60 Second Interview: Education Coordinator

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students at a university open day

What if, like us, your career was all about helping other people find the right career for them?

It’s essential for every kind of organisation that they hire people who understand and are genuinely interested in what they do.

For this reason, larger companies or organisations that represent different career sectors often run education and recruitment programmes to raise awareness and attract school leavers and graduates to work for them.

We caught up with Greg Thompson, an Education Liaison Co-ordinator to find out how helping people make positive decisions about their lives can be seriously rewarding and why he chose an apprenticeship as his route into work.

Name: Greg Thompson
Company: Financial & Legal Skills Partnership
Industry: Financial Services & Education
What is your job: Education Liaison Co-ordinator
How long have you been doing this job? Just over 2 years now

Education:
A Levels: English, Sociology & Media Studies – Bexhill College
Apprenticeship: NVQ & BTEC Business Administration Level 3

Interests: Travel, Running, Skiing

What was your very first job?
My first job was a newspaper round from the age of 13 to 16, getting up at 6am every Saturday and Sunday. The cold mornings made it less fun sometimes, but it’s a way to start getting work experience and I even got Christmas tips from some houses!

What did you want to do when you were at school?
A professional sportsman was probably my biggest ambition and I think it still is now. However, I may be just past the age to start training properly for any sport!

How did you get there?
While I was still at college, I completed a six-week internship at the global banking corporation Citigroup through a career programme - Career Academies UK. This developed my employability skills, raised my confidence and helped me build up a network of contacts.

I wasn’t sure I wanted to go to university, so I knew that apprenticeships were a good option. I searched on LinkedIn and found a gap year opportunity working to develop a careers service, assisting with events and starting up social media. I applied and was offered the job!

Over the past two years, I’ve worked with multi-national organisations including Deloitte, KPMG and PwC to promote their apprenticeships and school leaver programmes. I’ve delivered events across the UK allowing students to meet employers, giving them the best access to information and helping them to make informed choices about their careers. In this industry, building up a network of contacts is really important too. I have developed contacts with heads of student recruitment and in government, which have opened up doors to opportunities I would never have thought possible.

For example, while I was on the Career Academies UK programme, I was offered the chance to represent them, with other students, at the Deputy PM’s social mobility initiative at Whitehall. This wouldn’t if happened if I hadn’t built up a good relationship with the staff there.

Why did you choose an apprenticeship over university?
My internship at Citigroup was honestly life changing. At the age of 17, I was working in the capital and working on real projects, which was inspiring.

Although university can be a good route into a career, I felt that an apprenticeship would be more valuable to me, as it meant I could go straight into the workplace.

What is a typical day at work like?
I live on the Sussex coastline, around 2 hours our office in London, so commuting makes the working day slightly longer! On a day-to-day basis I’m responsible for our social media channels, ensuring opportunities are posted regularly, updating our followers and joining in with Twitter debates. Planning for student and career advisor events for the new academic year is currently also a big feature in my working day, I organise travel, courier stands to the events and make sure that all our media and marketing materials are there on the day.

What’s the best thing about your job?
Knowing that I have helped hundreds of students across the UK get the right information to plan for their careers. I was helped whilst at college, so for me a major part of my job is giving something back and ensuring the next generation is as career ready as possible. It’s rewarding to see students getting a lot of information from events. I now one student who attended an event we ran in Manchester last year is now on the KPMG school leaver programme after finding out about it at there, which is something I’m really proud of.

What is the most challenging thing about your job?
Managing a number of events over a short period of time is quite challenging, particularly when they are in different cities across the UK. Everything has to be planned very carefully to make sure that we all get there on time and that nothing goes wrong.

What advice do you have for people who want to do what you do?
Communication and listening skills are important in my role, as is the ability to problem solve if something goes wrong. It also helps to be flexible and willing to work out of office hours to get the job done. Employers like to see that you are keen to contribute further and make that extra effort when needed.

What advice do you have for people who are trying to decide between university or an apprenticeship?
Ensure you leave enough time to understand and assess both the positives and negatives of going university or doing an apprenticeship. It’s also important to think about where you’ll be at the end of three years at university compared to after a three-year apprenticeship. It’s not always easy to choose between the two, so make the right decision for YOU!

Where would you like to be in 5 years?
I would like to be in a senior position in student recruitment. Education is fundamental to developing and inspiring the future workforce and I want to be able to support that as much as possible.

Photo by US Army CC Attribution

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