1. Please give an overview of your role and what this involves on a day-to-day basis:
Unfortunately, my role currently consists of only repetitive tasks. It is all very low skill work that I simply do not enjoy doing. Although I understand the necessity of the task and how it fits into a larger picture, the repetitive admin work does not benefit me anymore. I am aware that call centres pay more than I earn, to do what I would consider far more interesting work, which is extremely unmotivating for me. As I am not engaged with the work in any way, and regard it as no more than a chore, I do not enjoy coming into work. If I did not have far larger aspirations and expectations of myself, I would rather do more interesting work closer to home and for more money. When I applied for the position, I did not expect to find myself counting down the minutes until lunch and then until the end of the working day. For me, this is a great shame, as my other rotations were a lot more enriching and captivating. Had this been my only experience with the company the score would be far lower.
2. Have you learnt any new skills or developed existing skills?
After my last review, it feels like a long time since I have picked up any new skills or valuable experience. At a stretch, I could say that I am very slightly faster at touch typing after having to do it so much. The two modules at university which I have just completed, contained almost no genuinely useful information that I did not already know. This may be largely due to the fact that the content of one of the modules had been almost completely covered in the previous module. Another point regarding university, would be that we are being taught programming languages that are not being used by the business. What would be the point in learning something I will certainly never use during my time with SSE?
3. To what extent do you enjoy your programme?
As I may have previously mentioned, I do not enjoy the programme at the moment. Now to the extent where I find it frustrating that I must spend my money on petrol to make the long journeys to and from work, to do something that I could have done as a part time job when I was 14 years old. I did not expect to have to do this kind of work every day when I chose this career path. I expected to be getting involved with the roles that require elements of decision making and planning. Roles where I can demonstrate my intelligence and my problem-solving skills. Roles where I can contribute valued opinions and strategies and deliver something that I can own and be proud of. I find it very demoralising that my skills and potential is being wasted and used for the complete opposite.
4. How valued do you feel by SSE?
Unfortunately, I simply do not feel valued by the business at all. From my perception, it would seem as though the apprentices have all been forgotten about and left to our own devices. Even in my other rotations I have found myself and others having to manage their own work experience to try and ensure that we receive value from it. What I found really disheartening, was seeing the almost pointless pay rise we had received for a years’ worth of work and dedication to the company. Not only did I find that demotivating, but to cause further upset, I found out that the new intake of apprentices are being paid the exact same amount that we are now, even after the measly pay rise. I am sad to say that there is no other word for it, I just feel insulted. It is now apparent to me that a years’ worth of experience and dedication equates to almost nothing in the eyes of SSE. I have friends and acquaintances who are involved in similar schemes (some not even as prestigious as a degree level) with different companies, and they have all been given handsome pay rises that reflect their hard work and dedication to their respective companies. Whereas I am actually now taking home less money, due to new tax codes. I am worried, because I very much expect to reach the end of the scheme and be paid and treated like a graduate, even though my experience and knowledge should far exceed that of a graduate.
5. How well organised/structured is your programme?
After having such a poor experience, I have had time to reflect on SSE’s degree apprentice scheme and it is apparent that the programme must be poorly organised. It is obvious that our learning and working experiences are not being thoughtfully and strategically managed or considered. There seems to be no structure or plan that ensures we receive relevant experience in the necessary roles and areas of the business. It feels as though it has been thrown together without consideration and everything is being decided as we go. Nobody is checking in with us and evaluating our progress. There are no targets, nothing for us to aim for. Nobody is asking us what we enjoy or what we want to do, there is no direction. It would not matter if I was going above and beyond, because it would just go unnoticed anyway. It is clear that the team managers have been given very little guidance and direction as to what to do with us. Had it not been for the care and consideration of my previous managers, I would have gained very little experience on this scheme, if any at all. I think that this could be significantly improved by giving the teams bespoke, induvial expectations as to what the apprentice should experience and learn during their time with the team, and then reviewing the progress of each apprentice to ensure everybody is progressing, learning and gaining value out of the scheme. At the moment, the value heavily depends on the manager and the team members and their work loads. Hence why the score is not as low as it could be, as my previous manager cared a great deal about my time with the team and what I got back from it.
6a. How much support do you receive from your training provider?
I understand that the support would be there in various forms should any of us require it. The university certainly try to ensure that we understand where to go should we need support. However, the effectiveness and availability of the support is significantly mitigated, as we all live so far away and are not frequently on site. Of course, this is not the fault of the university and they can only do so much. I am impressed with their efforts.
6b. How much support do you receive from your employer?
Towards the end of the last module when the other apprentices were stressed and struggling with the assignment, we had a meeting where we were told we can take a day to concentrate and utilise the universities and the company’s resources. One of the resources being the other Apprentices. On the last week of the module, the apprentices who were not as stressed and struggling, were told to get together to formulate a plan that would present how they were to help those who were struggling and then report back before the end of day with a suitable plan. I found this unbelievable. It was as if the responsibility was palmed off onto them and it became their problem to solve. I genuinely think it is great to encourage the DA's to help each other, but this is something else entirely and should not have even been an option. We are all given mentors who, in my experience, can be fantastic. But it seems I was very lucky with my mentor, as some of the other DA's have been pretty much forgotten by theirs.
7. How well does your salary/package meet your costs?
I did think that the pay was initially good. However, with the lack of pay increase, I am seeing and hearing that apprentices doing very similar schemes are now far more financially better off than I am. Just to illustrate... the pay increase was considerably lower than that of our national inflation rate. As my bills increase, food costs rise and my tax code changes, the money I take home is now less than when I started and my cost of living has risen. I really do find it uncomfortable having to complain about money, but it is quite demoralising to find out that other company’s schemes are rewarding and looking after their apprentices much better than my own scheme and I passionately want this to change.
8. Are there many opportunities outside of work?
We are not offered much in the way of competitions, educational conferences, residential training courses or anything of that nature, which I would like to see. When talking to people doing schemes like mine, I found out that they had been sent away for two weeks together to participate in team building and leadership training, which not only sounded incredibly fun, but beneficial too. They are also being shipped off to conferences and all kinds of training courses and trips, giving the impression that their companies really care about investing time and money into their apprentices. It would be nice to feel the same way about my company. SSE have something called the ‘be the difference’ scheme, and it is fantastic. It encourages us to help the community and do something different for a day, and possibly learn a DIY skill or similar.
9. Would you recommend SSE to a friend?
As it stands, I regret to say that I think there are better opportunities out there. Apprenticeships are growing in popularity and more and more businesses are getting involved. From what I have personally heard and seen, other businesses can offer you a much better programme. I really hope my feedback is noted so that I can change my opinion this time next year.
10. What tips or advice would you give to others applying to SSE?
If you make it through to the assessment day, it involves an interview, a group assessment and a presentation. For the presentation make sure you are prepared, practiced and well researched. You will be asked questions and it will always look good if you have the answers. Don’t include anything you cannot explain or do not understand. If you do get asked a question, don’t pretend to know the answer or make something up, just apologise and offer to follow up on the question later. Also, remember it’s not an academic assessment, they will be considering how you present yourself and your confidence, try to have fun with it.
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