Eleanor Downton: Becoming a Project Management Apprentice

Three years of university and racking up hundreds of hours of experience in secondary schools for what? I had a deep feeling that teaching was not the right career for me. So, I declined my position as a Teach First participant, finished university, and then approached the ultimate question: now what?

After completing a government careers test, a Project Manager was the occupation that topped the list. After researching and discovering what Project Managers do and what the job entails, I looked online and searched for open positions. I saw that the Met Office was recruiting for Project Manager Apprentices, the perfect opportunity! An apprenticeship has been a great way to learn and has not only given me experience in project management but has also taught me the theory around it through weekly college classes. Through learning this way, I have developed confidence so that when I get to manage a project, I will be able to deliver it.

A week in my working life is filled with variety as a Project Management Apprentice. I prefer when my workload is high, and I can be clear on my priorities. I can often be found completing tasks for project managers working on a range of projects across the Met Office, supporting them to complete tasks such as constructing project boards and compiling a stakeholder analysis. Many of my tasks are fundamental to enabling further work and I continually feel like a valued member of my team.

A part of the apprentice programme is also to attend Exeter College once a week to gain the theoretical knowledge of project managing and work towards attaining the Association for Project Management (APM) qualification. The college day starts at 9am, where across the day we focus on three different learning outcomes, for example the impact of leadership in teams, leadership styles, and the benefits and characteristics of an effective team. During free periods when working, I also complete college tasks such as writing out my learning diary and creating revision materials such as mind-maps, practice questions, and online resource materials.

I am so glad to be a Met Office apprentice, everyone I have met has been so kind and willing to help and impart their knowledge and experience to me, even with COVID-19 as an at times physical barrier. I also think that a large stereotype associated with apprentices is that they are young school leavers, however, my apprentice group covers a breadth of ages, the youngest being eighteen and the oldest being thirty-five. There is also a wide variety of backgrounds that we are all from such as local council, the NHS, and the wellness industry.