Malisa Kelly is a Level 2 business administration apprentice studying at Bath College and working at the European Student Placement Agency (ESPA UK).
Based in Bath, ESPA UK provides six-month work placements for EU undergraduates, linking them with companies throughout the UK. During their placements, students undertake a variety of project based work, with companies benefiting from their language skills, knowledge of different cultures and enthusiasm for new experiences.
What do you do in your job as an apprentice at ESPA?
I started as a general administration assistant registering students on placements, as well as responding to e-mails and phone calls. This was a big step for me, as it was the first time I was picking up the phone and speaking to people on a regular basis.
In April, I joined the accommodation team housing students coming to the UK on placements, and since October I’ve been able to manage this without anyone else in the team.
The number of students waiting for accommodation varies (and also the timescale before their arrival). Sometimes I’m planning for students arriving a month in advance, and sometimes it’s a couple of weeks. I have a contact list of landlords who I’ve built up a working relationship with and who I can call upon (sometimes at short notice).
The period coming up to Christmas has been especially busy, and because I’m busy the time I’ve spent as an apprentice has flown by – it’s been amazing
Why did you decide to apply for an apprenticeship?
As much as I love learning, I like to be doing something practical and this apprenticeship has proved that I can learn on the job. When I interviewed for my apprenticeship, I said I wanted an apprenticeship that would give me an insight into the business world. I’ve definitely fulfilled that wish, and having this apprenticeship on my CV is a great starting point.
I have a lot of university friends who seem stressed with academic work, and then they have to find jobs afterwards, whereas I already have a job. I think it has helped me mature and build my confidence. I would say that university isn’t your only option, you need to be open-minded and look at different career paths.
What have you learned as an apprentice?
I used to work in retail and although I had to communicate with customers, I found this hard. I’ve faced my confidence issues head on and now I speak to different people every day. In an office job like this you have to deal with so many different situations, and you have to think on your feet to resolve issues. I deal with a lot of second language speakers and I have to be careful to make sure they understand communications.
I enjoyed the chance to go into Bath College and study, as you’re given time to get on with your coursework and you’re given pointers for the mandatory units. You get to meet people and realise that you’re not alone in feeling that you’re nervous about what you’re doing.
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What’s the best thing about your apprenticeship?
When I’ve placed a student in accommodation, and they come back and say they’ve had a great experience. That gives me a big sense of satisfaction. I also enjoy the challenge of communicating with landlords and sorting out the finances. We have a lot of interns every six months, so you’re getting to know different people all the time. I have so many people I can visit, who live in different places and countries.
What do you hope to do in the future?
I finish my apprenticeship on December 27th and after this I’ll be employed full-time. I feel so lucky to have been placed somewhere like this. I feel like I fit into the family and everyone has been amazing. I want to stay working here for a while, but my big dream is to go into the fashion industry (as a PA for a fashion company). It’s an industry that’s fast-paced, so being in a business like this has been the ideal experience.
What advice do you have for someone looking for an apprenticeship?
Research your options and think about what you want to do, because there are lots of opportunities available. Talk to different companies or someone you know. Make sure that you do your application in time and don’t leave things to the last minute, because it will stress you out. Be open to where you could go and what you could do, and listen to what your parents are saying (because they’re trying to help and give advice).