Rolls-Royce Project Management Degree ApprenticePosted: 7th of November 2019 by Lewis Scott
Tell us about your path to your apprenticeship – what were you doing before? Why did you choose an apprenticeship?
Anesu Chivenga, Rolls-Royce degree apprentice.
I went to university for two years, studying chemical engineering in Sheffield – so a good course, at a good uni! I had wanted to do an apprenticeship before, though my Dad in particular was keen that I took the more traditional path of university. He passed away in my second year of A-levels, and although I initially went to university to honour his wish, I found that this wasn’t the right path for me, and I knew he’d want more than anything for me to be happy.
I found university quite boring. Although we had labs occasionally, it was only really one lecture in the morning, and then maybe another one at 5pm – that wasn’t quite enough structure for me.
Once I left, I got a business admin role in a project management environment for a year. I really enjoyed my time there, and so chose to pursue this path – hand in hand with getting a degree. I knew that I wanted to continue learning and growing but I also wanted to start my career. An apprenticeship has provided me the best of both worlds.
How did your parents react when you told them you wanted to leave university to pursue a different route?
My mum didn’t really understand what an apprenticeship was. I’m from a very traditional African family, and the idea of “dropping out” didn’t go down well at first. She loves what I’m doing now, and often says that if she could take back the negative things she said about it, she would. I think her hesitation just came from uncertainty, and of course, wanting the best for me – she wanted to be sure that I’d end up with a job, and that a degree apprenticeship is truly equivalent to a straight university degree – which it is!
What does your typical work day look like at Rolls-Royce?
I know everyone says this, but no day is ever the same, which means you have to be quite flexible and open to change. At Rolls-Royce apprentices move around every six months to different parts of the business. I’m currently in a Project Lead role, working across three different projects, which can be stressful at times! It’s a customer and supplier facing role, starting work at 7am to have a few hours in the morning in the same time zone as our Japanese supplier. The projects will be a cost saving of around £30m to the business, so it is a lot of responsibility and trust that the business has given me.
This system of rotation has opened my eyes to different areas, and I’ve learned so much! You don’t notice how much knowledge you’re gaining every day, until you hear yourself say something technical in a meeting and you suddenly think “OMG, is that me?”
What do you enjoy most about your role?
I really enjoy getting to meet loads of people and being totally ‘me’ at work – talking to anyone and everyone! It’s also great to have the opportunity to interact with colleagues across different cultures. It took me about a month to get used to the Japanese business culture, which has been great to learn, and I really want to go to Japan now.
I also love that I can take what we do at work to uni, so uni ends up being much more interactive as we can draw on our experiences. Rather than a tutor just reading information off a board for us, we can actually have a conversation.
How do you think your apprenticeship will open up or improve your career options?
I’m doing a four-year course, and I’m only a year in, so I have six more placements to go. They’ll all be different, and I can’t wait to see where I’ll go and what I’ll learn. From nuclear submarines, to design, to central Project Management, there are so many possibilities.
Rolls-Royce has given me the opportunity to learn in a professional and safe environment which has given me loads of confidence and brought me out of my shell. It has also allowed me to be myself and my very best at work.
What, in your view, is the most common misconception about an apprenticeship – and how would you challenge that?
That we make tea for everyone. Last week, my manager got me a coffee, and we were joking that most people think it’s the other way around!
I am never bored. It is a fast-paced role, and I’m involved in business-critical projects, with important deadlines and lots of personal responsibility. If anything goes wrong, there’s no ‘special treatment’ because I’m an apprentice.
On top of that, university is full time. I have assignments like any other student, which means I have to be very structured and disciplined about scheduling work on these around my four-day work week. If I have two hours to get it done after work, I have two hours – it stops me procrastinating! My work team is also really supportive and will let me spend a bit of time on uni work if I need to during the work day.
What advice would you have for a school leaver considering an apprenticeship?
It sounds a bit annoying - but do lots of research! Just because you have the right grades, and a company will take you, it doesn’t mean the role will be right for you. Take the time to really research and try and understand what you want to do, so you pick an apprenticeship that’s well suited to your skills and what you enjoy. I spent a lot of time researching Rolls-Royce and understanding the business and the culture, which gave me confidence that I was making the right decision in applying for the apprenticeship. A year on, I can confidently say I made the best decision of my life by joining the apprenticeship. I cannot see myself being anywhere else or doing anything differently than what I am doing right now.
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