tell us what you do.



Elspeth 2:20 

So, I'm a voice presentation, media coach, whoever pays me I'll come in and help them out with whatever they need. And that's what I do. And the thing for me is I got to do these things by trying out lots of different jobs. Actually, I have a fuzzy picture about what I kind of wanted to do, but I didn't go there immediately. So what I'd say to everybody now, in terms of building your confidence, perhaps think about looking at stuff you're slightly interested in, and going, just see what's online, see what new skills you can go for because the thing for you guys is you know, you've come straight from school or college and you're in that kind of mode of doing exams and structured time and people telling you what to do. And then you come into the world of work and it's kind of different. So, when I'm working with young people, I'm trying to make that bridge finding your confidence in the bold new world of education and coming into continuing education in some ways for a lot of apprentices, but also how to fit that into to work and how to be a grown up in that way. And it's actually and I think, at the moment, one of the things is just trying to structure your time a little bit for yourself and finding your own confidence within that.



Daniell 3:42 

Thanks Elspeth. So, in this podcast, we want to talk about how you can continue to develop your career despite the pandemic. So, let's start with losing your job. If your employers let you go, it doesn't seem the best time to find a new job, Ann what would you advise?



Ann 3:59 

So, I really feel for anybody who's in this situation, my heart goes out to you. But there are things you can do. So, at the end of this whenever that will be there will be jobs, there will be apprenticeships, there will be things you can apply for. So, my advice is definitely use your time wisely. Look at the companies you would like to work for maybe go to the National Apprenticeship Service and look at the apprenticeships you might be interested in. And with everything that's going on, you may think of things that you might not have thought of before. So, for example, you may have been doing, I don't know an engineering apprenticeship now, and you don't have a job anymore. And you might think actually, I'd be quite interested in going to work for the NHS. So, you know, have a look, be really open minded about what's out there. You can also use the time to prepare so when you apply for apprenticeships, there is a process that most companies follow. Usually there's some sort of online application, often some sort of video type interview and usually there's an assessment centre. There's tons of advice online about how to prepare for those. So, I would definitely recommend, go online, Google 'how do I prepare for an assessment centre', and practice those tests. Get your family to practice interview questions with you, and get your CV, ready to go as soon as jobs become available. The other thing I would say is try and use this time wisely. People like doers, people, companies, like people who get out there and do something. So if you have done something useful during this time, whether you were able to maybe get yourself a job in a supermarket, volunteer for the NHS, even if you can't get out of the house, you know, do some of the stuff helping people with the phone calls, anything you can do that shows that you looked at what you could do and you spent this time wisely that will stand you in good stead and I wish you the very best of luck going forward.



Daniell 6:03 

That's really good advice. Ann, I mean, as you said, it's a good time to brush up on your CV. So, get the CV out, start updating it, look at job adverts, and use them to look at what employers are looking for and see if that's reflected on your CV. I'd also say speak to your colleges about whether your apprenticeship could be transferred to another employer, or whether you could join a different scheme maybe.



Ann 6:27 

Yeah, that's good advice. 



Daniell 6:30 

Elspeth how do you stay motivated and positive in such difficult times?



Elspeth 6:34 

Well, one of the, I think, positive things to come out of this rubbish situation is the desire people have for practical skills. I just look at my Facebook timeline, and it's full of people wanting hairdressers, ha-ha, for example, and it wants people to do practical things around the house. I'm on (the website) Nextdoor and there's people asking consumers to come and do my garden and they want some shelves putting up. So practical skills. If we look at the NHS, for example, as a whole group of people and hairdressing, building construction, people want practical skills, I think there's never been a better time if you're of a practical bent to hone what you've got, because it's really being acknowledged now that we want those sorts of skills. People didn't know it before and now that it’s named, and they want it. So, you know, perhaps follow something as Ann said, it's not necessarily something you've been shoehorned into because sometimes at school, you can become the person that does this and cast in a very particular role you know, for I'll give you an example. They said, 'Oh, you're very good at languages at school, Elspeth,' and actually turns out I'm not very good at languages, what I'm very good at his accents and imitation. And I've been able to make a living out of that and it took me a long time to get to do that. I work with actors coaching and accents as part of my job. But if I'd believed them at school, I'd be working in a completely different area now. So, I think now is a great time to follow your passion. You've got to make money, let's not be kind of airy fairy about this and say, oh, follow your passion, it will make you money that's not right at all. That's not what I'm saying. What I'm saying is, perhaps just look into things you're more interested in, than things you feel you're interested in. And I swear to goodness, that improves your confidence, no end and going for what you want to do. But just a watch word to this, don't spend all your time online, do practical things that hone you know, run around a very small room and run round the very small pavement, do a move about this is really, really crucial. Get some sunlight on here as well, that will make you just feel better.



Daniell 8:50 

That's really important. Thank you. Well, what about if you've been furloughed? It's this new word. Or at least it's new to me Ann what's it even mean?



Ann 8:58 

Okay, so what furloughed means is that your company can put you on leave, you shouldn't be doing any work, you probably won't have access even to your work, emails, that sort of things for a period of time and for that period of time your company or the government will pay your salary, 80% of your salary, your company may top it up. What it means for an apprentice is quite important and we've done a lot of work with the government to make sure this could happen. So, you can't work if you are furloughed. You will get paid but you can't actually work however, you absolutely can continue with your apprenticeship. So, if you are furloughed, make sure you go to your apprenticeship provider and say, I would like to continue with my apprenticeship. And you should be able to do that, your organisation must make sure that you're receiving the national minimum wage during that period of time, but I think in many cases that shouldn't be an issue. So definitely you can still do your apprenticeship, but you won't be actually working until such a time as we can get a little bit more back to normal.



Daniell 10:10 

Yeah, it's really essential. I know lots of the colleges we work with, with our apprenticeships they've set up online learning and classes. Yeah. And they've transferred everything to that, the same with revision and exams. It's all happening online. So, if you don't know how it's working, speak to your college and find out what they've put in place and what the new arrangements are. And as Ann says, it's the perfect opportunity to just get on top of that college work and moving it all forward. Many of you are going to be working from home and probably your whole team are working virtually using Skype and Zoom and various online tools. How do you continue to make an impression in that environment? Elspeth?



Elspeth 10:53 

I think with all these online meetings that are happening at the moment, just make sure that you say something, don't undervalue your worth. So, a lot of places and I can give the BBC as an example, really wants young people to be involved and, and you might not feel always that your ideas are valued, but I think get them out, challenge yourself to speak not to over speak. But in the meeting, when you might feel intimidated by lots of other people who've got lots of experience, say something, just get your voice literally heard, even if it's one simple thing, an easy way in is to repeat something or thank somebody for saying something that you really agree with or feel passionate about. So, you don't have to come up with an original idea, but just actually say something. And also, if you think about the screen, the screen situation at the moment, I'm working a lot on the screen. And I'm aware that kind of I'm aware of people sort of looking off chatting to other people. Keep your eye on wherever the little camera is looked down the barrel of the lens, keep looking, nodding, looking interested, put your game face on, make like you care, not looking away checking your phone and doing other things or if you're on your phone, scrolling through. So, look like you're engaged in a meeting and sound like you're engaged in a meeting. Those are the two best tips I can give you for working on screen at the moment. Oh, and just check your sound is good. And you're in focus as well. That's the thing I'm seeing a lot at the moment is either people's faces really near the screen or so far away. They can't be heard. So just have a little practice with making yourself look as good as possible on screen, nodding, looking pleasant and polite. There you go.



Daniell 12:45 

I'm liking the “game face” Elspeth. And of course, the other brilliant thing is you can see what other peoples’ front room's look like and their pictures! And I've seen quite a few cats in the Zoom calls and Skype calls I've been involved in so that's really good. Ann what would you say impresses you about your apprentices working under these conditions?



Ann 13:05 

Well, I would say all of what Elspeth said, of course, you know, being Skype ready, all of that sort of stuff. One of the things that has really impressed me, I've noticed a couple of our apprentices have reached out to their apprentice network. A couple of people have written newsletters, a couple of people have tried to reach out and get a little support group. So, they've got some time together, I think there might be a dress down Friday, somewhere where they go on a Skype call and all dressed down on the call, just stuff like that. I think anyone who is doing something like that, to reach out to their other colleagues and keep everybody upbeat during this time, would really impress me. 



Daniell 13:41 

I like that. I mean, this is a time when traditional work boundaries have really changed. There's a lot of rolling up the sleeves and an attitude of we're all in it together. So, I think this is also a really great opportunity to be really flexible and to impress. Impress your company by being really flexible and to challenging what you can do yourself it's really about going beyond the job description and helping your company get through a really difficult time, which of course is really rewarding as well. And we're drawing towards a close. So, let's end by looking at how you get ahead of the game when all this is over. Elspeth when apprentices return to work, or start a new job, or new apprenticeship after all of this, how do they make up for lost time?



Elspeth 14:31 

Everybody's going to be making up for lost time. I think that we're all in the same boat. That's what's so unique and weird about this situation is this isn't just happening really locally, it's happening globally. So, everybody going back to work is going to be in that position. So, you don't need to feel on the backfoot you'll be on the same footing as everybody else which is a great thing but i think you know, Ann said it beautifully, you know, use this time to develop some practical skills, offer your services. Get that on your CV, get your CV prepared, and be ready but know that seriously, everybody's going to be in the same kind of weirded out state, so good, bad, both probably yes.



Daniell 15:16 

Ann how do apprentices stay ahead?



Elspeth 15:18 

So, I'm going to share my top tip. I've made a whole career out of this. I’m definitely not the cleverest, not the brightest, not the smartest. But what I've always done is be really sure I understand what's asked of me and deliver it slightly before it was expected. And that is my top tip. And if you go back to work when all of this is over, or you continue working now and just do what you're asked for a little bit ahead of when it was expected, you will get noticed.



Daniell 15:47 

That is a very good top tip. I'm loving it. Thank you.



Ann 15:50 

Don't tell everybody. Otherwise, everybody will do it. And I'll be out of a job.



Daniell 15:55 

Everyone is talking about the new normal it's just another one of those expressions that we keep hearing everyone say at the moment, the work environment is going to change through the pandemic, keep thinking about what has changed, and how you've adapted to new ways of working and embrace them. When we all go back to work, lots of stuff will return to how it was before, but I think there will be lots of work practices that will be different. So just keep yourself at the forefront of what those changes look like and be ready to take on board that new way of working. Elspeth let's end with a final top tip from yourself.



Elspeth 16:38 

Okay, limit your, or be careful with your social media interactions, your Instagram, your Twitter, your Snapchat, your Facebook, whatever, in terms of comparing yourself to other people. Okay. Two things to think about. One is if you're sitting squished or lying squished all the time, it's not great for your posturing that drains your confidence generally, but also continuingly comparing yourself to somebody else that you think is doing better than you, no good at all. If you're a person that works a bit slowly, that's fine. If you're a speedy person, that's fine. Try and just find your own confidence and your own way of doing things without comparing yourself to everybody else. You're doing well, you're doing fine. You're doing what you need to do to feel happy with that working at your own pace. Thank you.



Daniell 17:31 

Lovely advice. Thank you, Elspeth. And on that note, huge thanks Ann Potterton and Elspeth Morrison. Thank you for listening.



Elspeth 17:39 

You're welcome.



Ann 17:39 

Good luck, guys.