To celebrate National Apprenticeship Week, from 6 to 12 February, and help showcase apprenticeship opportunities for staff at Essex, we asked a Level 4 Procurement Apprentice, Lisa Cherry, to tell us about her journey.

Tell us about your background and the course you studied.

I have worked at the University since 2009, having started as a part-time cleaner working from 5.30am to 8.30am. I fell pregnant shortly after and went on maternity leave at the end of September 2010, returning in 2011 after only 7 months of maternity leave. I enrolled my daughter into the on-site nursery and was lucky enough to come back as an admin assistant for Estates and Campus Services, dealing with the day to day admin for cleaners, porters and the post room.

In 2015, I was asked if I would like to join the Procurement team as their admin. At this time I had never heard of Procurement, let alone knew what they did. I settled into my role quite well and was offered the opportunity to start training towards a qualification. By 2017 I had completed CIPS (Chartered Institute of Procurement and Supply) Level 3 by attending classes in Ipswich. After a short break, I then started studying CIPS Level 4, which is the equivalent to Diploma level with Colchester Institute, through the University’s Employee Apprenticeship Scheme. This involved attending college once a week for in person classes. I completed Level 4 in 2020 in the midst of the COVID pandemic.

Why did you decide to become an apprentice?

The apprenticeship route fitted in well with my work/life balance without adding too much stress. As a single mother to a SEN school aged child, free time is not something I often have. Not only did I already have to plan work hours around my daughter, but I also then had to consider adding in study time too. Doing this via the apprenticeship route meant I was able to have 'off the job' time for training and could study during my contracted work hours. This took some pressure off the thought of taking time away from my daughter and her needs. Also, due to the course being across two years, I knew I had an extended period of time for exams and study, which also took off some of the pressure to complete the course quickly.

How do you think it has enabled you to progress in your chosen career?

As of yet, my job role has not changed. However, I know that when I can commit to full time working hours, I will be in a position to apply for a Procurement Manager role. 

What has been most rewarding thing about your apprenticeship?

Achieving the qualification whilst still being able to work around my child and not take too much time away from her. After finalising Level 3 and having a break, I did not think study would be an option to me again, so actually completely the next level has been so rewarding and given me such a boost.

Do you have any tips or advice for peoples thinking about an apprenticeship?

Although two years may seem like a long time studying, it does go quickly. For anyone with a family who is worried about time, the apprenticeship allows you time during work hours for study which is amazing and extremely helpful.