A year ago, I started this apprenticeship journey with West Midlands Fire Service and The Juice Academy by being carried across West Midlands Fire Service Headquarters' reception by a guy I had met probably about half an hour previously, while making fire engine noises. It might possibly have been the most embarrassing six seconds of my life.
And now, here we (being the other Cohort 3 apprentices) all are, about to carry ourselves into the weird and wonderful digital world.
We live in a society where young people are often harshly judged or assumed to be up to no good of some kind. If we make a mistake, we're often not given a second chance - instead we're thrown on to the scrap heap and that's it. There are a few who would go as far as to say that, as a generation, we are lost.
In an often corporate world, there are a few organisations who want to look past the stereotypes and help the people behind them. Anyone who knows me (or reads this blog) knows how passionate I am about The Prince's Trust, who are a great example. The Juice Academy is another.
I'm a true believer in appreciating those who have helped you and this has become part of my philosophy in life - sometimes, you have to give credit where it's due. The Juice Academy is doing more than it's part to get young people, not just into jobs but into careers where they can really make something of themselves and become whoever they want to be.
Taking a young person with no experience into your business is a risk. It's a huge risk, we can't deny that. But let's just hold that one up for a second - do we have no experience?
We are the young people that have grown up around social media.
We are the young people that get criticised for being on social media for too many hours in the day.
We are the young people who know what people want to see on social media because we ARE the people on social media. This is something The Juice Academy has recognised and addressed.
The last year has been particularly important to me. I came into this job having just recovered from a serious illness as well as living in a homeless shelter. I'd been through a pretty tough time for probably 18 months and I just needed a way out, as we all do sometimes.
Although a lot of where I am now is down to my own hard work and refusal to give up (because apparently, I don't mind stroking my own ego), The Juice Academy, Total People and West Midlands Fire Service deserve a lot of credit. It shows the power that organisations can have if the intent is there.
As well as the thanks we all owe to the Academy, I want to give my own thanks to Sandy, Lucy, Amy and all of the tutors for being an influential part in me getting my life back on track. And, of course, for helping us all to gain the skills required to be the next bunch of CEOs, MDs or whatever it is we want to be. The knowledge we gain from the sessions, coupled with guest speakers with a wealth of experience, have made not going back to university the best decision I've ever made.
We can't forget, of course, Total People, who have worked amazingly hard to get us all across the finish line. I'm half surprised Dave (one of the assessors) didn't take an injunction out against me, the amount I was hassling him over the past few months. The great thing about Total People is that they're not just a training provider, they're also a fantastic support network and I owe huge gratitude to them.
We all owe some sort of gratitude to our employers (even if mine is a Liverpool fan). Ty and Neil have been second to none this year in the way they'e given me advice as well as encouraged me to follow what I'm passionate about. Without patronising me, or treating me like a kid (most of the time ;) ), they've been a massive help and I definitely wouldn't have been able to be in the position I'm in today without their support. I'll be extremely sad to leave at the end of the week and I can't thank them enough for everything they've done for me.
Neil Spencer, Craig Butler & Ty Bhogal
I don't know where we'll be in 5 years. Or in ten years. But what I do know is that, as Juice Academy graduates, this is our moment to really take the mantle and give it our all in the digital world .We now have the skills and the power, thanks to TJA, to be not just employees in the industry, but to be innovators, influencers, pioneers. I've always wanted to be something more than I'm expected to be. Now that I've graduated from the Academy, I feel even more confident that I can do just that.
The graduation was a fantastic way to end this amazing apprenticeship and I'm proud of all my fellow apprentices for succeeding. I will miss each and every one of them and look forward to seeing their names in the social media news!
To read more from Craig's blog go to - http://staying-social.blogspot.co.uk/