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"It’s never too late to switch career-paths and start something new that you love."

Headshot of Eoghan standing in front of a lake or reservoir smiling at the camera.

Eoghan is working with Nestlé while studying for a BSc Packaging Professional degree apprenticeship

"It’s never too late to switch career-paths and start something new that you love."

“I chose to do a degree apprenticeship because I wanted to start a new career, but it wasn't practical for me to return to university full-time. The packaging apprenticeship provided me with the opportunity to retrain in a field that interests me while putting the skills and knowledge into practice from day one.

"My role is to support in developing and deploying new confectionery packaging formats, technologies and materials. I am part of a team of nine packaging specialists, experts and managers. A key target for our team is helping the business transform its packaging so it is 100% recyclable or reusable by 2025. To support this objective, I am conducting experiments on packaging properties and supporting the trialling of new sustainable materials across different formats.

"My apprenticeship has allowed me to develop a number of key skills such as project management. Within our business environment most of our work is focused on long-term projects, rather than day-to-day operations. This requires self-discipline and forward planning to ensure progress across several workstreams. Before my apprenticeship, I came from retail which is focused mainly on the day-to-day, thus required a major change in my mindset.

"It’s never too late to switch career-paths and start something new that you love. Going back to full-time education is impractical for many people, but apprenticeships provide the ability to study while working. Apprenticeships are not just for those that have left school, but for anyone with the drive to learn through practical and academic work.”

"It has been challenging switching to learning virtually over the past year, however with the help of the course’s academic advisor and course leader I have felt well supported to be able to continue my studies. Our course leader’s enthusiasm and knowledge of the subject have helped a great deal stay motivated through these difficult times.

“Once I’ve finished my studies ideally I wish to continue gaining experience within Nestlé, possibly within operations to broaden my skills, with the long-term plan to develop an area of expertise to specialise in research and development.”

How you apply is different with each employer

I was already working at Hallam, so I just sent a CV to the recruiting manager. However it works for you, once you have the job, you’d then apply for university the same way as everyone else, and your employer will fill in parts of the application too.

  1. If you’re already employed, research what degree apprenticeships are, then take it to your line manager. Once that’s done contact the university and they can advise you where to go from there. Rather than just applying, have a conversation with your employer and the university.

  2. If you’re not employed yet, contact Hallam as they have a matchmaking service where you can say what you’re interested in, and if they know of any employers who could help you, they’ll put you in touch.

How to convince an employer to fund your apprenticeship

First of all, it’s helpful for the business to find out if they’re a 'levy' company – if so they’ll already have money set aside specifically for apprentices, so not only do they not have to pay the fees, they get a more qualified member of staff at the end of it. Plus, it’s the only way they can spend the levy money, so they might as well.

Or if they’re not a levy company, the government will help them to pay the fees. Either way, the employer won’t have to pay the full amount. Speak to the employer about what funding is available, or they can contact the university to find out.

When I go to university I do one module at a time

So it’s just one assignment to focus on, which makes it easy to balance. As well as that you should get a study day to get a good start on it. Your employer will want you to do well, and they have to give you 20% of your time off the job to study. Some of that could be made up of block study in university, but the rest would be study days. Typically, you should get one study day per module.

I can apply what I've learned on my course directly to my job

As well as that, my assignments fit to the business – when I'm writing things up it matches my work, so I can understand why I had to learn about that subject. In a previous course I couldn't understand why I would need to learn about some subjects, but on an apprenticeship everything is relevant in the workplace.

It's not like your average job either – I feel like I've made a change already. You're trusted to make a start on projects, and coming in as an apprentice, you're responsible for your own work. I worked in retail before and felt like I had no opportunities. Now, I'm involved in so many different things and I have the opportunity to progress as well, which I never had before.

There are so many different people and all of different ages

The first group I was in was really nice – and even though I felt like they were more experienced within their jobs, I felt more academically experienced as I'd just left A levels, so we could all learn from each other. There were different industries too on the same course – like plastics, environmental, construction and manufacturing – so it was really interesting.

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