The Apprentice (not that one)

When I signed up to be a GCS apprentice, I couldn’t help but think of the TV show. I pictured trying to fit in with a competitive collection of suits and pencil skirts, being faced with a multitude of stressful tasks and aggressive boardroom battles with a looming Alan Sugar type figure saying “shut ya trap!” or, even worse, “you’re fired!”.

How wrong could I be! I didn’t realise the environment would be nearly as friendly or creative as I’ve experienced so far. I’ve always had an interest in news and politics but actually getting a backstage pass to the conundrum that is current affairs has been a whole new type of interesting.

Lily Lowe, former GCS apprentice at BEIS.

Joining the GCS and meeting my new cohort

I was part of the Government Communication Service Apprenticeship – a large cohort all studying towards a level 4 PR and Communications qualification. We all got divided up among the various government departments and I was the lucky one who got BEIS (the department of Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy)!

I found the first few weeks quite daunting and overwhelming. Before this I was studying for my A Levels and working front of house and backstage at a theatre, so to say this was a culture shock would be an understatement.

It was a very busy introduction to the Civil Service, and luckily I found time to meet and socialise with my fellow apprentices before the pandemic. My cohort have become good friends and when we are not getting together for workshops and webinars, we are arranging GCS charity quiz nights and having a social drink. We’ve developed a great camaraderie and it’s a great way to learn from each other’s experiences.

Although I have had to continue my apprenticeship virtually, working from home since the pandemic, I can’t say I have been at a loss for development opportunities. Training was given online and I felt in a great position to complete my End Point Assessment. If anything, the time I got back from the commute into the office has enabled me to feel more in control of the balance with my day-to-day work demands.

Working in government communications

Working in both Internal Communications and Digital Media since I started my apprenticeship, I’ve picked up an array of skills such as writing and graphic design skills, but my favourite part of the whole experience so far has to be mixing with people I wouldn’t usually mix with. The challenge of a busy working day in comms is made all the more worthwhile when I am meeting others from all different walks of life.

I feel really chuffed (and quite proud) to be a tiny cog working away in the hugely complicated machine that is the government. Some of my highlights have to be being involved in the floor walk with our then Secretary of State Andrea Leadsom (even if I did run out of breath halfway through – staircases and talking never mix well) and meeting with business leaders and policy officials who have opened my perspective to the world of business and energy. I’m also fortunate to be able to work on rewarding communications strategies, on topics such as climate change and diversity and inclusion.

I’ve really enjoyed the challenge of my apprenticeship and I feel so lucky to have been given the opportunity to continue my role at BEIS after finishing my apprenticeship. Hopefully I’ll be able to continue the learning journey and pick up even more skills.

The best part is having a qualification to my name now which will no doubt help me in the future. My CV is going to be glowing with that ‘NVQ Level 4 PR and Communications’ qualification!

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