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'As an apprentice, I have no choice but to grow and succeed'

Apprentice Caxie Dagupen helps a CEO run five companies. Her tale is part of the #InspiringApprentices campaign

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My name is Caxie Dagupen, I am originally from the Philippines in the mountainous region of Baguio and I moved to London when I was 10 years old. I turned 20 last December – hello adult life! I’m nine months into doing a level 3 business administration apprenticeship with Benchmark Holdings where I help them in building businesses, growing talent and driving purpose.

During sixth form, I kept my options open because university was too expensive for me and I wasn’t sure I wanted to continue studying every day. My careers adviser was very supportive and encouraged me to explore every path. I listened and applied for university, internships and jobs. I did not apply for an apprenticeship because the salaries all appeared too low!

More on this: 'I didn't believe the apprenticeship stereotypes'

Background: Tes launches #InspiringApprentices campaign

Other news: Minister backs #InspiringApprentices campaign 

'It just didn't feel right'

I was accepted to Loughborough University to study sports psychology but I deferred it for a year because I needed some more time to think about the costs and what I actually wanted to do. I’ve always thought sports psychology and university were for me, but at that moment, it just didn’t feel right. During this time, I worked at a local restaurant and randomly one of my old teachers emailed me an apprenticeship role at his wife’s company and told me the job role would suit me. The salary this time was higher than previous apprenticeship roles I’d seen and the idea of working and studying, having that flexibility and variation, got me interested.

This is when I started my apprenticeship journey. I googled "sports HR" and my current job role as executive assistant to the chief executive came up. I did apply to two different apprenticeship providers and three different job roles to avoid keeping all my eggs in one basket, but I ended up in the position that I most wanted. 

My training provider matched my interests, personality and skills to my current job role. This did not only allow a swift transition from studies to a waitressing job to a more professional office-based job, but this match is also helping me grow and develop as a person. I am part of the WhiteHat brand champions network, a community of pioneers who work hard to inspire the next generation of apprentices at school events. We are also part of the wider WhiteHat community, where there are always community events going on left, right and centre. Whether it’s Breakfast Club to do some coursework, summer drinks to meet the WhiteHat team and fellow apprentices, networking or football – we do it all! We can also take part in a mentoring scheme, attend workshops about how to manage a good work-life balance or how to get a distinction in our coursework. It’s a mixture of being a student and the perks that come with it (like student discounts) and being a young professional with the freedom of not being forced to do homework.

'I try not to be overwhelmed'

My daily work responsibilities include a variety of tasks such as scheduling my CEO’s busy calendar, helping with the storage and stationery across the office, booking flights and hotels. With a lot of things going on, I try very hard not to be overwhelmed. There are obviously times when I feel like it’s all too much with this deadline of research and that deadline to organise Thursday snacks, but I always clock out at 5.30pm knowing that I have helped my CEO to run five different companies helping businesses and communities all over the world – all from my desk.

I never expected any of these things coming from a small town halfway around the world but here I am now because of all the support and guidance from everyone around me. From my family who fully supported my choices, my old teachers, WhiteHat and my current company and mentor – as an apprentice, I have no choice but to grow and succeed. Some of my friends were a little more sceptical about my choice to do an apprenticeship because most of them are in university but I’ve had to ignore them because I knew this was what I wanted to do.

What I like about doing an apprenticeship, compared to the university route, is that I have a lot more support because I live at home with my parents, I have more financial freedom and a tonne of work experience. I definitely recommend an apprenticeship course to students trying to decide what to do after school.

My next steps are open. I am looking into doing a level 4 project management apprenticeship or to grow in my company. Or I could do both. In 10 years’ time I hope I won’t have any regrets and I’ll be exactly where I want to be. I can confidently say that now, because this route has given me the assurance that I have full control of what happens to my career and my life.

Caxie Dagupen is a level 3 business administration apprentice with Benchmark Holdings and WhiteHat, which sees her work as executive assistant to the chief executive. She tells her story as part of the Tes #InspiringApprentices campaign 

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