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The Next Step: Five Arqiva Grads and Apprentices on Post-Education Choices

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The pandemic has had a huge impact on industries and supply chains across the country, and has highlighted more than ever the vitality of having a diverse workforce.

It’s no secret that students and school leavers have suffered immensely over the last 18 months. 

Now as the country looks to its recovery, it is crucial that efforts are made to illustrate the vast array of career paths available to this group, as well as the plethora of ways in which to enter the workforce. In this article, five Arqiva graduates discuss the opportunities and benefits that apprenticeships and graduate schemes provide:

Anya Champaneria – Graduate Software Developer 

The support network that a graduate scheme provides is one of the best aspects. I found switching from university, where you feel like you’ve accomplished a great deal, to a working environment where you are suddenly at the bottom of the chain, to be a bit of a daunting transition. But it turned out that graduate scheme environments are the perfect sounding board. You can ask as many questions as you like without the fear of being viewed as incompetent, or that you’re not living up to expectations. It’s important to remember that as much as you are invested in yourself, the company is invested in you too – they want you to thrive and feel welcomed.  

At Arqiva, I work in coding and computer software, and joined a team where I was less experienced than others within the role. Despite my qualifications, sometimes it could feel like I was back to square one. However, it’s not all about what you know. If you’re a candidate who excels when you’re expected to learn on the job, develop new skills, and just get stuck in, graduate schemes provide the perfect, judgement free environment. 

Archie Casey – Apprentice Graduate Engineer (Broadcast & Media Systems Engineer) 

Apprenticeships provide anyone with a really unique opportunity. While for some, traditional university degrees are a suitable option, I’d love to see more done to highlight the benefits that apprenticeships offer to school leavers. It’s really easy to latch on to the idea that the biggest bonus of an apprenticeship is that it doesn’t come with the same costs that university does. However, there’s far more to apprenticeships than simply avoiding a student loan.  

In my opinion, the opportunity to develop practical skills at the same time as theoretical ones –learning something and immediately being able to put it into practice – is just as valuable. As an engineer working in TV and radio broadcasting, this suits me down to a tee. I get to put my existing skills to use, while at the same time learning about new and emerging technologies, like 5G. Working on projects that have real-world implications and come with responsibility is invaluable, as well as a huge confidence boost. Nowadays, employers are placing increasing value on experience. An apprenticeship, and the hands-on practice it provides, is a great way to set yourself up for future success, whether you stay with the company you train with or branch out. 

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Annicca Prince – Graduate Engineer (Radio Frequency) 

As with many industries, the pandemic introduced lots of new challenges. Virtual work presents a different sort of obstacle, especially in an industry where one of the foundations is field work. When you join a company – and in any company worth their salt – you should be surrounded by mentors. Entering the working world can be daunting and suddenly being surrounded by peers who have years of experience in their field can create a bit of a mental barrier. Fortunately, one of the key components of any graduate scheme is the support network. My role at Arqiva is as a graduate radio frequency engineer, which involves assessing sites and new installations for safety hazards. Having a mentor’s guidance, as well as a training programme with tangible goals has been really helpful. 

Anyone and everyone should give graduate schemes serious thought, especially within the tech industry, and especially women! A lot more can be done to encourage girls into STEM careers. At the school level, the trend still prevails that as a course progresses the split of males and females gradually favours males. Endorsing these careers at a young age and illustrating that societal pressures can be ignored would go a long way to addressing the balance. 

Charlie Stevens – Apprentice Video Engineer (Broadcast & Media Systems Technician) 

Apprenticeships provide an opportunity to get hands-on experience, which is so valuable in today’s society. This country has an incredibly diverse workforce, and more needs to be done to illustrate to those still in education that there are lots of options post-school. For some, universities provide an excellent next step. However, for anyone who is doubting whether higher education is the right choice, I’d definitely recommend considering an apprenticeship. 

Working in a large organisation allows you to interact with different arms of the business and from an early point, apprenticeships provide the opportunity to learn from an ever-expanding group of experts. At Arqiva, I’m an apprentice video engineer, which means that I ensure the systems are in place to receive the broadcast feed and then enable it to go out to the field teams for transmission. One of the most valuable aspects of apprenticeships is the database of contacts, and the opportunity to work with colleagues that really just want to see you succeed. There’s a bit of a misconception that when you pick an apprenticeship, that’s it; that’s the job that you are in for the rest of your career. In my opinion, they provide one of the best opportunities to move around, train in different areas and learn more about the wider working world.  

Bea Mekauskaite – Graduate Engineer (Dev Ops) 

Graduate schemes are a fantastic way to enter the world of work. They offer support, collaboration, and a great chance to learn from a set of talented individuals who have been there and done it all before. Graduate schemes give you the opportunity to be introspective, assess your progress and plot a course for future success. I joined Arqiva as a graduate engineer in Dev Ops, so I’ve learnt a lot about cloud development and maintaining cloud infrastructure through automation. I find that keeping an open line of communication with my manager, asking for suggestions and regularly looking back on what I’ve achieved is really helpful for setting future goals. 

The scheme has also been great for networking. It’s important to remember that while being supported, you can support others too. Joining mentorship groups is a great way to integrate yourself into the wider team, and they also help to improve diversity and inclusion within STEM careers. As a society, we all need to do more to encourage children from a young age to consider careers in in STEM. By the time they reach A-level and university age, it’s often too late. There are too few women in technology roles, and this must be tackled by all organisations alike. As a collective, highlighting and showcasing female engineers as role models would go a long way to progressing diversity and inclusion within the industry for future generations. 

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