1. Please give an overview of your role and what this involves on a day-to-day basis:
On an average day I could be doing anything from end of month financial forecasts to chasing up venue details for events. I attend meetings with technical staff and liaise between different departments. I create spreadsheets and Microsoft project files to facilitate financial forecasting for a wide variety of projects.
2. Have you learnt any new skills or developed existing skills?
I have learnt all about finances and business management. I have learnt about the organisation and have started to learn about project management (having had no business background myself, I now understand key processes and terminology. I have learnt about managing others and different management styles. I have also learnt technical detail about the projects that I support.
3. To what extent do you enjoy your programme?
I enjoy my programme because the people I work with are very supportive and offer me a lot of opportunities to develop. However, as this is a new apprenticeship, we are the guinea pigs. Therefore, there is no endemic process to follow and we don't know what level we will have progressed to once we are qualified. I should imagine that without supportive colleagues, this placement would be quite challenging to utilise fully.
4. How well organised/structured is your programme?
The programme is centred around the syllabus provided by our educational partner solent university, but it has been left to team leaders to tailor projects to the theoretical study. Therefore, where team leaders have been otherwise occupied, it can be hard to get worthwhile tasks that develop your skillset, rather than basic admin.
5. How much support do you receive from your employer?
We have a lot of support from management and team leaders. We are funded to attend training sessions externally and conferences etc that may be of interest. This provides a very enriching experience. As the programme is more free-form, one can take on work that is beyond 'apprenticeship' level, meaning that if you work hard, you can exceed expectations.
6. How much support do you receive from your training provider when working towards your qualifications?
The training provider is supportive but disorganised- we have been invited to meetings outside of our usual placement day which makes it challenging to balance workload with studying. However, they have been very upfront about essays and deadlines, making it easy to manage time efficiently and to succeed in both fields.
7. How well do you feel that your qualification (through your training provider) helps you to perform better in your role?
Having only just started the qualification, it is hard to tell. However, employees at Dstl who are doing my job but aren't apprentices have been waitlisted for the course, so being an apprentice does have an advantage because training is prioritised. Also, the qualification will help towards professionalisation.
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.)
There are lots of opportunities to join societies (various sports, crafts, board games etc) and to network with other new starters. As an apprentice you are invited to lots of different events within your team and the apprentice network. team leaders are proactive at finding you opportunities to venture outside of Dstl.
9a. Would you recommend DSTL to a friend?
The context of the work is interesting and the workplace is dynamic. There are a lot of opportunities to build your skills and better yourself. The focus is less on what you've been recruited to do and more how Dstl can best utilise your potential. You aren't pigeon-holed to a certain career following your apprenticeship
10. What tips or advice would you give to others applying to DSTL?
It takes a long time between application and starting your job- around 6 months. therefore, don't give up hope if they aren't in contact for a while and allow plenty of time to apply while you are at school. Try to join societies to meet new people easily.