International Women’s Day 2018 is on Wednesday 8 March, the theme this year is #PressforProgress. The campaign focuses on gender parity, a message we are passionate about at Interserve. We are keen to highlight successful female apprentices throughout National Apprenticeship Week, and especially on International Women’s Day. And so we caught up with Charlotte Jones, a former BT apprentice, who is now a manager of her own team of apprentices.

New Opportunities

Charlotte Jones completed her A-Levels in Houghton-le-Spring near County Durham, but at the age of eighteen she was still unsure – like many young people – about what she wanted to do with her future. From a young age, she had dreamt of becoming a teacher but the idea of university and the cost that would go with this was enough to put her off her childhood dream. After hearing a talk at her school about an apprenticeship opportunity at BT, she decided that university was not the right path for her as she was reluctant to commit three years of her life to a course she was unsure about.

Being a people person, she was attracted to the idea of working with customers and saw that she could get this out of the customer service element of the apprenticeship. In addition to this, she realised that she could pursue her dream of becoming a teacher through the managerial routes that an apprenticeship offered. BT offered Charlotte the chance to join their team in Newcastle as a Tier 3 Systems and Network Analyst in the Technical Management Center, and she did so in August 2013. Charlotte joined a team of seven, of which she was one of two girls. As it was a smaller team, they were close-knit and built strong friendships that they continued following their apprenticeships.

The role involved dealing with and fixing complex TV and Broadband issues, during which she would work in liaison with Openreach. “My role was sort of like the one of a case manager, I was responsible for following through with the customer’s full experience, ensuring we delivered BT’s high quality care at all times”, commented Charlotte.

During her time as an apprentice, Charlotte was given six-weeks of online customer service training, and the team were also taken to Swansea to visit the BT towers just to gain a deeper understanding of the company she was representing and the values that underpins their service. Charlotte commented, “this trip really helped me learn more about BT and understand who exactly I was working for”.

Speaking on any challenges she faced whilst within her role, Charlotte said, “I found the technical side of the role challenging, whereas some of the boys didn’t as they had already experienced working with IT. But through the help and support of my manager and the training provided I was able to overcome these obstacles”.

Impressing her Managers

Charlotte graduated in 2015, after two years as an apprentice she had built up a strong understanding of the role of a customer service representative and the way BT operated. Her manager left around the same time and after seeing an advertisement to cover this role as a Customer Care Manager, she decided to apply to act as a cover for two weeks until BT could fill the position. These two weeks quickly went onto a six month secondment and after impressing her managers, she was soon given a Tier 1 team of her own to manage.

Her team now consists of sixteen apprentices whom she has been managing for over a year now. Charlotte commented, “having my own team to manage is great, I love being able to mould and develop them. I enjoy being a hands-on manager, and helping them as and when they need it”. In her Personal Development Plan, she had mentioned that she wanted to move into more managerial positions and after proving herself, BT supported her through all the relevant managerial training such as the HR training required to manage apprentices.

The highlight of Charlotte’s career so far . . .

In addition to her role as a manager, Charlotte also goes around schools and colleges across Newcastle to speak about her journey as a BT apprentice; the support she was given and the benefits/challenges she has faced through her time as an apprentice. She talks about how one of her biggest challenges was having to manage her friends and colleagues whilst on secondment as a cover for her manager, she also mentions that learning how to interact with key stakeholders such as those at Openreach, was initially a challenge too, but with time and training she overcame this.

The highlight of her career so far is being given her own team to manage and develop. Having spoken to her manager, Charlottes next steps are to become a Call Centre Manager, which she is hoping to progress into in the near future.

‘Learning is mainly 10% class room, 20% learning from your peers and 70% doing the job’  Charlotte Jones, BT.

Speaking on how she feels an apprenticeship has changed her life for the better Charlotte said, “I feel I have benefited from the apprenticeship journey as it has given me so much work experience and I now know so much about the business.”

Most of Charlotte’s friends have just finished university and a lot of them have changed their minds about what career path to go down. They are just now starting their careers, so she feels that she has gained a few years by not going to university.

Gaining an All-Round Experience

By doing an apprenticeship Charlotte got the all-round experience; “I had classroom based training, I was learning something new every day from my fellow apprentices but also my other colleagues and because I was doing the role every day, I got to put this into practice.  I definitely wouldn’t be a manager at twenty-two had I not chosen the apprenticeship route, and my skills set wouldn’t be so broad as well. I really enjoy what I do and I love working for BT, they have really invested in and developed me, and through a lot of hard work I have been given so many opportunities.”

“Although my ambition in school was to become a teacher, my apprenticeship has helped me make this a reality in a way I could never imagine. I coach my team to success so that they are able to reach their goals. I am now also able to talk to school children about apprenticeships, and that has been a fantastic experience in itself. My apprenticeship was the key to achieving my dream.”

Find out more about a life-changing career with BT – https://learning-employment.com/bt-customer-service-apprenticeship/ or visit https://learning-employment.com/apprentices/  for similar opportunities.