Rachel Baker 27 from Crosby not only is an apprentice at Peel Ports but someone who has used the apprenticeship programme to change direction in her career. Once an Assistant Buyer in the world of high street fashion, Rachel is now pursuing a career in Human Resources.

“Whilst this is not the first qualification I have done this is my first Apprenticeship.

I had never even spoken to anyone and knew nothing about apprenticeships. It was very much the norm in our school to do A-levels and then be encouraged to go on to University. So I naturally thought that this is what I should do. I went to University and did a Psychology Degree and left with a 2:1 within this course I did a lot of work on statistics. From there was how I got into fashion as I worked within merchandising which is a very ‘numbers’ orientated job. I was buying clothes for a number of large labels and worked my way up to Assistant Buyer.

However, something just clicked with me as I always wanted be involved in HR but didn’t know how to get into it. And as I said we didn’t have much in the way of careers advice when I was 16/17 so if I had have had this opportunity earlier in life I would have pursued this. I worked in fashion for 4-5 years and loved it but really wanted to work within HR.

I saw this opportunity online whilst trawling through, and it was on Reed’s website that I saw the opportunity for Peel.”

With you working within fashion and this opportunity being advertised as an apprenticeship opportunity did that deter you in any way at all?
“It raised questions such as would it offer enough money as I was in a permanent position at the time and the salary was good. Would I be the oldest in the room or would I be treated as a child despite my experience.

However, I applied and received a call from Peel a few weeks later and they explained how the salary structure works and I thought this is going to benefit me long term. Also the fact that you are gaining a qualification at the same time as being paid so it was a no-brainer really.

So since September 2018 I have been doing my Level 5 CIPD Higher Apprenticeship qualification, I attend Wirral Met College once a week which I love! What’s great is attending college with people from other industries so we get to share good practice as well as learn from one another. I will complete my qualification in March 2020.”

So what does a day in the life of Rachel consist of as an apprentice HR team member?
“Initially when I joined in April (2018) there were lots of inductions and job shadowing and getting comfortable with the role and the responsibilities. I definitely benefitted from finding my feet first for a few months rather than starting the learning at the same time as the job as that may have been a bit overwhelming!

Now I have lots of communication with employees whether it be via the phone or email. Dealing with enquiries that cover so many different topics even in the first hour of being in work. I really enjoy being involved in the recruitment side of the role. Whilst I have my daily tasks to fulfil no day is the same there is always something different that happens!

I love talking with people and attending events and talking to young people to try and help them understand more about apprenticeships.”

So having spent time in the world of Fashion and now pursuing a career in Human Resources a lot of people would consider that a significant change or a change that would not be straightforward to pursue.
“It’s two completely different personalities and job roles and even though I spent 4-5 years in fashion I didn’t feel that I fitted into that particular mind-set. I loved the work and I became good at it but it is very competitive and I was working until 11pm some nights which just didn’t suit me”

I was really nervous about changing career it but sometimes you have to take that chance!

Has your perception of apprenticeships changed from prior to starting your apprenticeship?
“I thought they were only for plumbers. I genuinely didn’t know any different as was never told otherwise. I also thought the pay would be at such a low level that it would not be a viable option. That is not the case!

As I said before it will benefit me more long term and being paid whilst learning a profession and gaining a qualification!

I was really nervous about changing career it but sometimes you have to take that chance!

When I am out with friends and people ask what it is you are doing now, at first I was a little nervous about telling them. However, once I share my story the reaction is usually ‘that’s amazing!’ The fact that I have had a completely different career change and I am back learning. I hated school but now I am loving it!”

What advice could you share for those out there who may be looking to change their profession in much the same manner as yourself?
“I would say first of all to not think that apprenticeships are just for 16 year olds. To also look at the way in which you can progress within it. Also to take the time to look into the company itself and try to understand more about how they operate.”

Do you think more can be done to put apprenticeships in front of people of your age group as a viable/attractive option?
“I think they need to be more visible and to go into businesses and speak with staff. Social media presence should be better too and maybe short videos to give the facts such as myths about pay.”

With your circumstances now changed with regards to having to work until very late of an evening, how has being an apprentice changed your life outside of work?
“I have a lot more free time and I am able to have more of work life balance now which is so important!”

So what’s next for Rachel?
“Well we have had discussions and the nice thing is that around 85% of people who do an Apprenticeship with Peel Ports generally go on to secure a full time position with the company.

I think a break for a little while once I have completed my level 5 would be good and then maybe look at the level 7. I do love it here and would like to progress and stay with Peel Ports.”