'At school we got no information about apprenticeships'

#InspiringApprentice Emma Coulson took matters in her own hands when her school failed to promote apprenticeships

'Apprenticeships are the best pathway to take'

My name is Emma Coulson. I am 21 and I am from Washington, Durham. 

I’m in the final year of my degree apprenticeship in business administration, having completed a level 3 and 4 apprenticeship in the subject in 2018 and a foundation degree in 2019. I’m employed by Nissan Motor Manufacturing UK, but am currently studying at Northumbria University. 

At secondary school, we were given no information about apprenticeships: it was all about going onto university. While I was enrolled at Newcastle Sixth Form, I was researching my options and came across Nissan’s website. They’re the largest employer in my local area, and when I saw them advertising apprenticeships, I thought it was the best option for stability and ongoing opportunities.


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I expected the apprenticeship to be an opportunity to learn both academically and within the workplace while being paid. I hoped that I would be supported both by my line manager and the training provider and to be pushed to be the best that I can be. Thankfully, my apprenticeship has more than lived up to this expectation and I have been given opportunities that I would never have had without the support of my employer.

My daily work involves working with my line manager to manage the apprenticeship schemes and to ensure all of our apprentices are happy and safe at work. I help to deal with any issues the apprentices may have and act as a first point of contact for the apprentices. I thoroughly enjoy my work – it is very rewarding and every day offers me a new challenge and different tasks to complete.

My line manager is extremely supportive and wants to help me develop in any way that I can. She is also my university mentor and ensures I am on track with deadlines. She is always there if I need support either personally, academically or work-related.

My favourite part of the job is working with our apprentices and ensuring their apprenticeship scheme is the best it can be. As I was an apprentice myself, any suggestions they have to better their scheme I will try to implement if possible.

My peers who went to university are struggling to find a job in their field owing to lack of experience, however, I receive full-time employment and a wage alongside studying. The great thing about an apprenticeship is both gaining my degree and the experience I need for employment.

My older sister has also completed an apprenticeship, so my family were extremely supportive and saw this as the preferred route to university. My friends were all also supportive, however, some did not understand what an apprenticeship was due to lack of information from schools.

Ideally, after finishing my apprenticeship and my degree, I would like to apply for the Nissan human resources graduate scheme. This would give me the opportunity to progress within the company and further develop my skills.

In 10 years I would ideally like to be a managerial role within Nissan, to have finished a master’s degree and to have started a family.

I would 100 per cent recommend an apprenticeship after school, university is definitely not the only route you can take to progress. I’m gaining my degree while working full time and gaining valuable experience. In my opinion, an apprenticeship is definitely the best pathway to take.

Emma Coulson is completing a business administration degree apprenticeship with Nissan and Northumbria University. She tells her story as part of the Tes #InspiringApprentices campaign

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