James Plumb works as a Policy Analyst at Ofcom. He began his Higher Apprenticeship in September 2019 and is due to complete his studies in September 2021.
Why did you choose a higher apprenticeship over a university degree?
I felt that an apprenticeship would help me learn practical, on-the-job skills that would help me develop as a young professional, whilst also studying an academic course and improving my theoretical knowledge base – all whilst earning my own salary.
How did you become an apprentice?
I was always keen to get a job in policy and when I found that Ofcom were hiring policy apprentices on their website, I drafted my CV and cover letter and sent in an application.
Could you describe a typical day in your current role?
No day is the same working in policy. During my time at Ofcom, I was assigned to a number of different policy projects, taking on responsibilities such as conducting desk research, drafting internal presentations, assisting in market research and contributing to policy documents. Working in policy also provides a great opportunity to develop your communication skills, regularly having to engage with stakeholders, both internally and externally across the sectors we regulate.
Can you tell us about your experience of combining paid work with academic studies? Have there been any challenges?
Developing a routine is important when juggling the responsibility of paid work with academic studies. I learnt early on in my apprenticeship that it’s important to hold yourself to high standards and be disciplined in your work, in order to ensure you meet deadlines across the board. With that being said, both my employer and education provider were highly flexible throughout my apprenticeship, providing me with the help and support I needed to flourish.
The programme is delivered primarily online as a flexible distance-learning experience – can you tell us what the online learning experience was like for you?
Online learning was actually an incredibly easy and accessible part of the apprenticeship experience. All of the lecturers who taught me throughout my apprenticeship ensured that there were sufficient resources available to help me in my studies and they were always on hand via email to answer any other questions I might have about my course.
Is there anything you learnt in particular during your higher apprenticeship that helps you now in your day-to-day working life?
I’ve mentioned this already but being disciplined in my time management and setting clear goals and deadlines has been an incredibly useful skill. Moreover, developing my writing and communication skills has been important in helping me develop as a young professional and will continue to help me in my working life.
Looking back, did your apprenticeship live up to your expectations? What were some of the highlights of the higher apprenticeship for you?
My apprenticeship definitely lived up to my expectations. It provided me with so many amazing opportunities to develop my skills as a professional in the workplace and has set me up with a solid groundwork for the rest of my career. One of the best moments of my apprenticeship was working on Ofcom’s Plan of Work publication, which set out our strategic priorities for the year ahead. This provided me a unique opportunity to work with colleagues across the organisation, developing my working networks and improving my industry knowledge, whilst also feeling like a valued member of one of Ofcom’s key policy projects.
In what ways has this higher apprenticeship made a difference to you and your career?
Doing an apprenticeship has helped me develop interpersonal skills that will be essential in my future career. Being able to work effectively in an environment with other colleagues, whilst also learning new things on an almost daily basis has helped prepare me for the many challenges that I will no doubt face throughout the rest of my career.
What are your future plans/aspirations? How do you see your career progressing?
My plan is very much to continue working at Ofcom over the next couple of years. It is a fantastic organisation and I hope to progress within the organisation, continuing to develop my understanding of policy development and analysis. In the future, I would very much like to transfer my skills and work closer to government. I hope I will be able to make meaningful contributions to politics in the UK with the skills and knowledge I have developed at Ofcom.
What advice would you give to people considering a Policy Officer Higher Apprenticeship?
My advice for people considering an apprenticeship would be to be honest with yourself about what you want. Going to university in the traditional sense is often the obvious choice for those leaving sixth form or college. When I made the decision not to do that, it was difficult. You have to be brave to do an apprenticeship, but it is definitely worth it in the long run. Taking part in an apprenticeship provides you with a great amount of independence. It also helps you develop as a professional and as an individual – I would thoroughly recommend it to anyone who feels that university might not be for them.
The Policy Officer Higher Apprenticeship at the University of Kent
Our Policy Officer Higher Apprenticeship is designed for employers looking to develop their in-house talent in policy analysis or policy advice. It’s a unique formal qualification that equips apprentices to progress in their role, whether they work within central and local government or within companies, campaign groups, charities and membership organisations that strive to influence government policy.
It combines on-the-job training with off-the-job learning as an alternative to a university foundation degree over a period of 24 months, with the option to start in September 2021 or January 2022. There are two modes of delivery on offer: one that is 100% online learning and one that also includes face-to-face teaching. On successful completion, apprentices receive a Certificate of Higher Education in Policy Studies and an Apprenticeship.
Want to know more?
For more information about the Policy Officer Higher Apprenticeship at Kent: