In this interview, Serena tells us about her role as an apprentice project manager and explains how skills she gained in geography have helped prepare her for her career.
This interview is form the Gatsby Subject Guide for Geography. You can view and order the complete set of Gatsby resources in our online store.
Employer: Severn Trent Water
Job title: Apprentice Assistant Project Manager
Apprenticeship title: Level 4 Diploma in Project Management
What does your role involve?
I manage the delivery of water main renewal projects, assisting in budgeting costs, liaising with stakeholders such as contractors, discussing technical queries and helping overcome project obstacles. I also go out to site and make sure the project is on track.
I reply to any emails in the morning: they can include queries about current work, or contractors sending me project documents to review and log. One day a week I get to solely focus on college revision and write up the portfolio needed to gain my qualification. I also visit project sites, checking they’re on track and expanding my technical knowledge.
What A-levels did you study?
Economics, business and geography.
How do you use your knowledge of geography in your role?
Having an understanding of the water cycle is important when you’re working with it every day. Geography also gave me an appreciation for environmental conservation, which is in line with the company’s culture. We try to be as sustainable as we can. We have wind turbines, and even recycle human waste into fertiliser.
Why did you choose to do an apprenticeship?
I chose an apprenticeship as I didn’t know exactly what I wanted to do, but I knew I had an interest in leadership. The idea of getting hands-on experience in management, which I think is just as important as the theory, was really appealing. I’m not missing out as I am still getting qualifications in project management. Also, with university fees so high, getting paid to learn instead is great.
Adjusting to working life can be challenging. What obstacles did you face and how did you overcome them?
The first day of my apprenticeship was on my 18th birthday so it felt like a very sudden kick into adulthood. But Severn Trent had a two-week induction, where I stayed with all the other apprentices and became friends with them, so when I went into the office on the first day, I felt more comfortable as I knew apprentices who were starting new with me. I quickly adjusted as you have to talk to professionals, such as engineers and data analysts, straight away. It is very different from A-levels; I actually find it easier.
What are the two most important transferable skills you use in your role?
Communication, as I talk to various different people in different roles, such as colleagues, contractors, customers and site agents. Good teamwork skills create a better working environment, and mean we all have the same objectives, which improves the team’s performance.
What advice do you have for someone who wants to do your role?
Go for it and get stuck in from the start; there are always opportunities to learn things and do extra training. Stay on top of your college work, and stay engaged with the courses as there is a lot to learn for the exam. Ask for help if you need it.
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