Blog: Craig Smith – how an apprenticeship launched my career…


14 Mar 2016

This week marks National Apprenticeship Week. This year’s theme is “an apprenticeship can take you anywhere” and that’s where my story starts…

I joined the National Youth Agency working on the O2 Think Big programme in the summer of 2013. I was fresh faced, with very little experience and wasn’t sure what to expect. Originally I was an O2 Think Big project leader (click here to see how you could be too and get funding for your great idea), I organised a small-scale Christmas event in my home town of Birmingham. And then one day, whilst still studying at college (not really enjoying it) and pondering what I wanted to do with my life I saw that the programme was recruiting a youth work apprentice and I thought to myself ‘why the hell not!?’…

And so, I went for it. I remember getting up at 3.30am (yes, 3,30 in the morning!!!) to jump on a coach to London (my first visit to the big smoke). It was an adventure, slightly scary but ultimately very liberating. I remember my interview vividly, my current manager Katy interviewed me and I remember having to do a task and me doing a little dance…. nothing much changes! I boarded my train home (upgrade!) and before I’d even set off I got a phone call to say I’d been offered the job… I was overjoyed!  (I obvs called my mum, nan, dad etc.)

And so my new journey in London began…

The early days were very difficult, learning to adapt to a professional working environment and being accountable to someone. I made lots of mistakes but most importantly I learnt from them and knew I had the support to develop and grow.

During my time with the National Youth Agency and O2 Think Big I’ve completed two apprenticeships, one in youth work and one in digital marketing. Yes, two different areas but an area I didn’t know I was keen to learn about until I was given the opportunity to experience it. I’ve met Prince Charles, presented at events in parliament and so much more. I was given the space to grow whilst knowing I had the necessary support to thrive.

And where am I now? Well, today I say goodbye to the National Youth Agency. It’s with a heavy heart because these are the guys who gave me that first opportunity, the first step on the rung. On Wednesday I’m off to O2 as one of two new employee engagement coordinators. When writing this I sat and thought for a while. In the past three years I’ve had so many opportunities that have led me to where I am today and I’ve gained two qualifications. It’s for that reason that I will advocate for apprenticeships until the cows come home. Ultimately it’s the chance to earn and learn and I couldn’t think of anything better!

After working on the programme for nearly three years, I will always be an advocate of young people. Fresh thinking, innovative and entrepreneurial, and as cheesy as it may sound young people truly are the future!

Thank you National Youth Agency, O2 and to every single partner and young person I have worked with over the past few years.