Commercial Apprentice at DSTL

Start Date:
South East
Programme Type:
Apprenticeship - Higher Level (Level 4/5)
£15,500 annually
Review Date:
February 2019

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Review Score

5.9 /10

1. Please give an overview of your role and what this involves on a day-to-day basis:


Assisting in the procurement of science and technology for Government. Daily, this involves contacting suppliers and meeting with key stakeholders, as well as analysing proposal and quotations received for accuracy. This allows the business to make sound purchasing decisions and achieve best value for money in the UK defence sector.

2. Have you learnt any new skills or developed existing skills?


Ultimately, the most useful aspect of the course has been the business paying towards, and giving me study time to achieve a qualification in the area. This not only assist with my ability to do the job but gives me better future employment prospects. Many other businesses do not provide such opportunities.

3. To what extent do you enjoy your programme?


The work can be challenging. As no two days are the same, this can have its pros and cons. Sometimes the work is difficult but enjoyable but others incomprehensible and difficult to solve without assistance. Due to the importance and value of the work, assistance from an experience team member is vital, yet they do not always have the time.

4. How well organised/structured is your programme?


Upon starting within the department they had never trained and apprentice and struggled to set me clear goals. As such I spent much of my first two months merely reading and writing meaningless tasks and having no practical hands on work to perform. This has improved over time but gave a poor first impression.

5. How much support do you receive from your employer?


The amount of support received on any given day can vary wildly. Sometimes you may have 2 or 3 staff assist with a new task and feel well supported, whilst others can be difficult as you have no prior experience and no one available to assist (due to their busy workloads).

6. How much support do you receive from your training provider when working towards your qualifications?


The training provider gives us all the necessary text books and training days to prepare us for exams. There is a point of contact available to answers any queries with regards to the apprenticeship. However, as their role is merely guidance there has been few conversation with the employer that have had an impact on the work I am assigned.

7. How well do you feel that your qualification (through your training provider) helps you to perform better in your role?


The qualification is comprehensive, difficult but rewarding and feels essential to future progression in the role. Without the qualification the job would not feel rewarding as there are few benefits. Apprentices are paid less than new entrant Commercial Officer counterparts (with no prior experience) but expected to perform the same level of work and gain the same qualification. Achieving the qualification is the most valuable element of working at the business.

8. Are there extra-curricular activities to get involved in at your work? (For example, any social activities, sports teams, or even professional networking events.)


Many, although these are not overly welcoming to new staff members. Due to the nature of the work, many clubs involve complex science and technology. This is great if you are employed in one such role but not if you are in a supporting business function. More should be done to encourage new entrants.

9a. Would you recommend DSTL to a friend?


9b. Why?

As an apprentice there has been lack of direction and sometimes lack of support. The pay is low given the complexity of the work undertaken. Support is very much determined on a per-manager basis. Whilst this may improve in future years, it feels as if the division were forced to employ apprentices from above, rather than out of choice.

10. What tips or advice would you give to others applying to DSTL?

Be sure this is the career you wish to go into, as the work requires dedication and lots of effort. It can be a good stepping stone for future roles outside the company but is not a friendly environment. I would recommend to go elsewhere if you have no background in this field.

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