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Become an apprentice

Apprenticeship stories

Hear what Southwark apprentices have to say

As you will see from our apprentice stories below, apprenticeships really are an opportunity for everyone. There is no such thing as a typical apprentice, apprentices come from all different backgrounds and education levels.

Many people just like you have used apprenticeships in Southwark to help them find great careers. We have so many great success stories, such as Clare, who did an apprenticeship at 53 and started a new career as a Customer Support Officer; and Fiona, who could have gone to a great university, but used an apprenticeship to get her foot in the door with a multinational company so she could work all over the world.

We hope you'll be inspired to hear what apprentices have to say about their experiences working and studying in Southwark.


Nicole Bryan - 2014

Repairs Officer, Southwark Council

"After leaving school I attended a college to undergo A-Levels in psychology, sociology and English Literature. After completing the first year, I realised that I would rather earn money and gain experience at the same time.

The best thing about my apprenticeship is being able to take control of my learning and suggest skills and work experience that I believe will better me with my career. This means that my tasks can vary so there is always something different and interesting for me to do. Being such a big department means that I am able to vary the different tasks that I do and gain a broader level of experience.

Completing the level two apprenticeship meant that I was then able to apply for admin roles within the council. I have now gone on to a level three apprenticeship which has increased my employability.

I would recommend the apprenticeship scheme as it helps to tackle unemployment as well as provide the opportunity to gain the relevant skills and experience that may be vital to help start your career path."


Lisa Clake - 2013

Collections Officer, Southwark Council

"I choose the apprenticeship because I wanted a job with a clear career path rather than studying. I had a friend who told me about the apprenticeship scheme as they had completed it and I thought it would be a good opportunity to move on from where I was and start afresh. Gaining an NVQ was a bonus.

The best thing about the apprenticeship was learning new skills and getting a job I enjoy at the end of it. I’ve learned a lot about myself, including that I am good at dealing with members of the public.

Completing the apprenticeship has changed my career prospects as I am now in a role that I enjoy.

I have had the opportunity to get involved with other apprentices within our team and help them progress. I have also been able to spread the word on apprenticeships throughout the borough by attending school fairs and job fairs.

I would advise anyone thinking of an apprenticeship to go for it. You earn decent money whilst gaining an NVQ which in turn will give you the opportunity to gain full-time employment within the council or elsewhere. You meet lots of people who are also going through the apprenticeship route and people who have already completed the scheme and they are all there to help and support you."


Summer Field- 2012

Collections Officer, Southwark Council

“When I left school I was unsure whether I wanted to go into further education or into employment. I knew very little about apprenticeships and originally thought that they were mainly for more vocational subjects such as hairdressing and plumbing.

I then saw the advert for the Southwark apprenticeship scheme and noticed there were a lot more subjects on offer. As I was unsure about whether I should undertake further education or employment, what route to take, I figured the best thing for me to do was go for an apprenticeship which would allow me to do both.  

I chose the customer service apprenticeship as I felt this was a subject that could assist me when applying for any job in the future.

The best thing about my apprenticeship was being recognised as a valued team member in my department. When I first started I thought I would be an extra and helping out with bits and bobs here and there, but when I was actually given my own responsibilities and job role I felt equal to all my other team members. The support I received from the managers in my department and also other colleagues was really encouraging. As I was the first apprentice the specialist housing services team had ever taken, I was able to help sculpt and develop the job role for the next apprentice that would join us which was also quite interesting.  

From my apprenticeship I learned that I was prepared to take on challenges and to learn new things, and when working in a professional environment I was able to adapt to my surroundings and with different people I would be working with.

The apprenticeship has given me a career and I am now able to confidently apply for jobs with the skills and experience that many companies require.  

I am now a permanent member of staff with the collections team. My manager nominated me for the Southwark Apprentice of the Year 2012, which I won and I then went on to win the National Apprenticeship Award for the London Region 2012. In September 2014, I also started an HNC qualification in Housing Studies and Management, which means that I attend university one day a week.

One piece of advice I would give to people applying for apprenticeships is to take all opportunities given to you. Try to challenge yourself and be open to learning new things as it will benefit you in the end.“


Harry, 25

Community Warden

I joined the Navy but was medically discharged early on. I started doing some plumbing work to make ends meet while I thought about my options.

Some of my friends had got a job after doing an apprenticeship so I decided to give it a go. I was offered a position with the community wardens. I wasn’t sure about the role so I spoke to one of the wardens to find out more and his work sounded really interesting. I quit my job and started the apprenticeship the next day.

Dealing with the public every day built up my confidence, it kind of guided me. I even completed the one year apprenticeship within eight months. I was supported the whole time; the tutor came out to see me a couple of times every month and my manager helped me to get the work done.

Once I’d finished I applied for a permanent market officer role with Southwark Council and got it. The apprenticeship with Better Bankside was a great place to start out. Later on, when a job opportunity presented itself to return to the role I fulfilled, as an apprentice, without hesitation I applied and was lucky enough to get the job, as a Community Warden. I had learned so much and gained so much experience that I felt ready for the next step. I love my job and I have great colleagues, it has really worked out for me.


Fiona, 24

Assistant Coastal Engineer

''After completing my A Levels I wanted to secure a job that set me up for a career straight away.

I looked at a lot of different options, even some that weren’t related to my A Levels. I found this really interesting civil engineering apprenticeship which would give me the chance to work across lots of teams and had great opportunities to move higher up in the company.

I knew there weren’t many women in engineering but that didn’t bother me one bit. I didn’t give it any thought when I was applying and I haven’t noticed any difference now I’m on site. When they offered me the role I decided to give it a shot and it’s been great.

When I finished the apprenticeship I started work on my HNC. I have now completed my HNC in Civil Engineering and started my BEng in Civil Engineering, which I will finish in the summer of 2020. After 4 and half years on Tideway, I moved to HS2. I was working for just over 5 years as an apprentice and then technician and now have the role of Assistant Coastal Engineer. On completion of my degree, I plan to achieve my Incorporate member (IEng) at the Institute of Civil Engineers.

An apprenticeship has given me all the good parts of studying but with real work experience. It’s connected me to opportunities I might not have had if I’d gone to university. Missing out on fresher’s week was tough at the time but now I’m set up for life. I’m really glad I went for the apprenticeship when I did.''


Veronica, 38

Urban Gardener

''Before I started gardening I was a make-up artist. I always had an inclination to work with nature but so far it had just been a hobby. I started volunteering once a week for a really interesting organisation called The Castle, an organic market garden. I loved it and decided to start volunteering in a nature reserve in Crystal Palace. Both of these opportunities made me realise that I wanted to start a career in this field.

I found this amazing apprenticeship with Borough Market and Better Bankside and applied. I worked with Borough Market two days a week and two days with Better Bankside. It was really exciting because by then I had some idea of gardening but being able to learn the theory behind the work was really helpful.

I was tasked with doing really interesting things such as replanting in small spaces and being given the opportunity to be as creative as I wanted. I met people in the industry locally and built networks in the horticultural industry.

I joined the team at Better Bankside full time as their urban gardener which has allowed me to run volunteering groups and deliver lunch break gardening sessions. It’s been amazing to see people get enthusiastic about gardening and be proud of their surroundings.

Since completing my apprenticeship, I have taken a break to start a family. I have loved studying something I really enjoy and although it may be on pause at the moment, I would definitely like to get back to gardening, in particular wildlife design. For me, completing an apprenticeship has led me to a whole new career - where I have gained a wealth of experience and learned so many new skills that when the time is right for me I can get back to a job that I love and for that, it has been life changing.''


Greg, 58


''I used to work on construction sites all over the world. Whilst working in Ireland during 2010 there was a crisis so I came to look for work in London. Unfortunately, I wasn’t having much luck and was finding it hard to make ends meet.

One day I was visiting a charity talk, and mentioned I was interested in catering, and had always thought I might like working in a kitchen. It so happened someone from Beyond Food was talking about their apprenticeship scheme - it was the right place and the right time so I decided to sign up. It’s not easy going back to training after working for many years, but at the end of the day it's education - you can’t beat it.

The first few weeks I was pretty nervous, but once I got to know people it was fine. I was also given my own set of knives – they’re the tools of the trade and every chef has their own. They’re a great team. I get along with everyone which makes it nice to come into work.

Now that I’ve finished I’m planning to complete my chef training. I enjoy being in the kitchen, it’s been a fantastic opportunity I would encourage anyone to do an apprenticeship. It’s a great way to retrain and it can never hurt to get new qualifications and training.''


Ubed, 31

Community Safety Officer

''I completed an HNC course in housing but struggled to find a job in that field. I was determined to work in Local Government so I stayed focused on applying for jobs.

My lack of work experience was making it hard to get interviews. I found a community warden apprenticeship with Better Bankside and went for it. It gave me all the experience I needed and, soon after I finished, I got a job in community safety with Southwark Council. I now work on the front line helping to prevent crime. I have even won an award for my work.

During the apprenticeship, I did a lot of training in customer service and first aid. I got the chance to work with a range of partners such as the police, homeless shelters and enforcement. It gave me the experience I needed to open some doors and build my confidence so I was ready for my opportunity when it arrived. Since my apprenticeship, I have progressed in my role, as I am now a Shift Supervisor, where I am gaining valuable management skills. I currently lead and supervise two colleagues and possibly one more in the next few months. I enjoy my current role and would look at further progression in Management in the future within Southwark Council.

The apprenticeship moulded me into the person I wanted to be and now I have the confidence to progress even further in my career.''


Clare, 53

Customer Support Officer

''I had previously spent 20 years working in the hospitality industry, before deciding to take a break to start a family. Since having children, and taking a break from employment, I was very nervous about returning to work and finding something that I enjoyed doing.

At first, I always considered apprenticeships to be for younger people, those who had just finished school or college. However, when I started to browse for vacancies online through various websites, I quickly learned that anyone could apply.

I came across the vacancy for an apprenticeship at Southwark Council and decided to apply. After filling in the application form and attending an interview, I was thrilled to learn that I had been offered the job. Since taking on the role, I have worked not only in the Housing team but also I have now branched out to working with the Repairs team as well, gaining additional skills and experience that will help me to further progress within my role. 

Southwark Council has been very supportive in my role since I joined and I have felt like I have found something that has not only given me a career change but I have found it very easy to adjust, after having such a long break from employment.

Apprenticeships are a great opportunity to not only study but gain real life, on the job experience at the same time.

My biggest tip would be that apprenticeships really are for anyone. This opportunity has enabled me to develop skills and experience and gain a qualification - something I never thought that I would do so far along my career.

Once I complete my apprenticeship, I will have achieved a Level 3 qualification in Housing and I am pleased to say that I have already secured a permanent, full time position!''


Urvi, 21

Tax Associate

''I studied Economics, Maths and Geography at Sixth Form. Whilst completing my A levels I was on track to attend a Russell group university but I came across the PwC Tax School leaver programme. I applied for the apprenticeship and was immediately taken aback by the rigorous application process, I later found out it was identical to the application process for the graduates aiming to get a place here so even though I did not know at the time, it was a testament to the fact that we would be treated the same here at PwC.

I was successful and given a place for September 2016. I am currently finishing my Apprenticeship and gaining a professional qualification, certifying myself as an Associate Tax Technician. This will help me pursue other qualifications that will allow me to progress in my career. I sit within the Asset Management tax team at PwC focusing on helping different investors from global hedge funds to major pension schemes. My role involves helping companies comply with tax regulations in the UK and abroad. and assisting them with filing any necessary documents with the tax authorities. We provide advice and guidance on any other issues that asset managers face now or in the future and employ different technologies and methods to streamline the process.

I always get asked if I regret not going to university, and I always say no. This apprenticeship has been a great experience for me so far. It was a steep learning curb but I have learned relevant and valuable skills that I can transfer to any job in the future and I have gained real life experience that most other people my age won't have. I feel like I made the right decision and have made a great start to my career and it helps that all of my friends at university are asking for tips and job referrals!''

Page last updated: 05 July 2023

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