When it comes to making big decisions about your next steps after school, we all know that parents can play a huge role in shaping our perceptions about the best way to start building a career. In celebration of Fathers' Day, we spent some time catching up with one of our Business Admin apprentices and WhiteHat Influencer, Georgia, and her Dad, to find out how she came to take on an apprenticeship and what role the support of her parents played in this exciting move...

Georgia and her Dad, Jon

On deciding to do an apprenticeship...

Georgia: To be honest, I had no idea what an apprenticeship was until a year ago. After waking up on A-Level results day (a very last minute decision) I decided I did not want to be in debt and I wanted to earn and start my career now. After watching, all three of my brothers embark on different University courses the one thing that stuck out to me was that even after University they were struggling to find a job. After countless hours of watching them sit there and apply to job after job,  I realised I did not want to be in that situation. The fact that I had always valued work experience in summers and any half term or school holiday definitely helped me be more open to the idea of full-time work.

Initially, I began to search for entry-level jobs in London. It began to get harder and harder as each job required some sort of high-level experience. Although I had lots of work experience it was not enough to succeed in job applications and I could tell that straight away. I am very lucky that I have an extremely supportive family. On results day when I changed my mind, my mum, dad and brothers all started searching for jobs suitable to me. My dad was the one who came across WhiteHat and immediately signed me up. I then got a call from WhiteHat thanking me for my application and asking me what I was interested in.

Dad: There was no plan. On the morning of Georgia’s A Level results, she just woke up and said that she had decided not to go to University! At first, I thought it was just nerves and uncertainty about being away from home, but Georgia refused to open her results and didn’t get out of bed so there was obviously more to it. Then, it was down to me to field calls from a couple of Unis that were keen for Georgia to join their courses. I made excuses and asked them to call later in the day but I knew that popular places would soon be all snapped up and her chances of going to to Uni were disappearing.

Eventually, Georgia came downstairs and we had a good father/daughter chat about her future. It was clear she had made her decision for the right reasons, so we set about trying to find another path.

Georgia had conscientiously spent the previous three summers doing work experience or internships in her preferred choices of fashion and marketing, so we knew she possessed a work ethic and could make the transition from schoolgirl to work person, despite her young age.

Other family members chipped in to help, as we all searched for alternative opportunities. Actually, on this results day, one of us stumbled across a marketing apprenticeship being offered by one of the large railway franchises (which Georgia did apply and later interview for) and this spurred us all on to look for other apprenticeship advertisements. (Before we noticed this apprenticeship, we were concentrated on searching purely for jobs, all of which required specific qualifications or experience).

By making a simple word search in Google for apprenticeships, I noticed that the name of ‘WhiteHat’ cropped up several times. On inspection, I was impressed by the breadth of the apprenticeships advertised and looked at the WhiteHat website in detail, where I read about the pre-selection process (making a video of oneself, etc) and immediately recognised that this was a forward-thinking company with a business model that was to be commended. I strongly suggested to Georgia that she should make an application to WhiteHat.

Later on, I found out that Euan Blair was behind WhiteHat and this cemented my good opinion about the company as, from my many years in business, I believe that who you know is just as important as what you know. Basically, I was even more confident that WhiteHat would have the right connections to find interesting apprenticeship openings for Georgia.

On the perception of friends and family...

Georgia: When I told my friends I was going to do an apprenticeship rather than go to University they were all initially shocked. At school, we were not made aware that apprenticeships existed for non-manual jobs. For all we knew, apprenticeships were only for the likes of plumbers and other traditional trades. My friends and I did not know you could do business and creative office-based apprenticeships like the one I am undertaking now.

Most of my friends, didn’t really understand at first but because I have updated them throughout they now have a better understanding and their opinions on it are really positive with some even wishing they went that route in the first place. All of my friends are at University and so the response that I usually get is  jealousy that I am getting paid whilst they are getting into debt.

Dad: I did not attend University and still managed to carve out a very successful career in the City, which culminated with setting up my own boutique stock brokerage and then selling it on to a large Nordic banking group. Thus, I was not fazed by Georgia’s decision and I probably see some similar entrepreneurial flair in her. I am confident that Georgia will be a success in whatever she does, and I believe that parents should encourage and back their children to achieve their goals, particularly if it goes against the norm. Georgia had been in private education since pre-school (aged 2 ½), apart from attending the highly-rated six-form college in Godalming, so everyone was expecting her to go to Uni. All her friends took up a place (either that year, or following a gap year), so it was a brave move for Georgia to stick to her guns and not further her education.

Some parents might be embarrassed that their child chose not to go to Uni and there were a few negative comments from adults who should know better. However, I soon put them straight and placed the focus squarely on the positives of commencing a career earlier than may have been anticipated. It is quite funny how other parents; opinions can change when you reel off the following; Georgia won’t amass any debt, the money we would spend on supporting  her at Uni can be used to help her buy work clothes and for transportation and is a fraction of what it would have cost us, we get to see her beautiful smiling face every day and not just during holidays, she will be getting paid whilst being trained and she won’t be getting into any bad student habits, either. Take that, you apprenticeship naysayers!

It is true that our three older boys all went to University, but with differing outcomes. The one who dropped out of his course, is currently the most successful, earning well over £100k and owns his own house. The other brothers both required a degree to get into their chosen professions and the youngest one also needed to get a Masters. Everyone is different, even within a close-knit family and there is no right or wrong answer, but to succeed in a profession it is important to be involved in something you enjoy and have an aptitude for. Likewise, I think it is folly for a child to take a University course as a box-ticking exercise or to keep their parents happy.

Friends and family have noticed the change in Georgia, since she started her apprenticeship. She is a lot more confident and mature in attitude and a lot of this improvement is down to WhiteHat placing her in with a progressive company, which has entrusted her with immediate responsibility. She really is benefitting from a rounded apprenticeship and, also through WhiteHat, has been lucky enough to be invited to attend thought-provoking lectures from the likes of Google.

Georgia at work

On doing the apprenticeship...

Georgia: What has surprised me most about doing an apprenticeship is the responsibility you are given. I think there is a stigma around apprenticeships that because you are joining a company in a junior position your role will be limited, but this is just not the case. Working in HR means I have contact with all the different departments, am entrusted with confidential information and have been asked to implement and improve processes.

The lows of my apprenticeship (although there’s definitely not many) is just being tired and trying to keep on top of my social life at the weekends. Starting work at a young age has increased my confidence and maturity and it’s great to say at the age of just 19 years old I have a really good understanding of business and what businesses can do to be successful.

Doing an apprenticeship is definitely more full on than University, in terms of you are working 5 days a week. However with the scheme as an apprentice you also get a lot of time to dedicate to 20% off the job training so you are not constantly in the office.

Dad: Everybody knows that teenagers like to be on social media until the wee hours and have trouble getting out of bed in the morning, so one of the most pleasing changes in Georgia (and in direct comparison with her brothers at a similar age) was that, right from the start, she jumped out of bed in time for her commute. Even when Georgia has to attend a work event which lasts until after midnight, she still manages to be up bright and breezy for work. Somehow, I don’t think this work ethos would be so strong if she was, instead, at University!

Georgia has also integrated with many colleagues from overseas offices and this has helped to expand her understanding of different cultures, which can only be a good thing as the business world encounters further globalisation.

Future aspirations:

Georgia: I would love to carry on working at  Improbable after my apprenticeship so I can continue to climb the ladder there. I feel I have cemented myself in the company and I am responsible for a lot of everyday tasks and projects. In the next few years, I would like to continue my career in HR as I think it is very well suited to the personality traits and skills I possess. However, my Business Administration apprenticeship is extremely broad and I am very open minded to what my career path may be in the future.

Dad: As I’ve already stated, Georgia will be a success in whatever she does and she will get to make career direction decisions in the future. Whatever decision she makes will be the right one and doors will always open, so she should go forward in confidence and never doubt herself. Originally, Georgia looked into fashion or marketing roles, but her chosen apprenticeship in HR much better suits her qualities. HR is central to any well run company and one can learn all about a business from working inside this department. Georgia has precise English necessary for detailed contract work, she is very affable and gets on with both the most junior and senior employees, she is excellent at time management and possesses a brain to solve problems and install strategies. HR is where she is working now, but I would not be surprised to see her as a CEO, in the future.

Final piece of advice:

Georgia: One thing I would say to a young person deciding what to do after school and what I do say when I visit young people at schools as a Brand Champion for WhiteHat would be know all your options. University isn’t the only one, there are other alternative routes you can take to achieve the career you want. I would also like to mention if you are worried about starting full-time work and not having a social life, WhiteHat has fostered an amazing community of apprentices and we have regular socials.

Dad: I know it’s not easy, but I would encourage any teenager to try and find suitable summer or Easter work experience programmes. This may be a way to discover whether you are more suited to an apprenticeship than going forward to University. Remember, you can always take a degree at the Open University or as a mature student if going away at eighteen doesn’t appeal.I also think that, in the coming years, there will be shift towards more apprenticeships and vocational training and these kind of courses will lose any stigma and become comparable with University degrees, in due course.