1. Please give an overview of your role and what this involves on a day-to-day basis:
My role involves Dealer Success tracking to see how our field team are interacting with the retailers in order to drive sales and encourage engagement. I carry out eVHC reporting to understand the sales resulting from the free eVHC carried out on vehicles, day-to-day email answering to both retailer's and the regional field team. I also track and supply missing literature to various vehicle models. This role was previously a full role for a previous apprentice. The apprentice left and I was moved back into the department which was supposed to be for 6 months. As the apprentice had left months prior, all the existing workload was offloaded to other people and therefore when I came into this role, there was very little work and I do feel that if I hadn't had a brilliant manager who tried his best to get me involved and build the role up as much as possible with very little to go with, that this would have been a very poor experience. The 6 months has turned into 18 months due to changes in the organisation which I understand, however the role was never challenging enough for me. It has busy periods, but not really developmentally challenging.
2. Have you learnt any new skills or developed existing skills?
I have learnt so many Excel skills and nominated myself to become a trainer. This has been invaluable for future roles. I also have a deeper understanding on how the retailer's work which has also been really beneficial as my trade experience in my first year saw everything from a completely different perspective. I have developed my presentation skills and communication overall. I had a fantastic manager, who has unfortunately left the business to thank for this for pushing me to do things out of my comfort zone.
3. To what extent do you enjoy your programme?
Firstly, some very positive things about the programme which I enjoy: The autonomy - Having 4.5 years work experience prior to joining Vauxhall and each job I had I felt watched. To an extent, I understand, however getting work checked vigorously before it was able to go anywhere I found difficult because it made me question my abilities. Since joining Vauxhall, I have had so much autonomy that I find I am making less mistakes because I'm trusting my work more and I don't have the anxiety attached to someone checking every single detail. Work is checked less often which allows development, in my opinion. Mistakes aren't great but they're human and it's the only way we learn! Accountability is important. Next, I enjoy the department I work in and the people who are so approachable and friendly. They always go out of their way to help, no matter how busy, and they trust me with bits of work when I offer to help which I find encouraging. I enjoy the fact I am getting a degree out of this programme and that they are investing in me which is something I will massively benefit from.
Negatives that contribute to not enjoying the programme: The disorganisation of aspects of the course are frustrating. For example, I understand that for our University we are a pilot course, but there are so many things which are poorly organized - even something as small as the rooms we are in when we do attend. We have asked for regular rooms as we attend only 1.5 days a month but we have arrived several times and been met with other classes in the rooms or classes due in mid-way through. It is disruptive. Within the organisation, there have been loads of changes since the acquisition of Vauxhall by PSA, including those who oversee the apprentices. Previously, there was lack of visibility from students on who we were meant to approach and when we did know, things weren't done. This has started to improve under new supervision, however it is still at present slow and frustrating.
Inconsistencies in programme - we were always told we had to rotate out of a function at least once to get experience in another area. I was told in my first year I could stay in Aftersales, a plan was created and then I was told I couldn't stay. This caused disruption and I was pulled into a different role for 6 months which wasn't busy and not enjoyable. Now, I am being told by an apprentice close to the apprenticeship programme that this isn't the case for the younger apprentices anymore and they can stay.
Pay processing is different now, where it was steps with annual bonus which was understood by everyone, now it is based on performance (which I totally agree with) but history suggests that those who don't perform but have a more relaxed manager will get higher end pay increases whereas those who do perform with slightly -stricter- managers, for lack of a better word, may be limited to middle range increases.
University work - there have been countless instances where students have not handed in work on time or at all, or not followed guidelines. This would, if we were typical students, result in a capped grade of 40%. The students in question have not been capped in majority of these scenarios which undermines those who are working hard for the grades. Nothing seems to be done on a work level as well and this corresponds to the above point of pay increases?
The conflict of interest - there is an apprentice heavily involved in the apprenticeship programme and running. This includes conversations regarding pay, etc. This is massively uncomfortable, especially as we have been advised that this person is first point of contact for issues. I would actively avoid speaking to this individual about the apprenticeship, not only because we are friends outside of work but also because it is hugely inappropriate in my opinion. I don't feel comfortable with an apprentice being that closely involved in my pay/grades/issues.
Also the length of the programme. Due to changing to degree course after 1 year we extended the course. 5 years is a lot.
These are just a few of my points. Overall, I do enjoy the programme but I feel as though I would enjoy it more if there was more consistency and if we hadn't experienced unfairness previously.
4. How well organised/structured is your programme?
It isn't the best organised. We have had our apprenticeship extended so people in my cohort would have been there for 5/6 years respectively. There are massive inconsistencies between each cohort/year group and it all is very messy as some people have been allowed to do things and some people haven't, causing issues.
5. How much support do you receive from your employer?
This answer depends on how you view it - e.g. academically or in the workplace.
I have had different experiences within the workplace for support in my work depending on my role. My first role was a difficult one, I was supported but not by my typical manager as he was busy helping to develop a new retailer. My 6 month stint in HR I did not feel supported at all and the current role I felt very supported by my manager who left. I still feel supported but people have less involvement with me now. Academically, I have always felt very supported. I receive my study days
6. How much support do you receive from your training provider when working towards your qualifications?
Feedback on assignments could be better. Guidance on how to apply things to the workplace could be improved but overall it is not a bad experience, I do feel supported if I needed advice on assignment writing from CASE. I do feel supported by certain lecturers we have been with. Overall I'd say I'm indifferent.
7. How well do you feel that your qualification (through your training provider) helps you to perform better in your role?
I think it definitely has helped me perform better in some areas of my role. I am able to look at things more from a more rounded viewpoint rather than just one-sided. I think that it has also helped me develop my written work and attention to detail from the checking of assignments, etc. as it keeps me accountable.
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.)
Not exactly extra-curricular activities as such. There used to be a massive selection of these activities to get involved in such as bubble football, football, etc. However these took a back seat during the acquisition and now we don't hear too much about them anymore. However, I have relocated to be within the new office and PSA Groupe who I have heard have a netball team so hopefully I can get involved in that.
9a. Would you recommend PSA Group to a friend?
This is a very circumstantial question. My answer is weak yes however this is for the bigger picture. There are still lots of things that need to be worked on in order for this yes to be a resounding yes purely because my experience has not been great with all of the inconsistencies, the changes leading to confusion and feeling a bit lost and neglected as apprentices. I know that the business are trying to fix these things and I am sure older year groups and the younger group may not have had the same experience. If the programme was worked on and solidified with clear, defined rules and instructions for everyone, there weren't different rules for different people and lots of things happening and a lack of communication, I would probably recommend Vauxhall. It's all just very broken at the moment and time, understanding and a bit more confidence is required. I also am conscious that there has been a historic change to the business with the acquisition by a company with a completely different culture which is undoubtedly also having an effect on the programme overall.
10. What tips or advice would you give to others applying to PSA Group?
Advice is to be yourself, be strong in what you stand for and show your personality. Vauxhall is a really great place to work, it just needs to adjust to its new working situation since the acquisition. Show your willingness, never be afraid to ask questions! I was always told to ask questions and even when this landed me in unwelcome territory, I stood by my guns and carried on questioning and challenging because that is what you are there for! Drive change - it's what the business wants and needs. Just be yourself there is nothing wrong with that.
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