Zak Rapley

Why did you choose a Degree Apprenticeship over a degree?

I was always keen to start my career and earn my own money; however I also wanted to further my education and, like many others, university had always been my plan. So, when I discovered that it was possible to do both it seemed like a no-brainer! I felt that an apprenticeship would provide a great opportunity to challenge myself by working full-time and studying for a degree simultaneously. Similarly, the experience of working for an international company would put me ahead of those doing conventional university degrees, and the idea of earning a salary and not having to worry about student loans was just a bonus!

What was your experience of the application process?

Leaving sixth form, I was not sure of what my next step would be. I had completed the seemingly obligatory UCAS application and chosen my 5 universities; however, I was lucky enough to have the support of some great teachers who suggested I should investigate the apprenticeship route.

After some research into what was out there, I discovered degree apprenticeships and instantly made the decision to apply. I spent time exploring the available opportunities and applied to a range of companies which offered a business management degree.

My first tip to anyone who is looking to apply for apprenticeships would be to make sure that your CV is the best representation of yourself, as this is the main document you will be using in the initial application process. Similarly, I suggest applying to multiple companies; the apprenticeship application process is difficult, and applying to a range will really help your chances of finding one that is suited to you.

Even if you are unsure that an apprenticeship is the right decision for you, the experience of the application process alone is extremely valuable and something that I learnt a huge amount from.

Tell us about a typical day at Mondelez? 

Mondelez provide three placements over the three-year apprenticeship. My initial role in the business was in Standard Chocolate Category Development. My role entailed competitor research, upcoming trend insight and primary and secondary data analysis of the chocolate market. This was an extremely interesting role which taught me a lot about the confectionary market and the FMCG business.

My next placement, and the one I am currently completing, is in Field Sales. This role entails personal ownership of over 120 independent stores, managing the confectionary lines sold within each store and providing the best category knowledge to allow each store to maximise their selling opportunity. So far, this role has taught me a lot about managing customer needs and accountability for their development.

My next role will be in Sales Revenue Planning, where I will be responsible for forecasting, internal management and supply and demand planning of products within a given area of confectionary.

Having placements in three very different areas of the business has been a brilliant opportunity to develop my understanding of how the business works – I would highly recommend applying to schemes which offer rotational placement opportunities.

Is there a project you’ve worked on that you’re particularly proud of?

During my time in category development, I undertook responsibility for primary research for trend and competitor analysis. This meant that I was collating insight from a range of primary sources and regularly presenting my findings to 90+ people internally. I am particularly proud of my work regarding health and wellbeing trends in confectionary, this insight was gathered from attending snacking orientated FMCG (fast moving consumer goods) tradeshows and visiting a range of stores, then collating and presenting the findings.

Have you found any aspect of the Degree Apprenticeship challenging?

I have found that when you are new to a role, working full time whilst completing a degree can be tough. The learning curve can feel steep, but within no time you understand what is required of you and develop the necessary time management skills to achieve this. This process is extremely rewarding, especially when you can take a step back and can recognise your personal development in overcoming these challenges.

What have you found most rewarding?

For me, the most rewarding part of my degree apprenticeship has been reflection. Throughout your time as an apprentice it is likely you will undergo quarterly reviews to discuss your performance both professionally and academically. I have found this process extremely worthwhile as it uncovers areas I am doing well in and, similarly, areas for me to improve.

The process becomes especially rewarding when you have targeted these areas and can feel the improvement in your performance.

What would you say to others who are considering a Degree Apprenticeship?

Choosing to apply for a degree apprenticeship was one of the best decisions I have ever made. I highly recommend doing some investigation and seeing the amazing opportunities available to work for a range of reputable companies - saying that I work for Cadbury is never going to get old!

Even if you are uncertain whether an apprenticeship is the right decision for you, I recommend choosing one that appeals to you and applying. The application experience alone was something I felt I learnt a lot from, and is just a taster of the learning to come!