Apprentice blog – Harriett Eccles, apprentice HR advisor

As we celebrate National Apprentice Week 2021 (#NAW21) Harriett Eccles, a Level 5 HR apprentice at Sheffield Forgemasters, talks about her experience of learning through an apprenticeship:

“I left school after my A Levels and like many school leavers, I didn't have a firm ideal for a career choice, I just needed more time to decide what I wanted to do.

What I did know, was that I needed to go out and earn some money, so I took a job in a bar to pay the bills and spent a year doing that.

During that time, I started to look at careers in a more analytical way and Human Resources (HR) appealed to me, so I researched ways to gain entry to a HR career path.

There weren't actually any apprenticeships in HR available at that time and I looked at university degrees as a possibility, but had serious concerns about starting at university a bit later than most people and having to accrue debt for several years in order to pay for the course.

When Sheffield Forgemasters posted a vacancy for the role of HR and Training Apprentice, it immediately made sense to apply for the position, with the hope of learning and earning a wage at the same time.

It was a real wake-up call to be offered the position and I'll never forget the shock of putting in real working day shifts after the more casual hours of bar work, but it has been the most positive experience for me.

Once I got into my college work, I found that there were elements of the training side of the course which I wasn't as interested in and I spoke to my line manager about this, unsure if it would make any difference, but the company completely supported me and so my Level 3 studies were the point at which I switched to focus on HR.

I'm now studying for my Level 5 CIPD Diploma in Human Resource Management and will complete my studies later this year.

All of my coursework has been through the Sheffield College, backed by on-site learning from a pool of talented and experienced people who have all helped me to really build my confidence and feel like a fully integrated member of the team.

Once I finish Level 5, I plan to settle down into the role and spend some time fully utilising everything that I have learned, but I'll take a break from learning until I feel ready to go on to Level 7 studies.

For me, an apprenticeship has been a win-win situation. It helped me to refine my career goals, to learn a rewarding career for life and to earn a wage, which has enabled me to buy my first house at the age of 23.

I also feel really lucky that I haven't simply learned at distance, to then try and implement classroom learning in the absence of any real job experience. Learning in the work environment has been a real plus.

“I think it's important that the value of apprenticeships is reinforced. The perception of apprenticeships when I was at school was that it was a second choice, but the reality is that as a route into further education and career attainment, for many – it's a better option than university.”

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