One year on – Catching up with our apprentices
In September 2019, Innovate Tax designed a work-based learning programme that would give two new apprentices the opportunity to develop the skills required to become ‘fully fledged sales eagles’. The programme was supported by ACT Training and would supply nationally recognised qualifications.
Nathan Farmer, Commercial Director, recalls the reasoning behind his decision to take on sales apprentices:
“I first went to university in 2004, and I remember feeling at the time that the choice wasn’t perhaps mine. It seemed my whole year group were planning on going, and I don’t think I truly understood the implications of my decision, neither were they explained very well by the advisors around me.
“Sure, a lot has changed since then. But put simply, I’m still not convinced that at 18 you should be able to make such a financial commitment.
“I wanted to look for a mutually beneficial way to help grow my business and offer something that could genuinely help students make the right decisions for them, not limited by FOMO too much.”
The programme sets out to install some of the fundamental traits of a commercially aware business person, combining real business interactions on various levels with a constant guiding academic backbone.
A year on, we decided to interview our apprentices, Lizzie and Kyron, to find out their personal experience of the apprenticeship.
What was your background/experience before joining Innovate Tax on the apprenticeship scheme?
Kyron: I had little to no personal experience of a business workplace. I applied for the apprenticeship during my final year of school and I’d worked at a bakery, but I wouldn’t say I had any idea of what to expect.
The bakery was set up and run by my family, so I knew I was keen to step into the world of business. Seeing what my dad had achieved gave me a desire to make something of myself.
Lizzie: I wouldn’t say I had any business experience either. I had multiple job roles; I worked in our local fish and chip shop, I completed my work experience at a children’s nursery and I frequently babysat for families in my community.
I was also still in school so opportunities were limited to mostly practical and customer facing roles.
I would stress that this in no way held me back. It was almost in our favour that we had no experience, that we could be ‘moulded’ into the correct kind of business professional straight from the off.
What appealed to you about becoming an apprentice? And what was it about Innovate Tax that made you think this was the company you wanted to join?
Kyron: I knew early on that I wanted to join an apprenticeship scheme; I had no desire to attend university. The idea was always to ‘earn whilst I learn’.
I saw an advert for the scheme via a well-known job site and on reading and researching the company, it seemed to have elements of a family run business. Obviously, this felt close to home so immediately sparked my interest. I then noticed the international elements and became further intrigued; the idea of travel appealed to me. As did the thought of working for a software firm, my desired industry.
I applied for the role and received an invitation to interview shortly afterwards. The interview went really well and I grew immediately fond of the members of staff that I met. This sealed the deal for me; I knew I had to be a part of Innovate Tax.
Lizzie: I was firmly set on the idea of university. I am the youngest member of my family and all my siblings, cousins, even parents had been to uni before me.
However, I went to the same school as Kyron and I heard that he had landed himself what sounded to me like a great apprenticeship. Soon after, Nathan attended our school to discuss this alternative career option.
To me, witnessing a young business leader giving an empowering speech was refreshing. He spoke about the idea of starting young to get further ahead in life and it intrigued me. I thought I had nothing to lose in applying and when I was offered the role as an apprentice, I was excited to see where this new path could take me.
How has the first year been? What has been your greatest achievement to date?
Kyron: Despite the impact of Covid-19, I have really enjoyed this year. I have acquired countless new skills and am continuing to develop them. I have loved being part of a smaller team, I feel like my accomplishments are recognised and that I can actually make a difference rather than simply being considered a ‘number’.
My greatest achievement to date was exhibiting at Oracle OpenWorld. I was fortunate enough to be made a member of the team manning our stand, thereby taking on the role of greeting interested attendees, and sharing my specialised industry knowledge. The event was phenomenal, and I felt real sense of being part of a team.
Lizzie: I would also say exhibiting at Oracle OpenWorld was a huge achievement; networking with peers taught me the importance of building relationships within this industry. After conversing with a multitude of specialists over the two days of the event, I no longer felt intimidated but moreover empowered.
Speaking to important employees of big-name brands is also an achievement for me. Being on calls with CEOs and being able to personally get involved in business has helped develop my confidence. I could not have imagined having these kinds of conversations this time last year.
What are your aims for the future?
Kyron: My aims are simple; to further develop my skills and knowledge and to progress to the next level. I am happy with my progression so far and of all that the last year has taught me, the overriding factor is that I want to continue this journey. This apprenticeship has given me the perfect start and I already feel ahead of the game!
Lizzie: I am eager to learn even more and am full of ambition to take my career to the next level. That could mean specialising in a particular area of tax or working to head up a specialist function within our Sales Team. However, nothing is decided yet and I may also take a break to head off to university. Whatever I do, I will be perfectly prepared thanks to my apprenticeship!
What would your advice be for anybody who is thinking of taking up an apprenticeship?
Kyron: Firstly, do it! This has been the best decision I’ve made and I’m excited for the future. Secondly, search for opportunities; don’t wait for them to fall into your lap. I believe that in seeking out the apprenticeship myself I was a step ahead of my peers.
I would also suggest including a cover letter in any applications to give the interviewer an idea of who you are. Businesses are built on relationships, including those between colleagues. Here at Innovate Tax we are a close-knit community of likeminded professionals. We celebrate each other’s success and help each other when times are tough. It’s these kinds of aspects that make the difference.
Lizzie: Absolutely, go for it! Don’t doubt yourself, the point of an apprenticeship is to learn on the job. Trust in those around you to guide you to success. This has been the best opportunity for me, and I’ve learnt so much.
I would also say seeking out a smaller company has a huge benefit. I have had far greater exposure to the daily running of the company from the roles of administrators to managers and even directors. I am familiar with every staff member and have never felt awkward in asking for help. An apprenticeship will teach you so many practical skills, it provides a balance of pushing you to improve whilst supporting you towards your goals.
Lizzie and Kyron have, without doubt, impacted the team in a hugely positive way. All of us enjoy working with our apprentices, and we feel everyone has come away from Year One with a better outlook, perspective and motivation to grow further.
Despite the impact of Covid-19, we feel that this year’s apprenticeship scheme has been highly successful. We hope to see more apprentices joining the scheme and ascending through the ranks to positions of inspiration in the near future.