Apprentices working within the Government Communication Service (GCS) are laying the foundations for an exciting career in communications and PR, gaining valuable CV-building experience within the Civil Service while working towards a nationally recognised apprenticeship standard.

Honey and Maizie are among 40 GCS apprentices undertaking the Level 4 Public Relations and Communications Assistant apprenticeship this year.

Based at the Ministry of Defence they have had the opportunity to gain a unique insight into the workings of government, while developing an understanding of the importance of communication and its value to both the public and private sectors.

A chance to earn and learn

While studying A-Levels at Reigate College Honey decided to a pursue an apprenticeship in communications, utilising her skills and passion for the English language. She didn’t feel that university was the right choice for her, preferring instead to learn on the job and gain experience from day one.

Maizie, from Faversham in Kent, was also attracted to the idea of an apprenticeship. Having studied English, History and Business at A-Level, she was drawn to a career in marketing and communications where she could see and measure the impact of her work.

The apprenticeship programme with GCS provided both Honey and Maizie with an opportunity to gain relevant job-related skills and valuable industry experience, opening the door to a career with real prospects.

After submitting an online application in February 2019, they were invited to attend an assessment centre at the Treasury Office in London shortly afterwards. The assessment day included tests in English and maths, a group activity and an individual interview. Honey and Maizie were both successful and received offers to begin their apprenticeships after the summer.

Building knowledge and understanding of PR and communications

All GCS apprentices attended a series of induction days in September and October last year, meeting apprentices from the previous year’s cohort who were close to completing their programme and could provide the new learners with hints and tips to help them get the most from their experience.

The GCS programme includes an opportunity to rotate between teams to gain a deeper insight into the types of roles available within communications.

Based primarily within the people portfolio team and focussing on internal communications, Honey also spent some time with the creative hub team learning about graphic design. Maizie has rotated a number of times, supporting the brand, research, digital, creative and news teams as well as finding out about internal communications.

The apprentices have particularly enjoyed the workshops with their apprenticeship development coach Tina which were held every few weeks. These covered the course content in depth and were followed up by e-learning and written assignments. Topics were wide-ranging, from budgeting for events and the use of IT in communications to video filming and editing.

Honey and Maizie are now working towards their end-point assessment, which gives them an opportunity to put their learning into practice by planning and implementing a full campaign and preparing a report on this to present to the examiner.

Springboard to success

Commenting on the opportunities the apprenticeship has opened up for her, Honey said,

“I’ve not just gained incredibly valuable work experience within central Government – I’ve also developed so many transferrable skills that I can use in any communications role in future. The apprenticeship is a great springboard to a career in this field.”

Maizie would also recommend the apprenticeship to other school or college leavers who want to get a head start. She explained,

“It’s as much about the transition to working life as it is about the course content. Adapting to the office environment and daily commute before the Covid-19 lockdown helped me to grow both personally and professionally. More recently, while working from home, I’ve adjusted to working independently and become much more self-reliant. I’ve gained skills that will be really useful in the future.”

Developing future talent through apprenticeships

The Level 4 apprenticeship programme is regarded as a highly effective way to develop future talent across the Government communications function.

Nikki Bardsley, Director of Apprenticeship Operations at Seetec Outsource, said,

“The level 4 Public Relations and Communications standard offers a really strong development opportunity for new entrants into the profession. It builds knowledge and skills that apply equally to roles within the private and public sectors, focussing on effective communications that build, protect and maintain the reputation of brands and organisations.”

Abbie, Strategic Communications Officer and Maizie’s line manager, has been impressed with her apprentice’s contribution while on programme. She said,

“Maizie has shown herself to be a capable and committed member of the team who has a great deal to offer. Her hard work and positive contributions to a range of different workstreams have really helped to build capacity within the department.”

Donna, Assistant Head of the People Portfolio Communications Team and Honey’s line manager, feels that her team has benefited greatly from having an apprentice. She said,

“Having an apprentice has been fantastic for our communications team. Since day one, Honey has provided fresh insights to the team and always has a great energy and enthusiasm to get stuck into a whole range of projects we’re working on. She’s quickly learned the ropes in a very complex organisation and consistently made important contributions to the work we do. Honey is very much an integral and highly valued part of our team and has made impressive progress since joining us. I have absolutely no doubt her apprenticeship is just the start of a hugely successful career in communications.”

For more information about the level 4 Public Relations and Communications Assistant apprenticeship standard please visit our dedicated programme page.