Shannel Francis: my journey as an apprentice (Interview)

Apprentice Eye recently caught up with Shannel Francis, apprentice at housing association The Hyde Group. Here she talks about her reasons for choosing an apprenticeship and her hopes for the future.

How did you hear about apprenticeships and what made you decide to do one?

I heard about apprenticeships while I was at college completing my BTEC in Business and also on Facebook and Twitter, where I signed up to receive updates and newsletters on many sites. I actually discovered The Hyde Group on Twitter and saw an opening for an apprenticeship once a year so decided to apply.

I decided to do an apprenticeship to broaden my skills set and experience. For me, starting my apprenticeship in a housing association has opened many doors within the housing industry because there are opportunities to develop skills and experience in other departments. I also think doing an apprenticeship in an organisation you are truly inspired by or interested in makes it all the more worthwhile and gives you a starting point to get into the industry.

I am also hoping to become a Housing Manager in the near future and undertake the required qualifications and training available to make my dream a reality.


Many young people assume that as an apprentice they will be given mundane, insignificant tasks. What would you say to these people?

Line managers will want to ease apprentices in slowly to see what they can do, and as time goes on they will introduce projects and assign deadlines. I was given projects in my second month and an assigned role with tasks to manage on a daily basis. I have always wanted to be taken seriously in the workplace and feel the people I work with at Hyde support me through my journey and help me reach my targets and fulfil my objectives.


Do you find balancing work with study challenging?

I am currently studying a Customer Services NVQ Level 2 Apprenticeship and find managing the theory as well as the practical side quite challenging. However, it has allowed me to develop time management skills effectively. It does help when your studies directly relate to what you are actually putting into practice in the workplace because it’s a lot easier and more enjoyable to complete.


Have you been assigned a mentor and if so, how are they helping you through the apprenticeship?

I was assigned a mentor quite early on, due to similar personalities, goals and aspirations. My mentor has a lot of experience in housing and resolutions and has helped me understand what is expected of me as an apprentice. She also talked me through what a typical day is like at The Hyde Group, taking into account that it does change every day due to high number of cases within the organisation that the resolutions team is currently dealing with.

My mentor sets me tasks with deadlines and provides me with weekly feedback on how to improve. She always keeps me on my toes. I am always looking for ways to better my working practices as it’s only going to make me more confident and more responsive to change. My mentor is also supporting me through my studies, which helps a lot.


What are you hoping to get out of your apprenticeship?

I am hoping to be offered a full time position in the Resident Services department and get a real understanding of frontline customer service and hopefully get into housing management from there onwards.


What advice would you give to young people unsure whether or not to go to university or do an apprenticeship?

My advice would be to do an apprenticeship and avoid university fees. Employers value people who volunteer to gain experience and who have first-hand experience and knowledge whether or not they have the qualifications required for that specific role. There is nothing wrong with applying for an entry level job and starting at the bottom and working your way up to the position you’re more suited to. We all need to learn.

I have tried the university route but this didn’t work out; there isn’t much support at university. You are seen as a mature adult and you must do what the course requires of you and that’s it. But doing an apprenticeship, there’s a lot of support from the get-go. For instance, I have a line manager, their manager, a team leader, a mentor, a buddy, other apprentices to lean on for support and an apprenticeship programme manager. All throughout the apprenticeship we are constantly being assessed and this helps us grow and become more confident in ourselves.

Apprenticeships are more rewarding, you get paid to do it and you get a real insight into the industry. You can find out if it’s really the industry you want to work in when the apprenticeship has come to an end. This is my first office job and I feel I have learned a lot from this environment and also feel my professionalism has improved. I have grown so much as a person and I feel I am in the right industry that allows me to be myself and learn as I go, at my own pace.