Olivia Smith

Tell us a little bit about you?

I’m Olivia, I’m 21 years old and I am currently in my third and final year of the
Rotational Degree Apprenticeship scheme at Pearson College London.

What are you studying?

I am studying a Chartered Manager Degree Apprenticeship with Pearson College London. I am currently studying a BA (Hons) Business Management Degree while working towards my management chartership.

Where are you working?

I am currently working at IBM, in the Watson Customer Engagement team. My previous placements on the scheme have been in the Supply Chain function of Tesco, as a Fresh Stock Manager, then at Unilever as an Assistant Brand Manager, in the Water Innovation team.

Why did you choose a Degree Apprenticeship?

Growing up, the expectation was that I would always go to a traditional university- it’s what my parents wanted, it’s what my school promoted and it’s what all my friends were doing but having seen my 3 older siblings all go to university, and knowing the crippling debt I’d end up with- I knew the traditional route wasn’t for me. However this didn’t stop everyone around me, myself included, thinking a degree was really important to have.

When I found out about a Degree Apprenticeship it was the perfect fit. I could get the work experience I wanted, as well as a Degree my parents wanted- all whilst getting paid a salary, having my university fees paid for, and gaining my Chartered Manager qualification.

What have you enjoyed most about your course?

The thing I’ve enjoyed most about my course is definitely the people. Through my three work placements I’ve been able to build an extremely strong and broad network, across multiple functions, at multiple companies. Through the university side, I have built friendships that will last a life time with other students on the scheme. This has meant the level of support I’ve received has been wonderful- doing a full time degree whilst working can be extremely challenging at times but knowing I have an amazing support network has made it a lot easier.

What have you learnt so far during your work placement?

Through my work placements I have learnt an incredible amount both professionally and personally. I have an understanding of Supply Chain and Operations of large scale business through my time at Tesco. My placement at
Unilever taught me all about branding and how to grow a brand from nothing,
whilst navigating a huge organisation with lots of processes. IBM has exposed
me to the world of AI and the benefits this can bring to business.

As well as this, I’ve have learnt so much about myself, such as how I like to work, my leadership and management styles, my strengths and weaknesses and areas to work on moving forward.

How has your placement helped you with your studies?

Working alongside studying has been a great help, being able to see the theories we are learning about put into context makes it so much easier to learn and understand, as we see first-hand the impact it can have on business.

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

I would 100% recommend apply to a Degree Apprenticeship. Nowadays, having a degree isn’t a differentiator so it’s important to have other things on your CV, and what’s better than having three years of work experience and being the same age as every other graduate in the country. Even if you are unsure if a Degree Apprenticeship is for you, it’s worth applying as it will provide invaluable experience of the corporate application and interview process.