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Charlie is completing a Level 3 Digital Marketer Apprenticeship with Stockport Council, as part of their Supported Apprenticeships Scheme. This Scheme supports young people facing barriers to employment into apprenticeships, either with the council itself, or a local employer. You can read his story below.

I applied to Stockport Supported Apprenticeships at a time when I was looking to get a job anywhere, having not done great at college and recently left care.

At the time I applied, I had no formal experience in IT and only a small amount of informal experience. Despite this, I was still given a chance and was successful at interview. In part, this was because I was able to competently explain disk partitioning - something I had practical experience with at home. This showed that I had a capacity for learning through doing and was capable of explaining what I had learned – skills which an apprenticeship has at its core. I preferred the “earn and learn” approach of apprenticeships, as opposed to the world of formal education or employment (neither of which I had thrived in so far) as it felt like mistakes and ignorance were expected and could be worked on as part of the course.         

The change for my own mental health was noticeable, even before I actually started. Being able to say that I had an apprenticeship in Digital Marketing as opposed to just avoiding the question was a big turning point for me.

When I did start, I was based with a Community Interest Company called OurBoards, who specialised in e-commerce and the production of communication resources for people with disabilities.

I was positioned with a good team that really believed in what they were doing. I was also lucky enough be placed with another apprentice, who I found easy to work with. In this role, I helped to establish and grow the company’s digital presence – from social media posts to website updates, backed up by my own research into analytics and ways to maximise engagement.

I found being able to see the result of what I was learning, outside of the academic sphere, really helpful. It not only helped me apply what I had learned, but I also found I retained it to a greater extent. For example, one of my biggest achievements with OurBoards was doubling the number of followers (that had been attained over the course of several years) in just one year. Many of these were a direct result of a mini quiz I created for the website and publicised on our social media channels. Engagement with this was responsible for 18.12% of all traffic to the site from March 2021 to November 2021.

Sadly, due to pressures on the business during lockdown, OurBoards closed down in November. However, the team at Stockport Council quickly found me a new placement. I am now supporting the council’s Strategic Lead for Autism and will get the chance to work across the region with the Greater Manchester Autism Consortium (GMAC) - doing interesting and exciting things to make Stockport and Greater Manchester a better place for those with Autism.

I think that in the age of accessible information, an ability to learn and problem solve can be more useful than having memorised large amounts of knowledge related to a subject. Especially as problems don’t adhere to syllabuses. As such, I think apprenticeships should be more commonplace and more easily available if you struggle in the mainstream.

My role working for OurBoards and the Council has been the best thing to happen in my working/educational life and I would advise anyone who feels they learn better by doing things to consider doing an apprenticeship. I would also advise anyone who is unhappy or unsuccessful in any post-high school job/college/course to consider an apprenticeship.