An MA is a job. But as well as getting paid, apprentices gain practical work experience as part of a highly structured training programme. At the same time, they work towards a qualification that will help their careers.
Caitlin Grant, age 18, was recently recruited to the post of Office Assistant at our Dingwall office. After three months in the job, we had a chat with her about how she is finding life at SEPA and what being a Modern Apprentice means to her.
What attracted you to working for SEPA?
I knew what SEPA was and the work they did before I applied for the job. I knew they made a difference to the environment, and that a job there would suit me as it is always a good feeling, and makes you motivated, when you are doing something that makes a difference. I knew I wouldn’t be twiddling my thumbs in this job. I knew I would get the best experience in a working environment by working within SEPA in order to complete my apprenticeship, with great training too. Once I found out I had the job, I received my contract within two days. I knew everything my job would be entail. I found that so impressive, it shows there’s no delay and that SEPA wanted to get me started quickly.
Had you heard of SEPA before applying for the job?
I grew up knowing people who were already members of staff within SEPA. I was always told that it was a great business to work for. For me, I felt that SEPA sounded like the type of business that very clever and knowledgeable people worked for and I never imagined actually getting a job here!
As a younger member of staff, what does it feel like working at SEPA?
I feel confident in my job although I’m the youngest here. Everybody is so friendly and welcoming. People are willing to stop and speak to me about how I’m getting on, how long I’m here for, and have a few jokes at the same time. In the admininistration function, my daily duties are to support staff in other departments. Whether it’s booking, emailing, printing, gathering information – I notice how grateful everybody is in that respect. It’s nice to feel valued by others and to know you’re doing things right – I couldn’t be happier. This makes the atmosphere great to work in. I feel like I’ve been here longer than I have, just because I’ve managed to fit in so well.
What is your job and what does it involve?
I am an Office Assistant in the Dingwall office. A typical day includes dealing with the incoming mail, followed by setting up teas and coffees in meeting rooms and then general administration duties; booking and cancelling meeting rooms, booking video-conferences, gathering evidence for my college units, formatting and printing letters (making sure spelling and spacing are accurate along with the SEPA header and footer in order to send it out and keep a scanned electronic copy in the correct folder).
How did you feel on your first day working for SEPA?
I was as nervous as I was for my interview for my first day. I had to be confident though and it went extremely well. I was given a tour of the building to allow me to identify all the departments, introduced to the staff who work in each one and shown all the meeting rooms. Everybody showed how friendly they were. I was shown how to do certain jobs and took notes of how to do them. I was busy the whole day too, which was great because I don’t like being bored!
I felt very happy with how my first day went because I was given the opportunity to work. I booked a meeting room and booked a pool vehicle. I was also delighted to have my own email set up on Microsoft Outlook, and to get my picture taken for my ID badge. Everything was so organised.
What are the best and worst parts of your job?
I’m very glad that I am given the opportunity to show what I can do in the work given to me. I’ve been assigned big jobs such as formatting and printing documents to be sent out for the Scottish Pollutant Release Inventory (SPRI) team. I’ve also printed out case files and organised rainfall cards for Hydrology. These are the types of jobs that I love as they keep me busy for days. I like to have plenty to do. I also find flexi-time so handy. This is another aspect of work where I feel valued as I am given great opportunities.
The worst part is probably feeling pressure to meet expectations since I am so young. I think I push myself too much to impress everyone as I want to make a good impression.
How has SEPA supported you in settling in to your job?
In the short time I’ve been here, I’ve already been given great help in developing my knowledge and skills. I feel training is vital and everybody in the administration function has been so helpful in providing me with what I need to know. Every day since I started if there’s ever been anything I need to know, others around me have been there to show me what to do. Even if it’s something I will never need to do as I’m only on a temporary contract – it is handy to know as I could complete a complicated task during a busy spell. I was shown where to find any information for procedures such as health and safety, annual leave etc. By my first week my knowledge had expanded so much and I felt so confident already in my job. I’d actually say SEPA should be extremely proud as they have a fantastic team in Dingwall administration and I feel very grateful to be part of it – thanks to them I have a book full of notes on how to work on different day-to-day tasks. I can’t express how helpful they have been.
I’ve spoken to the Learning and Development department of SEPA about the different training I can do to get me up to date with all the 2010 versions of Microsoft applications. This makes me feel valued as a member of staff as I’m being given the opportunity to receive training and develop my skills.
What do you see yourself doing in the future?
As part of my Modern Apprenticeship, I attend the University of the Highlands and Islands, in Inverness, where I will complete a Modern Apprenticeship – Business and Administration Level 3 course. To complete this, I pick eight topics and have to keep a portfolio of evidence for showing that I have completed these topics, i.e. booking hotels/travel, welcoming visitors. Once I have this qualification, I’d like to stay here at SEPA. I feel so cosy in this job, happy, getting along with others and enjoying what I’m doing. I’d just like to have good qualifications behind me so I am able to work in such a well-known business (preferably SEPA). If I was to stay here, I would love to be able to work in the Administration team but I’d also love to develop my skills and knowledge by working in another department such as the Data Unit or Registry. This organisation has so much to offer.