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From the pub to the Powerhouse: How my Apprenticeship and The Juice Academy Changed my Year.

12:01am 1st January 2017. I’m stood behind the bar of the local pub, sipping a gin and tonic, as I’m allowed a two minute break. Everybody else is kissing, toasting and falling over around me. The realisation hitting me, that it's coming up to my second year since graduating from university. And my second year working in a pub.

I decided that 2017 had to be the year I got my drive and grit back. To quote Pink Floyd, I had become ‘Comfortably Numb’ with my bar job and routine. It was so far from where I was whilst at university. I was somebody who would always look for placements and internships. My weekends and holidays were spent with production companies. I always understood that I wouldn’t get the first job I applied for, but after being unsuccessful in securing countless jobs and internships, and getting no response from unpaid work experience opportunities, I began to believe I wasn't good enough.

This year Emma Degg took over as CEO of the North West Business Leadership Team (NWBLT). Over the years, Emma had offered me various work experience placements to help me advance and develop my network. It’s through the NWBLT that I found out about The Juice Academy.

The Juice Academy offers industry-led Digital Marketing apprenticeships and its recruitment ‘Boot Camp’ day is unlike anything I’ve experienced before. Walking in, I was greeted by some of the happiest employees I’ve ever met, and day-glow tangerine walls. We each received a number (think X-Factor) and then joined the other candidates.

Sandy Lindsay MBE, Founder and Chair of The Juice Academy, introduced herself and explained why The Juice Academy was set up - to help fill the digital skills gap, as well as giving young people incredible opportunities in the North West. We were then introduced to the employers and tasks for the day.

Firstly, we had to stand up one-by-one with a self-portrait we had drawn and talk for a minute (that Sandy Lindsay loves an iPhone stopwatch!) about what we felt represents us and our accomplishments. There were a few people in the room who spoke about their thousands of followers, or that they had made a video that went viral. On my piece of paper, I had drawn a gin and tonic… But it was in that room that I realized, there is nothing wrong in celebrating your successes.

It was a light bulb moment. Marketing is ultimately a celebration. Whether it be celebrating a business, a product, an idea, or a person. If you do it with conviction, others will get behind you. So I proved that I believed in myself, and others did too!

I was offered an apprenticeship with UTC@MediaCityUK. UTC@MediaCityUK is a specialist college for students who want to work in the digital and creative industry. They celebrate being Unique, Technical and Creative.

What was fantastic for me at UTC@MediaCityUK was my mentor, Dan Sodergren. Dan is one of the most talented and encouraging individuals I’ve met. Every day we would have a new challenge, which we would solve whilst typically in hysterics.

I helped run the UTC@MediaCityUK's Women in Tech event. A roundtable discussion with some of the most incredible women I’ve come across.

“From a young age, boys are encouraged to break the rules, and girls have to tick boxes,” Maya Dibley, The Landing."

This is a quote that stuck with me. She was spot on! Oddly enough I may well have held myself back, by getting on and doing what I was told, instead of asking why? Answering, not challenging!

The Juice Academy offered me the chance to go to the Northern Powerhouse Partnership’s ‘Apprentice Summit’ held at Siemens, Congleton. We were asked to give our opinions on what we thought of the North, the Northern Powerhouse Partnership (NPP) and their key objectives. With this new verve and Girl Power 2.0, I decided to offer my opinion… and didn’t hold back.

I know if I Google "Northern Powerhouse", I’m presented with a minister wearing a High-Vis ‘doing their bit’ for the North with an annual visit. But, what was great was that the NPP were actually listening us to. We were being recorded, and notes were being taken. Our views and opinions would help shape the report and would actually be sent to chairman of the NPP, George Osborne.

After the summit, I was invited to the launch of the NPP’s ‘Powerhouse 2050 report: The North’s Route Map for Productivity’ in Burnley. George Osborne introduced the report. Listening to George Osborne and the rest of the panel, I picked up that overall they believed that jobs were available in the North, however “people”, particularly younger generations, don’t possess the required skills to get them. I looked around the room of around 100 top business and civic leaders and I realised I was the youngest person in the room. They opened up the Q&A and I felt I had to take the moment and ask a question.

“The 2050 report will closely affect me; as someone who after graduating from university had to take an apprenticeship to upskill myself, in order to be able to apply for one of these jobs. What is the Powerhouse doing to help people like me? How are voices like mine actually being heard?”

I was so proud that I was able to stand up and raise my issue. I still believe that the voices of other youths and ethnic minorities are not being heard.

In one of our Juice Academy sessions, Sandy gave us a piece of advice: “Decisions are made by those who show up!”. I’ve tried to do exactly that, by attending as many events as I possibly can. Yet, as apprentices we are often overlooked. Events Organisers tend to target older, business owners. However, as apprentices we could offer a different outlook and perspective. Surely our opinions could really help, not hinder?

The NPP gave me the opportunity to continue my apprenticeship with them. They too believe our voices need to be heard and already, my time with them has been a massive learning experience. My weekly reading now includes reports on industrial strategy, productivity and a surprising number of complaints about public transport. I want to introduce myself to ministers, MPs, civic leaders and create a conversation. Hopefully this will be an opportunity for me to introduce more apprentices to "decision makers" too.

Looking at how I started 2017 to how I finished it, is so different to how I imagined. The Juice Academy has transformed me. They have built my confidence - like giving me the opportunity to speak in front of audiences, like at Smarter Business Tech Live and interviewing Neil McArthur MBE. And receiving a nomination for a Northern Power Women award in the “One to Watch” category has been a brilliant end to a brilliant year. So, to everyone who has helped me, thank you.

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