'I didn’t want to go to university the traditional way'

In National Apprenticeship Week, #InspiringApprentice Callum Elsdon writes about the 'distinct lack of understanding of apprenticeships'

Callum Elsdon tells his story as today's inspiring apprentice

I’m Callum Elsdon, 22, and from Stanford-le-Hope in Essex. Currently I’m in my fourth, and final, year of a digital and technology solutions degree apprenticeship at BT’s enterprise division – and it’s been a fantastic, full-throttle experience from start to finish. Applying for the scheme, I found a distinct lack of understanding of apprenticeships in the modern era within our education system, with most focus placed on Ucas entry.

I knew that I didn’t want to go to university the traditional way (which was partly fuelled by a perceived lack of value for money) but I’m a high achiever who was more than capable of undertaking further education and understood the value a degree can bring to career progression. This led me to discovering degree apprenticeships, with BT being the perfect balance of both indispensable work experience in a FTSE 100 company and fully funded BSc degree.

Prior to joining, I had multiple job offers but BT differentiated by offering great support framework, being an iconic household name to work for and, most importantly, offering the university education. I expected the scheme to give a “toe-dipping” experience into working life of BT, acting more as additional members of teams supporting processes as opposed to getting fully stuck in. In reality, I’ve been fully immersed in the world of BT, telcos and the broadcast industry – being able to get the full breadth and understanding of how we function as a company and how my work, even as an apprentice, can have a real impact.


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Different job functions

In BT’s media and broadcast division, and most of the wider enterprise unit, the setup ensures that apprentices get six or 12 monthly rotations in different roles over the four years, ensuring that we understand different job functions.

As such, I’ve had roles ranging from being on the helpdesk for customer support through to marketing and product management – giving a wide, end-to-end understanding of how our business operates. Currently, my role is supporting the product management and future development of our global media network, which is responsible for delivering television channels and sports events across the globe.

Day to day, I can go from working on customer bids, doing market research on how we can expand our footprint, planning upgrades of existing infrastructure and co-ordinating delivery of major sporting events to broadcasters globally. The great thing about my role is its global impact – from working on projects in different territories, collaborating with teams in other countries and even attending major industry events in places such as Amsterdam. Quite simply, I feel trusted by BT and my management to not just be an “apprentice” but a valued member of the team who is able to contribute positively and to make informed decisions. 

Even though I was sure of my decision to apply for an apprenticeship with BT, I did sometimes question whether I was making the right move when all my peers seemed to be going down the traditional university route – I can unabashedly say my choice has been vindicated since day one. While I have seen some peers struggle to attain employment or a place on a sought after graduate programme, I’ve attained four years of solid work experience in a major company and, once I complete university, I’ll assimilate into a full-time role within the organisation debt-free and on a higher salary than an entry-level graduate.

I’ve even won “highly commended” in the 2019 London Regional Apprentice of the Year Awards! By the turn of the next decade, I hope to be a senior leader climbing the career ladder of the BT organisation within a product or marketing role that has an impact on the direction of our business.

Some argue that by going down the apprenticeship route you miss out on the “university experience” – however that’s simply not true. We still attend university. We can be involved in student organisations and the student union. This is all while having our tuition fees fully funded, earning a wage and getting experience of the workplace – in my eyes, this is an incomparable experience. I’d whole heartedly recommend a degree apprenticeship with an organisation like BT, which has a fantastic balance of everything a high achieving student would be looking with a near-perfect combination of working and learning. I am a huge advocate for degree apprenticeships.

They’re not for every student – as some thrive in the university environment – but what it is about is the ability for people to have choice and the ability to access those choices. I implore schools, colleges and sixth forms, state or private, to better represent apprenticeships to students not as a second-rate option – but a genuine alternative, or first option, to traditional university.

I would urge any member of teaching staff in London who is looking for more information on degree apprenticeships or having somebody in to talk about schemes on offer to drop me an email (callum.elsdon@bt.com) and I would love to see how I can help.

Callum Elsdon is a fourth year digital and technology solutions degree apprentice at BT’s Enterprise division. He tells his story as part of the Tes #InspiringApprentices campaign.

 

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