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The value of apprenticeships

By Adam Keating, Southend-on-Sea City Council

With apprenticeship week taking place last week, it gave me a chance to reflect on my own experiences of working with apprentices and younger people, their value, and the impact we can have as comms leaders and professionals to set people on a comms career path.

Although I trod the ‘traditional’ educational route (college followed by university and then into the real world with some professional development along the way), as I have become more experienced (older) I have realised that most of the relevant and important things I’ve learnt in my role have been through experience, i.e. doing them, making mistakes or doing things well and learning from that, and through practical and hands-on training like the fantastic Future Leaders and LGcomms seminars, conferences and events, some of which I have been privileged to help organise over the years.

Despite what job descriptions often say, in my view you do not need a degree or formal qualification to succeed in comms. The right attitude, character, values, and behaviours will always outweigh a list of academic achievements for me. If you have both, that is merely a bonus.

Using a real-life example, a former colleague and I employed a young 20 something as a comms apprentice a few years ago. Understandably they had no communications qualifications, and had a manual background, with no real office experience unlike some of the other candidates. However, what stood out was their attitude, their desire to build a career in something and the feeling that this person would work hard, was willing to learn and had a professional outlook. I could see this young person being at ease with colleagues, from senior officers and politicians to those less senior. I could also see them fitting in with the team dynamics, another important consideration when recruiting.

Sure enough, over time and through hard work on both sides, ‘The Apprentice’ developed into a valued and trusted communications professional respected by the organisation and picked up some great experiences by being thrown in the deep end on many things, by asking questions and by being dedicated. We also learnt a few things along the way too, with fresh perspectives and views always welcome.

They have now ‘flown the nest’ (a bittersweet moment) and taken up a more senior public sector comms role in London. I have no doubt that they’ll be running a comms team in the future.

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