Gloucestershire apprentice encourages others to follow in his footsteps
By Sarah Wood
A Gloucestershire apprentice is striding ahead in his career, since leaving Newent Community School in 2020.
Mark Edwards is an investment accounting assistant at St James's Place (SJP) in Cirencester.
The GFirst LEP Careers Hub has followed Mark's progress from student to apprentice to fully-fledged investment accounting assistant.
The Hub team first encountered Mark in 2019, during an enterprise competition organised by the Careers Hub and sponsored by SJP. He was part of a two-student team from Newent School who took part in the event, competing against larger teams from other schools.
Mark's team eventually came second and impressed the panel of judges, which included senior managers from across the business. Mark showed a great deal of interest in the company and asked for work experience.
Mark Edwards said: "It was a competition organised by GFirst in partnership with SJP that opened my mind to the possibility of an apprenticeship. This allowed me to meet my first connections in the industry. This experience shaped the path I am now on.
"The support I had from GFirst LEP and the careers team at Newent Sixth Form was vital in landing this opportunity.
"My business teacher and head of sixth form supported my application, but it was the assessment centre I remember feeling most nervous for.
"Days before (the assessment session), I asked for advice and a mock interview with the GFirst team and they kindly offered their support."
An SJP staff member was one of the interviewers and the team arranged for Mark to have an impromptu discussion to discuss working for SJP, which provided valuable insights.
On his experiences as an apprentice, Mark said: "It was here I learned of the value of an apprenticeship: a good salary, debt free, the opportunity for industry recognised qualifications and hands-on experience with real industry experts.
"Now having experienced the reality, I can confirm I made the right choice for me."
Addressing prospective apprenticeship applicants at SJP and elsewhere, he offers this insight for young people starting out: "Support and guidance is always available if you have the intuition and courage to ask for it. I would encourage students today to weigh up their options with an open mind.
"Apprenticeship programmes have moved on from the past and the experience I have had with SJP has helped shape a promising career and allowed me to take control of my future career decisions.
"There is no right or wrong decision when it comes to making what can seem a very difficult choice. I encourage students to take this into their own hands and consider with an open mind what the career landscape really looks like today.
"The real world is the greatest and sometimes hardest place to learn, but these programmes have been designed to enable a smooth transition into the industry."
Supporting the development of quality careers education programmes in Gloucestershire secondary schools and colleges is the core mission of the GFirst Careers Hub hosted by GFirst LEP and funded by the Careers and Enterprise Company.
Duncan Willoughby, enterprise coordinator at GFirst LEP, said: "We are very proud of Mark's achievements, and he has illustrated just how important targeted careers support of young people is, in helping them to progress into the world of work, particularly through apprenticeships.
"Our local remit, working in conjunction with the Careers and Enterprise Company and a range of partner organisations working in employability and skills, is to ensure that schools and colleges in the county are aware of and have access to high quality careers education experiences for their students to learn more about the world of work."
To find out more about the Careers Hub and to offer support to careers education initiatives in the county, visit https://www.gloscareershub.com/.
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