My story starts off when I moved to the UK from Sri Lanka at the age of 8, not speaking a word of English except for "hello" and "thank you". Growing up in Surbiton among other people in my community, it felt like I’d left one race for another. It was all about grammar schools, then how many A*s were in your basket, followed by whether you chose between law, medicine or accountancy as your future.
At school, apprenticeships were not on the table from the beginning, as they were believed to be sub-par in comparison with a university degree. The apprenticeship levy didn’t exist when I was applying for university, and schools were misinformed on the quality of apprenticeships and the variety available.
Parents judged the quality of education at my school by the number of students attending university, particularly Russell Group universities, so the focus was always on getting students on the university path.
More on this: 'As an apprentice, my quality of life greatly increased'
Other news: Minister backs #InspiringApprentices campaign
Struggling throughout university
Coming from a school and culture where university is the natural step in a career pathway, I initially attended university to read law. I struggled throughout my time at university and found the learning process unsuitable for me. The effort I was putting in was not reflected in my grades and I became disengaged with a subject I had been passionate about for years. I took a year out from university to assess my options. Having some knowledge of apprenticeships, I actively began to research the process because I knew I still wanted to learn.
I was looking for opportunities on Get My First Job and many of the apprenticeship roles I was interested in were through WhiteHat. I applied to become a WhiteHat apprentice, as I appreciated the support they provided throughout the application process and my apprenticeship, in comparison with other learning providers.
They helped me to look at different sectors after having a law-focused experience until then. I focused on the aspects of my work experience I enjoyed and how that could relate to the prospects available to me. HR was suggested as a suitable option, as I had realised that I was energised by supporting others and working within an encouraging team.
Although my parents were initially hesitant, as they were not educated on the different options available for higher education, they’d seen the effect university had on my mental health and supported my decision not to return. They now fully support my route and understand how it has enabled me to learn and develop key skills from talented professionals, build strong relationships with people both in my team and within the company, all while working towards a recognised qualification.
Having joined Fleishman Hillard Fishburn as an intern within talent development, I was pleased that, following two months, this was converted into an apprenticeship. I believe this reflects my performance and has validated my belief that an apprenticeship is the correct route for me and can be for many others. As a talent-development apprentice, I provide business-administration support to the team overall while supporting HRIS, monthly payroll processing, benefit administration and wellness initiatives.
I love that my apprenticeship is so relevant to my role. I’ll be learning about stakeholder management and then having a discussion with a senior team member and applying what I learnt. My role touches everyone in the business in one way or another and I love being able to support others. As the first apprentice within the business, my line manager, my team members and even senior staff have been supporting me throughout my time at FHF. They have encouraged me to shout out about my experience and achievements, one of them being as a finalist at the Asian Apprenticeship Awards 2018.
As I am currently in my twelfth month of my level 3 business-administration apprenticeship, my current focus is on completing my apprenticeship with a distinction. Upon the completion of my apprenticeship, I hope to continue learning and developing, perhaps completing a CIPD qualification in a few years’ time.
I have made some great friends throughout my apprenticeship through WhiteHat’s community and have an excellent relationship with apprentices in my cohort. Apprentices are encouraged to run societies and currently there are many – including a book club (run by myself). The apprenticeship experience has been so engaging, particularly as I have friends supporting me because they are going through the same process.
Matty Vipulananthan is a level 3 business-administration apprenticeship with Fleishman Hillard Fishburn and WhiteHat. Her story is part of the Tes #InspiringApprentices campaign