Case study - Mikaela Burns

I studied for my first apprenticeship, level 2 Business Administration with a company called Adecco in Southend. I found I really enjoyed the combination of work based training and college.

I wanted to build on my previous learning and found the Level 3 Business Administration Apprenticeship with Thurrock Council advertised on their website. It appealed to me as it was for a year and would give me the opportunity to work in various departments at the council. There would also be the possibility of gaining employment with the council on completion of the course, if a position was available.

Starting out

I first worked within the Workforce Planning team and Organisation Development team, both based with Human Resources (HR), which gave me a fuller understanding and knowledge of the workings of the council. At first I was very shy and cautious, especially when answering the telephone, but with the support and encouragement of my manager I grew in confidence. As well as my apprenticeship I also took advantage of other training courses offered at the council – including Microsoft Office and minute-taking courses – all of which helped my confidence grow.

The council embarked on a project to introduce remote working and were focused on developing senior managers. My team was responsible for arranging and running the training courses. Having shown my manager that I had useful input and ideas she gave me the responsibility of organising and running the programme – this meant liaising with staff, directors, councillors and the chief executive.

Making an impression

It gave me a great opportunity to demonstrate all of the skills and knowledge I gained through my qualification and the programme was a great success.

Having impressed my manager with my work ethic and can-do attitude, I was encouraged to look at the available job opportunities during an office reorganisation and was successful in my application to be Personal Assistant to the Head of HR and Directorate Support Officer on a 6-month fixed term contract. Clearly I'd had a positive impact on my colleagues too as I was voted 'Unsung Hero' in our annual staff awards, and was presented with a trophy that now has pride of place on my mantelpiece.

No looking back

My new role was made permanent shortly afterwards, which I was ecstatic about. I am now an Executive Assistant supporting the corporate directors, directors and assistant directors, and I haven't looked back since.

Another thing that really helped me was the opportunity to network with other apprentices in the council, many of whom have since gone on to full time employment, which I believe is a true testament to the pathways provided. The support we gave each other was invaluable and we're still a little community now.

I am a real advocate for apprenticeships and would recommend them to anybody. I was able to determine my skillset and it helped me focus on the area of work I enjoyed most. It opened the door for me to show my capabilities and gave me the confidence to believe in myself – all whilst gaining a qualification at the same time. I still haven't stopped – I'm considering a level 5 apprenticeship in Leadership and Management - and, as they say, third time's a charm!