Leah Rawlins

Tell us a little bit about you?

I first studied Business at GCSE level and knew from then that it was a subject I enjoyed and wanted to develop. After leaving secondary school, I went to Havering Sixth Form College where I studied Business, Geography and English Language as they were all subjects that I had an interest in. 

I was adamant that when I left college I wanted to go to university to study business. However, after hearing about degree apprenticeships, I decided to expand my options. 

What are you studying?

BA (Hons) Business Management

Where are you working?

Transport for London. At current I’m working within the Change Design and Delivery Team - part of strategy.

Why did you choose a Degree Apprenticeship?

I found out about degree apprenticeships through a friend and decided to look into them as I wasn’t convinced that such schemes existed. 

After finding that there were opportunities which provided industry experience whilst also getting a degree, I knew it was something that I wanted to do. Furthermore, many DAs offered the chance to rotate around business areas which was perfect for me as I wasn’t sure what sector of business I was most interested in. I also knew that this was an opportunity that I was unlikely to get elsewhere (e.g. If I studied a conventional uni course or went straight into working).   

TfL’s scheme appealed to me as it allowed me to combine my interests of geography and business together.

What have you enjoyed most about your course?

Doing a degree apprenticeship can be intense but I love the thrill of it. TfL are
determined that the General Management apprentices gain a thorough
understanding of the company, so our roles are very varied and exciting. I’ve only been in the company for just over a year, but I’ve been able to see and
experience more areas of the business than many other team members. From being a Station Supervisor in Liverpool Street to shadowing the Emergency Response Unit for buses, through to various office roles in strategy teams.

The course has provided me with many great opportunities to develop my skills and learn about roles within the company that I never knew existed previously. Also, by changing placements regularly, I have been able to expand my professional networks; an important factor in today’s competitive employability environment.

What have you learnt so far during your work placement?

TfL Business Strategy: I learnt about the importance of creating a diverse workforce that is representative of the London population. Through my Diversity & Inclusion piece of work I learnt how to analyse data and input this into an Excel document which I then formatted ready for presenting in front of the Diversity & Inclusion director. It was interesting to see the challenges that TfL face when trying to increase their diversity levels and the measures that are being implemented in order to overcome these.

The work from this project was launched company-wide at the beginning of spring. It’s strange knowing that as an apprentice, I helped to design a scheme that is now being utilized throughout the organisation.

LU Operations: As potential future managers who may make decisions that impact station staff, TfL wanted us to gain an understanding of the life in London Underground operations. I trained as both a Customer Service Assistant and a Customer Service Supervisor for Liverpool Street Station. Being able to supervise a busy zone 1 station was a great experience. It enabled me to fully appreciate the work that goes into maintaining a station and the problems that can occur when there are service disruptions or passenger incidents. Within a station environment, it was imperative to learn how to be reactive to situations as things could go from 0-100 very quickly. During these times, I learnt how to keep a calm manner when working under pressure, and the importance of communicating clearly with staff in order to work together as a team to regain normality.

Such instances highlighted the importance of being able to effectively lead your team and keep them motivated, since as a supervisor, your gate line staff are your main asset.

Prior to starting the apprenticeship, I never would have chosen to go into an operational role as I never thought it would have been something I enjoyed. However, I’m so glad that I got to experience the life of station staff as it was something that I thoroughly enjoyed and within a short space of time, I learnt an incredible amount of skills on both a personal level and an employability level. 

How has your placement helped you with your studies?

When learning about theories in lectures/seminars there are many times that I can relate these back to TfL. This helps me to develop my understanding of the topic.

Do you have any advice for anyone applying for a degree apprenticeship?

Many people still view apprenticeships as a ‘drop out’ option and people may think that conventional university is the only way forward. I would say do not listen to this at all!

Take time to look at the opportunities available and apply if it seems like it is something you would like to do. DA schemes will set you out from the rest and I can’t recommend them enough.

But, be prepared! There is a lot of work involved so you need to be committed to the scheme if you want to be successful.