After completing a City & Guilds Certificate in Assessing Vocational Achievement (CAVA), I became an assesor and mentor for the PRCA at the end of 2018. I then spent a good deal of time in 2019 mentoring and assessing the work of two degree-level apprentices. Unusually, both were already a few months into their 18-month apprenticeships when I first met them.
The reason for this was that they had lost their original mentors and were trying to continue without support. To get them back on track and recover their former confidence took extra attention, time and effort.
One completed her End Point Assessment in July, earning her Diploma with a distinction – the highest level. In December, I parted company with the second. She must now complete the same End Point Assessment.
This end stage comprises a timed knowledge test and a final project. The apprentice has to present this in person to a panel of Assessors from the qualification board. I’d be surprised if she doesn’t also get a distinction, but I’ll have to wait a few more weeks to find out.
Improving diversity in PR is one of the top priorities for the two professional associations, the CIPR and the PRCA. PR apprenticeships play an important role here. But they are not for the fainthearted. The qualification is equal to a foundation degree. The advantages are that the individual earns while they learn, and don’t have the burden of a huge student debt.
More importantly, they learn the theory of public relations while also learning how to practice it. I think this gives apprentices a distinct advantage over university graduates.
Apprentices get a fixed-term employment contract for the duration of their apprenticeship. This is usually about 18 months. While there is no guarantee of a job at the end, around 75 percent stay on permanently after qualifying, according to PRCA data.
The first apprentice I mentored worked in public affairs for Channel 4 TV. She’s now found a new, permanent role working for another government agency. The second works for a small consumer healthcare agency. This one already has a permanent contract. I’m certain she will advance rapidly in her agency.
It’s been rewarding watching these two, entry-level PR professionals grow in confidence and ability. Equally, it’s been gratifying to give something back to the PR sector; one that has taught me a lot and opened the door to many rich experiences.
Qualifying as an Assessor and checking their theoretical projects has certainly kept me on my toes. But it’s time now to move on to other work.
If you’re interested in doing a PR apprenticeship or hiring one in your business, you can find out more from the PRCA https://www.prca.org.uk/careers/pr-apprenticeship