AN award-winning apprentice is inspiring students from across the north west to follow in her footsteps and start an apprenticeship degree.

Amy Pridding is in the final year of a four-year apprenticeship with AJ Bell and Manchester Metropolitan University.

Last year, the 22-year-old was nominated for two awards and won North West Apprentice of the Year in Tech, Digital and Creative, beating off some tough competition from talented individuals who have made significant achievements in their field.

Last year, Amy won North West Apprentice of the Year in Tech, Digital and Creative

Last year, Amy won North West Apprentice of the Year in Tech, Digital and Creative

On Tuesday, February 6, as part of National Apprenticeship Week, which runs until Sunday, February 11, Amy will be speaking at Discover Digital Apprenticeships Day at Manchester Digital’s Digital Skills Festival – a day aimed at aspiring apprentices, helping them to understand their options and connecting them with training providers and employers.

National Apprenticeship Week is an opportunity for the education and skills sector to celebrate the achievements of apprentices around the country and the positive impact they make to communities, businesses and the wider economy.

The theme this year is skills for life, something which Amy believes she has learnt and developed in abundance over the past three years.

Amy, who lives in Warrington town centre, said: “Degree apprenticeships allow apprentices to gain real-life experience while pursuing a degree, which is invaluable.

“The hands-on involvement in a professional setting enhances practical skills and provides a tangible understanding of the theoretical concepts learned in academia.

“Unlike normal undergraduates, when you finish your apprenticeship, you will receive a full-time job (subject to performance) and have four years’ experience in the workplace, increasing your employability if you wanted to move on from your company.

“Moreover, the financial aspect is undoubtedly appealing – having the entire degree paid for and receiving a salary is definitely a perk.

“However, there is a balancing act with commitment to both areas of work and study, which can be demanding and requires effective time management.

“I believe this is a skill I have managed to master - with the help of the multiple support avenues available.”

Amy is raising awareness of degree apprenticeship programmes across the north west

Amy is raising awareness of degree apprenticeship programmes across the north west

A degree apprenticeship allows individuals to gain a level 6 qualification while working in the sector and earning a salary.

AJ Bell has offered degree apprenticeships for several years, mainly in digital technology solutions, which covers roles in software engineering, data analysis, cyber security analysis and IT consultancy, but also in digital user experience.

They are all four-year courses that allow apprentices to gain vital work experience while studying at Manchester Metropolitan University with all fees paid.

AJ Bell also provides mentoring and ongoing training, including in-house technical and professional development training, enabling each person to progress with their understanding of financial services.

Amy said: “I came directly from A-levels into my degree apprenticeship and I knew nothing about them.

“Degree apprenticeships weren’t advertised to me at sixth form college and I really felt pushed into a traditional university route even though this was never something I wanted to do.

“I had seen how hard it was for graduates to get jobs and I wanted an opportunity to learn but not have to go too far from home, so that I could continue living with family for support and to contribute financially.

“I enjoyed the prospect of earning money but I valued the importance of a degree too.

“When I discovered degree apprenticeships through word of mouth, they were a great opportunity for me to get exactly what I wanted out of my next stage of study.

“I found the Digital User Experience Degree Apprenticeship and applied to my current employer through the Government apprenticeships website.”

Amy has given several talks on her experiences as a degree apprentice

Amy has given several talks on her experiences as a degree apprentice

Amy returned to her sixth form college last year for a careers day, advocating the degree apprenticeships to school leavers – something she wishes someone had done for her when she was studying for her A Levels.

She has enjoyed the first three and a half years of her apprenticeship and has just six months left before graduating.

Amy said: “Balancing full-time work and studies, I have experienced significant personal growth and learning and I am very excited for what the future holds for me with AJ Bell.

“At the end of my degree apprenticeship, I will graduate from university - hopefully with First Class honours - and have a Bachelor’s of Science degree in Digital User experience.

“In terms of my position at AJ Bell, I am hoping to be promoted to a fulltime role within my current UX team with an amazing career path ahead of me.”

She added: “Before I applied for the degree apprenticeship, I had no idea what a UX designer was, never mind what they did and I was really new into the sector.

“I hadn’t studied any technology-based subjects during my A-levels and I was really worried that I was going to be out of my depth.

“However, the amount of support that I’ve received from the university and from my employer, building my knowledge up from the foundations, means that I now feel extremely confident in my technical skills.

“I’d encourage anyone, no matter their academic background or experience level, to apply for a degree apprenticeship, and not to let a lack of knowledge put you off.

“For me, it’s really important to raise awareness of degree apprenticeships as so many people still haven’t heard of them, have misconceptions of what they entail or don’t think it’s an option for them.”