Heriot-Watt Panmure House

In this case study we hear from Olivia Anderson of Heriot-Watt Panmure House. Olivia is now in the 3rd year of her Business Management Graduate Apprenticeship. We also hear from Caroline Howitt who is Olivia's workplace mentor.

Olivia Anderson, Graduate Apprentice at Heriot-Watt Panmure House

Please explain how you found the Graduate Position and give some background as to what you were doing prior to being offered the Graduate Apprenticeship position.

Prior to becoming a Graduate Apprentice, I studied BA Hons International Fashion Branding at Glasgow Caledonian University. I worked part-time in Miss Selfridge as a Retail Sales Associate.   
I found GA position on the Apprenticeship.scot website.

What were the benefits of Graduate Apprenticeship programme that attracted you the most?

The opportunity to earn-as-you-learn was a massive selling point for me. I also craved the opportunity to learn on-the-job under industry professionals for an immersive experience. My older brother completed a Graduate Apprenticeship and his career prospects were much more advanced and varied in comparison to his peers studying full time. 

Please describe what you are employed to do and how you have coped with the challenges of learning new skills whilst studying towards a degree.

I am a Programme Assistant at Adam Smith's Panmure House. 
I provide personal and administrative support to the Programme Director of Panmure House. My role is dynamic and not confined to administrative work. I follow a project-based workload and am adaptive in my tasks from event coordination to community programme delivery such as the Edinburgh Fringe Festival (known as Fringe at Panmure). I'm also fully responsible for administrating all Panmure House finances, amongst other things.
Learning and working at a high level is intense and challenging but I'm motivated by the belief that building resilience and the ability to cope and be adaptive and flexible will serve me well personally and professionally in the future. I'm lucky to have built a good support network within my team, utilising my Workplace Mentor and Personal Tutor when I need to.

What is your proudest achievement to date in your role and can you explain how this impacted on your working environment and or helped deliver results on behalf of your organisation?

I feel like I've developed so much in the 2 years I've been a GA. My own personal confidence and self-esteem was relatively low before this programme but I have found purpose and strength in contributing, learning and growing in my role at Panmure House. I definitely class this as something I'm most proud of as it's something I've struggled with previously.
My team have benefitted from this as I've become more confident in my own abilities and efficiency so my workload is constantly progressing. I can take on more advanced tasks and projects when it's required of me to support my superiors.

What are your future career hopes and goals on completion of the Graduate Apprenticeship?

I'm aiming to complete 3rd and 4th year with the highest grades I can to be able to have the choice of moving on to further study at Masters level. This is a goal that has only been made possible by the Graduate Apprenticeship programme. Through the experiences of my colleagues, I gained an insight into completing further study – what it takes and what I need to do to get there. If I didn't have the connections to those who have experienced these pathways, I would not be considering further study.
I'm interested in various industries and roles and no longer feel under pressure to select one. The Graduate Apprenticeship teaches real-life practical and transferrable skills that can be applied in every and any workplace. The Graduate Apprenticeship allows me to gain 4 years of solid, advanced work experience which ultimately puts you ahead of full-time graduates. I'm confident in my search for opportunities outwith the Apprenticeship that I could articulate my experience well in any industry, with strong examples from my current role to back this up. 

Can you outline what support and/or encouragement your employer has given you in your GA journey?

Heriot-Watt provides great academic and general well-being support. The lecturers and personal tutors engage with you frequently and promote their Office Hours. The Study Skills seminars in particular are of great help. 

How would you sum up your GA experience so far?

This is the future of learning – combining advanced work experience with academic qualifications up to degree level will boost the impact and contributions of young people in the workplace. Employers working closely with educational institutions makes learning more targeted to the employment landscape and equips young people with the right skills to make positive impact from the start. I feel supported, encouraged and inspired to complete my degree.

Caroline Howitt, workplace mentor at Panmure House

Can you provide some background to the company?

Adam Smith's Panmure House is a centre for social and economic thought leadership, debate and research. As part of Heriot-Watt University, a small team of three dedicated staff deliver a suite of academic and community programming designed to build international networks, effect positive change, and promote the ongoing legacy of Adam Smith.

Why did the company decide to go down the Graduate Apprenticeship route?

Adam Smith was himself first and foremost an educator – it is a fitting tribute to his legacy to help develop the next generation at Panmure House.

What are the key reasons why the Graduate Apprenticeship model suits your specific business/industry?

It helps create synergy between our department and the rest of the University.

What appealed to you most about Heriot-Watt University as the GA provider?

As part of the University, we are biased!

In what way has the candidate made a contribution to the workplace / business?

Olivia has taken on a pivotal role in the department, working across projects in a co-ordinating, administrative and PA capacity. She is a valued and trusted member of our small team, and continues to impress with her calm, competent approach to all the varied aspects of our programming – from event coordination to diary management through to financial processing. 

How do you feel about the apprentice's future?

Olivia is a very special GA. Her future potential will be limited only by her own expectations and confidence in herself – it has been particularly heartening to watch these flourish since she joined us in 2019.

Based on your experience of the GA programme would you happily employ another Graduate Apprentice in the future?

I would, but only if the candidate was as exceptional as our current GA. There are many challenges inherent in being part of such a small team on such a large project, but for those who can rise to it, the rewards are great for both the individual and their employer.