By Thomas Bell, Apprentice Solicitor
I’m Thomas Bell, I’m 18 years old and I come from Barnsley. I attended Notre Dame High School in Sheffield, where I studied for my GCSEs and my A-levels in History, English Literature and Sociology. I’m also the new (and first!) Apprentice Solicitor in Co-op.
I only started working in Legal in September, but I’ve already learned a lot about our businesses, and what makes Co-op the fantastic place it is today.
Apprenticeship opportunities like this are very rare, and that’s why I was ecstatic to have the opportunity to join Co-op and start my career. It was the chance to learn at the University of Law and get work experience, as well as getting paid and integrating with new people with years of work experience that made me so eager to take this opportunity.
I was constantly told by friends and family that going to university was my next step, as it would be the ‘traditional’ and ‘common’ route to go. When I finished my A-levels, it was looking like university would be the way forward as there were no apprenticeship vacancies open. However through plenty of research and analysing, I decided that an apprenticeship would be the most effective use of my future, and why I’m at Co-op today. It turned out that Co-op had just published their apprenticeship vacancy, which I applied for and passed the interview stages. There were over 40 applicants and I’m really pleased that I was the one that was chosen.
My family have been incredibly supportive, driving me to Manchester for interviews, helping me with my research into Co-op, and generally being just as nervous as I was!
The apprenticeship does come with challenges. The early morning commutes to the train station at 6.30am and studying for the LLB qualification on top of working, all add a certain amount of pressure, but it’s in this pressure that I’ve found Co-op to shine.
Everyone in Legal’s constant willingness to offer me assistance and push my career forwards has been vital to my development through the early stages. Everyone treats each other with respect, which has meant motivation is kept high, and the general work rate and office environment is superb. The fact there’s no rigid hierarchy so the leadership team is easily accessible, has meant I can engage in regular conversations with the most senior members and glean very useful information and experience. The office is also open plan, which allows greater integration and boosts team working.
My advice to those seeking an apprenticeship is to go with what will be most beneficial to your future. I knew this apprenticeship would be the way forward for me, as I wanted to get into working immediately and start getting my future underway as a solicitor. Apprenticeships shouldn’t be considered an easy route either, especially at a level 7 standard where the aspects of studying and working both run alongside each other. You must be committed and driven to succeed, and aim to fulfil requests in the office as quickly and effectively as possible, but I know I can ask for help when I need it.
Being confident and energetic is key to thriving in Co-op. I’m really enjoying working here and I’m positive about my future.