Joanna Eccleston, 20, is studying a Business Administration apprenticeship at Unilever. Originally from Newcastle, she relocated to London at the start of her programme.

I figured out pretty early that academic life wasn’t the best fit for me. When I was 16, finishing my GCSEs, I didn’t know of any option other than A-Levels. I thought apprenticeships were just for manual jobs, so I decided to go through to my school’s sixth form to study English, History and Fine Art. But I never really saw the link between the schoolwork I was doing and how it would help me get a career. That meant I wasn’t motivated and, unsurprisingly, my A-Levels didn’t go too well.

But the exams and the studying are really difficult and it just isn’t for everyone. Just because you don’t succeed at your A-Levels doesn’t mean you’re stupid or lazy - different things suit different people.

At school, sometimes it felt like going to uni was the be-all and end-all: but I knew from pretty early on that that wasn’t the path for me. I’d been working in different jobs since I was 16, I loved it and the thought of leaving that to focus on full-time academic studies didn’t really appeal to me, and it didn’t line up with my aspirations. And I didn’t like the risk of spending 3 or 4 years on a course that wasn’t guaranteed to lead somewhere.

Relocating for my apprenticeship

I started looking at entry-level jobs when I left school. I didn’t want to miss out on any of those life experiences like moving out, so I moved from my home in Newcastle to London to meet new people and get some new experiences. I was working full-time in a restaurant when I first came across Multiverse. That was the first time I realised you could get into companies like Unilever, Morgan Stanley and Facebook through apprenticeships.

I applied for the Business Administration programme and got a place at Unilever. I’ve always been quite an independent person, and that’s why an apprenticeship suits me: I can work and contribute to the team, while learning in my own time.

I didn’t know anyone else doing an apprenticeship but my family were very pleased: they realised quite early on that academic life wasn’t really for me.

Now, on my programme I get to learn about all the different functions of a business while working at a really exciting big company. I’m almost a year into the apprenticeship - I’ve enjoyed it so much that now I’m thinking about maybe doing a degree-level apprenticeship or a higher level apprenticeship to broaden out my skills.

Social and professional opportunities from an apprenticeship

Starting my apprenticeship during the pandemic was a bit overwhelming to begin with. Being onboarded to a huge, global company when you’re a young person is tricky. But it’s like anything, it took a while to get into the groove but soon you find a routine. Now, I’ve started going back to the office one day a week.

Through Multiverse, I also take part in the Elevate programme. I was the network lead for the Women’s Network. Me and a team of 3 other apprentices organised events, panel sessions with people we thought were inspiring women. Through my Multiverse apprenticeship there’s a real social aspect you can immerse yourself, I’ve met a lot of people even remotely.

My apprenticeship fuels my career - which is really important to me. I’m enjoying what I’m learning, the sessions are really interactive. I’ve also much preferred being taught remotely - I’m someone that finds focusing for long periods of time quite difficult. Knowing that I’ve got the recording, I’ve got the slides - it makes it easier to digest and takes the pressure off.

My advice for anyone receiving their A-Level results today: do your research. So many people say ‘I wish I’d done what you’re doing instead of going to uni’ - so do your research and find the path that’s right for you.

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