As the UK celebrates the 11th annual National Apprenticeship Week, young staff explain what it’s like to work in one of Whitehall’s newest departments
Apprentices at the Department for International Trade work across a variety of teams, from communications to trade policy. There are 39 in total, and they are supported to develop with regular workshops and designated mentors and encouraged to collaborate and learn from other government departments.
Here, three apprentices explain what it’s like to start young in DIT.
Jared Blake, 18, who joined the Marketing Live Events team in November 2017 and has been working on DIT’s flagship event, the GREAT Festival of Innovation in Hong Kong taking place in March, says:
“Applying for a civil service apprenticeship is one of the best decisions I’ve ever made. I’ve been earning a salary whilst learning, which I think is a unique situation to be in.
“The main project I’ve been working on, the GREAT Festival of Innovation, has been amazing. Working as part of the communications team, I’ve been working with staff across DIT, other departments in government and across the world. I’ve also been given the opportunity to fly out to Hong Kong for the festival itself, which I’m so excited about. I can’t wait to see all our hard work pay off!
“Speaking to my friends, a lot of them have been really interested in applying for apprenticeships after hearing about my experience. I’ve shown them that it’s a lot more serious and impactful that it initially may have seemed. I’ve found it really interesting learning more about politics and how government works – working under ministers, you have to keep up-to-date both with what they’re doing, and the wider news agenda too.
“I’ve also found being an apprentice extremely sociable. A big group of us all started around the same time, and all meet up outside of work. We all work across different departments so it’s really good to hear about their experiences and the kind of things they’re working on.
“At my age, doing something that will benefit the entire country, is a rare thing to do, and I’m really proud of it.”
Elsie Cunnew, 19, who started in the department in October 2017 and is part of the Strategic Communications team, said:
“I didn’t want to go to university, but also had my reservations about going straight into a job. Doing an apprenticeship offered me the perfect balance – I’m learning whilst working and feel that it’s providing me with all of the tools I need to progress.
“Initially, I wasn’t sure about working for the government, but since starting, I’ve learnt more about politics and how different government departments work together, which has made me much more likely to stay in the civil service.
“I have been able to specialise in communications but have the flexibility to apply my skills to the subject matter of any government department, which is really exciting to me.
“One of the best things I have been able to work on is assisting with MP briefings. It’s been really interesting to meet MPs from across the UK and hear what they have to say. I also got to visit No 10 on my first day!”
Oliver McIlroy, 20, who has been working as part of the DIT Secretariat team since December 2016, said:
“I’ve worked on lots of exciting projects since working at DIT, and immediately felt an important part of my team. One of the benefits of being an apprentice is that I’ve been exposed to lots of different areas of the department, giving me the opportunity to discover my passion in government.
“Since starting, I’ve felt a valuable part of the civil service and an asset to the organisation. I feel really proud when people ask me about being in the civil service, and I’ve found it a really good place to work. I see my apprenticeship as a great platform for future opportunities.
“My advice to those thinking about an apprenticeship with the civil service is to just go for it. There’s nothing to lose. Working opposite 10 Downing Street – I couldn’t think of a better place to work!”
International trade secretary Dr Liam Fox said apprentices were an integral part of the department’s workforce. “We are pleased to be able to provide opportunities for young people to begin their careers at DIT,” he said.
“Like many organisations, we will use apprenticeships to offer our current employees with the opportunities to gain new skills, whilst ensuring we are growing the workforce we require in the future.”
Find out more about apprenticeships in government in the Apprenticeship Update 2018, published by Civil Service World's sister title Training Journal.