“I would never have thought about doing an apprenticeship. I thought they were just for people who had left school with little or no qualifications. That’s the general view of apprenticeships, but that’s really not the case.”
These are the words of Mayuri Patel, a law graduate who’s now nearing the end of her Policy Officer Level 4 apprenticeship programme with the civil service and is already on course for a successful career in policy.
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Mayuri initially followed a traditional path to enter the workplace by completing a law degree, but has used the skills and experiences she gained through her apprenticeship to pivot her career in a new direction. Just before the coronavirus pandemic in March 2020, she left her then-role and was about to take some time out to travel. Those plans were halted by the pandemic, so to give back to her local community, Mayuri volunteered as an NHS responder, while also working for a dental clinic to help clear the covid backlog. This change gave her time to reassess her future career plans and she realised she wanted to work in a role where she could really make a difference. Her new plans led her to apply for an Executive Assistant role at the Department for International Trade where she was offered an apprenticeship programme as part of her onboarding.
Mayuri says; “The policy advisor apprenticeship appealed to me because I could use the skills I needed during my law degree - the ability to think rationally and think outside the box - but also work on something that can really make a difference. As a policy officer you have to look at a particular policy issue, whether that’s at live-stage or evaluation, and help to research it. It’s very research based. It can involve a lot of stakeholder engagement and working on crucial documents such as submissions and briefings. It gives you an insight into how parliament, ministers, and senior civil servants work, which isn’t always visible when you’re not in a policy role.”
Providing guidance and support at every stage
The Policy Officer apprenticeship programme involves gathering case studies, working on projects and shadowing other government departments which has helped Mayuri make connections with people she wouldn’t usually get the opportunity to meet. She has also had the support of a talent coach at every step. Mayuri says; “I have always found my talent coach, Paul, to be brilliant. The support he’s given me has been incredible, not just in terms of pushing me during my apprenticeship, but also in terms of my professional development and personally as well. Just having someone who’s easy to talk to and isn’t going to judge you if you fall behind has been great.”
Paul nominated Mayuri for an ‘Engaged Apprentice of the Year’ award which she won. This was a total surprise to Mayuri; “In his nomination Paul said that I always submitted work on time and to a high standard, and that I resonated the civil service behaviour and values. It felt incredible and was totally unexpected.”
Mayuri didn’t wait to progress her career and was already working as a policy advisor at the UK Health Security Agency, whilst trying to complete her end point assessment. She has now secured a permanent position as a Policy Manager at the Department of Health and Social Care. She says “This is down to the policy apprenticeship programme and in particular, Paul’s encouragement as well as the support of my employer. I have also recently scored a distinction on the EPA assessment written Policy Exercise.
She says, “Completing the apprenticeship has given me the confidence to think about a career in policy for the long term and I know I want to stay within the civil service. There is a set career path for policy, so everything is much clearer to me now.”
Taking on an apprenticeship programme while working in another role has been challenging but manageable for Mayuri, and it’s definitely something that she would recommend to others, “I would thoroughly recommend an apprenticeship, because it’s something you can balance with your role. I’d encourage people to make the most of it; make connections, understand what you need to do and make time for it. The best thing about my apprenticeship is the softer skills I’ve picked up, like the importance of a growth mindset, resilience and pushing yourself when there have been setbacks.”
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