From education to employment

Earning while learning – from apprentice to a rewarding career at Blenheim Palace

woman holding a book

In recent years, young people have been seeking out apprenticeships more than ever before. With as many as 78% of students receiving their grades in 2021 being interested in starting an apprenticeship rather than a traditional university course. 

With tuition fees and maintenance loans constantly under threat of increasing it’s no wonder the growing interest in alternative options to gain qualifications and finding a rewarding career.

This is true for Nicole Nielsen-Pike, who started her career journey as a level 2 Customer Service Apprentice in Blenheim Palace’s apprenticeship scheme

Nicole completed her GCSEs in 2017 and realised that she had a bigger interest in understanding the working world than traditional education. The more traditional, academic route to education and a career didn’t appeal to her, so she set out to find opportunities more aligned with her own career ambitions.

Nicole decided to explore the apprenticeship route as she knew that ‘learning on the job’ would be better suited to her style of learning and would allow her to simultaneously gain an understanding of working life and earn an income. This is when she came across the apprenticeship programme at Blenheim Palace. 

In 2017 Blenheim launched its apprenticeship scheme, with the objective to train 10 apprentices each year reaching 100 apprentices by 2027. By the end of 2021, the programme had already had 50 apprentices successfully complete or currently undertake their apprenticeship course. 

At just 16 years old, Nicole was already motivated to quickly progress up the career ladder being coached and trained by the team at Blenheim, balancing learning with getting to grips with the practical elements of her customer service role. 

During her time as a Customer Service Apprentice, Nicole worked closely with Blenheim Palace’s Guest Service Manager to ensure the organisation was meeting its set departmental goals for customer service.

By learning on the job, Nicole was quickly able to gain experience in the day-to-day running of Blenheim Palace and could address how to overcome a variety of challenges that come hand-in-hand with running an organisation.

Blenheim Palace also supported her through its mentoring scheme and training programmes, to ensure she received as many opportunities as possible to develop both professionally and personally.

Nicole quickly advanced with her apprenticeship qualifications and is currently a L6 Chartered Management and Business Degree Apprentice. Once Nicole completes her apprenticeship with Blenheim, she aims to progress into a higher management role where she will be able to apply her knowledge in the next step of her professional career.

Having benefitted from the ‘earn while you learn’ programme Nicole gained hands-on experience through the support of industry professionals and increased her employability by achieving industry-recognised qualifications.

Her successes during and after her apprenticeship have been evidenced by being awarded the Joint Apprentice of the Year 2022 at the OxLEP-led Oxfordshire Apprenticeship Awards along with winning Apprentice of the Month from Abingdon and Witney College

OxLEP Skills helps businesses and individuals fully understand the importance of creating the right career pathways ensuring that business and education communicate effectively the opportunities available. 

We support young people to explore the benefits apprenticeships can offer through our work in partnership with The Careers & Enterprise Company, development of an Oxfordshire Apprenticeship Ambassador scheme and hosting the Oxfordshire Apprenticeship Awards.

Stories like Nicole’s demonstrate the opportunities an apprenticeship can provide in opening the door to the next stage of your career.

If Nicole’s story has resonated with you or you are curious to understand more about the benefits around taking on an apprenticeship, find out more about how you can unlock the door to a new future with OxLEP’s Apprenticeships and Vocational Pathways here:

Related Articles