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Sara McGinlay, HR Apprentice, Royal Mail

Where my Apprenticeship Journey Start

I really enjoyed my time at college and the subjects and work that I had undertaken but there was one thing that I really struggled with: careers fairs. Every stand was a University and I was

desperately trying to look for an alternative as I just didn’t feel that attending University full time fitted into what I wanted to do. A few retailers would attend from time-to-time to advertise their latest 16 hour-a-week vacancies but I wanted to invest my time and effort fully into something where I was still learning and working towards a qualification. My college was very much focused on exam results and how many students could be accepted into Oxford or Cambridge so it was difficult to find any alternatives. Achieving my desired grades in English, Media Studies, Photography and the Extended Project Qualification, I applied to University and received my offers when a new careers advisor joined the college and advised me of apprenticeships. The more I looked, the more I saw the great opportunities that were offered. It was sometimes difficult to distinguish between great apprenticeships and companies using the word to gain ‘cheap labour’, but I was able to find and apply for a wide range through the Government website and Not Going to Uni.

When I completed the application process for the Royal Mail apprenticeship scheme, which I found on, I was excited and nervous. The idea of being able to earn a competitive wage, work for a well-known and transforming company as well as be able to continue my learning through a higher qualification really excited me.

A little bit about my role…

I sit within the Talent Development team in Royal Mail’s Learning & Development. With a focus on learning, my team of five look after the company’s Apprenticeship program mes as well as our Graduate and Internal Coaching schemes.

Day to day, I will often be organising and co-ordinating our Graduate and Coaching learning events as well as being involved in projects around National Apprenticeship Week and our communications for our programmes. A lot of the work I get involved with differs but I have supported the team in creating an app for our Apprentices and Graduates, and well as liaising with other companies who will support this. I have been able to bring my creative skills into play in the role by creating documents and content for our apps as well which is a great way that my team supports me.

Why Apprenticeships Work for Me

One of the reasons apprenticeships were suited to me was because I wanted to continue to learn and work towards a qualification without sacrificing all of my evenings, weekends and hobbies to the route that is University. A full time job would allow me to invest my time and effort into something very much worthwhile, and I would be able to fund holidays, hobbies and the things I enjoyed without getting into debt first. With so many higher and degree apprenticeship opportunities out there, it really was a no-brainer for me to take this route!

There was always the thought in the back of my head that it might take me a little longer to get to where I wanted than those who have gone to university but, now knowing all of the opportunities available and seeing some of my friend’s experiences at university with debt and trying to balance a part-time job with their hobbies and University work, I definitely feel that I have made the right decision and that, even if it would take a little longer, I will have no debt and will have been building my career, networks and contacts already.

Being an apprentice has brought me so many opportunities, from meeting new people and broadening my personal and professional networks, to travelling to London for the first time and meeting the Skills Minister at Westminster. I am now also part of the Young Apprentice Ambassador Network and this has allowed me to connect with so many other like-minded individuals who are all on very different journeys, but have so many things in common. I found it difficult as I was not part of a cohort of apprentices at first, but the network has brought me together with other apprentices across the North West, as well as across the country and I think it is great that we are all able to share our journeys to young people so that you can all receive as much information about alternative routes to a successful career, something that definitely lacked for me in my school and college experience.

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