Leigh Alder shares her apprenticeship journey with UMi

To celebrate National Apprenticeship Week 2024 (February 5 to 11), we are sharing the stories of some of the team who started their journeys as apprentices. After completing her first apprenticeship at another company –and seeing the benefits of combining external learning with on-the-job training - Leigh Alder moved to UMi to complete her Level 3 NVQ in Business Administration in April 2015. She has since risen the company's ranks, completing further qualifications, and is now HR Business Partner. Leigh is also in charge of the apprenticeship programme at UMi.


Why did you decide to do an apprenticeship at UMi? 

I completed my Level 2 Business Administration apprenticeship and CIPD Level 3 in HR Principals at a previous company, where I had a fixed-term apprenticeship contract for two years. I wanted to do my Level 3 in Business Administration and was invited to an interview at UMi to become an HR Apprentice. 

The role appealed to me as it was within the HR team, where I could gain more skills in this area. I also wanted to learn more about what UMi did to help businesses and see how I could be a part of that.  

I got a good feeling about UMi at my first interview when I walked into the vibrant office and received such a warm welcome. I secured the job as HR Assistant apprentice and have never looked back. 

What did the apprenticeship at UMi involve? 

It combined mentoring from an external trainer and on-the-job training and mentoring from my manager and the wider UMi team. I was fully inducted into the business to help get a sense of what UMi did and why, which really helped me understand the role.  

I also developed skills in understanding employment law and HR processes, policies, administration duties, and wider communication skills. My colleagues were incredibly helpful and supportive throughout my apprenticeship journey. 

What skills do you think the apprenticeship taught you?  

It taught me the foundations of everything I know today. I learnt lots of administration skills, how to adjust the tone of writing depending on the recipient, a range of systems and the best way to communicate and build relationships.  

How has your career progressed and how has the apprenticeship helped you? 

Completing my apprenticeships definitely helped my career. I went from college into a two-year apprenticeship programme and then a job with UMi to complete my Level 3 apprenticeship. This allowed me to enroll onto a Level 5 Diploma in Leadership and Management, which opened the door to the role I do today.  

My apprenticeship gave me the fundamental skills and knowledge without which I wouldn't be in the position I am today. You must work hard to reap the benefits, but an apprenticeship is so rewarding. 

What would you say to anyone considering an apprenticeship? 

Go for it! Apprenticeships provide you with hands-on life skills that you can't get sitting in a classroom. You can also develop great working relationships with colleagues and your trainers who will help and support you along the way. If I could do it all over again, I would still choose the apprenticeship route. 

You are now in charge of the apprenticeship programme at UMi. Why is the company passionate about employing apprentices?  

Apprenticeships are very rewarding for businesses as well as for the apprentices. You can train and develop apprentices to fill skill gaps, which help to invest in your workforce's future. You can also offer cost-effective training via an apprenticeship to existing employees, which can improve their skillset and knowledge, allows them to thrive and helps to them in the long term. With apprentices comes excellent talent, a fresh approach, dedication and a positive attitude. 

What would your advice be to businesses considering taking on an apprentice? 

They’re a fantastic way to inject new energy and creative thinking into a business. If a company is willing to invest time and money by supporting apprenticeships, they are also showing a commitment to Corporate Social Responsibility, which is great for attracting talent and gaining more customers.