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Meet Alexandra Robinson: The business administration apprentice continuing to defeat the battles thrown at her

We spoke to Alexandra Robinson, a former business administration apprentice, about her time with Bradford College and the challenges she faced along the way. This 39-year-old mum of two not only juggled two jobs while undertaking an apprenticeship, but also faced a diagnosis of Multiple Sclerosis back in 2020. The majority of people may have given up in light of this adversity, but Alex went on to achieve her qualification and win some pretty special awards in the process.

“I’ve been working at Thornton Primary School since 2017”, says Alexandra, reflecting on a busy but successful few years.

“I started off as a dinner lady to get my foot in the door, with the idea of wanting to work in the office – that’s what I’ve always wanted to do.

“I did a bit of volunteering and my own business administration course online at home; I’m not sure what qualification it was but it showed that I was willing.”

Having volunteered in her own time and shown her desire to pursue a career in business administration, an opportunity came along not long after for Alex.

“The school put an advertisement out for an ‘apprentice administrator’ because they knew someone was leaving, and I was asked if I was interested in doing an apprenticeship.

I thought [an apprenticeship] was what people did when they first came out of college, I didn’t realise anyone could do one at any point. It all started from there.

Unexpected Battles

The last few years have been far from plain sailing for Alex, however.

“I was poorly in December 2019 but I didn’t know that it was MS or what was happening. There was just something new every day, I had to have loads of scans and tests before getting diagnosed in April 2020”, she shares.

For the majority of people two jobs, a fight with MS and the commitment of having young children would be incomprehensible to manage, but thanks to sheer determination and the specialist support of the College, with 30 years of apprenticeship experience, this wasn’t the case.

“I explained my situation to my tutor and she was absolutely brilliant. I was given some time off so I could just focus on my own health and where my mind was”, Alex continues.

“This gap was three or four months off, where I was given the space I needed. I was still working and trying to keep going with that but the apprenticeship was out of the picture. Once my MS settled, I was then able to get stuck in again.

“I had to go to college once a month for a workshop on my Level 3 and the rest of it was all done myself. I didn’t just work here (Thornton Primary School) though, I work at the local Co-Op as well and have two young kids, so it was quite tricky at times!”

Tackling misconceptions

As Alex vocalises herself, there are many common misconceptions about apprenticeships.

Without even realising it, she epitomises one of these; the idea that it’s ever too late to gain new qualifications or change careers.

This, of course, is far from the case and speaking to anyone in a similar position to herself, Alex proudly said: “Definitely go for it.

“It’s brilliant because you’re getting paid but also learning your job which, for me, is a lot better than just going to college.

My top tips are:

1. Time management – You need to be organised and keep on top of things. Try to stay focused and set targets.

2. Communication – Be sure to keep in touch with your workplace and the College. If you’re struggling or can’t do something then explain this and you will be supported. They listen and can guide you in the right direction so that you understand.

3.  Stay positive and persevere – Don’t put too much pressure on yourself and stay self-confident if you do get a bit down.

Award Winner

Alex’s desire and fight was recognised in the summer of 2022 as she picked up two awards at the glittering ‘Bradford Means Business’ ceremony, hosted at the University of Bradford Stadium.

At the awards evening, she found herself as the worthy winner of ‘Apprentice of the Year’, as well as the ‘Winner of Winners’ chosen by a live audience vote.

When it comes to Alex’s journey overall, the theme for National Apprenticeship Week 2023 – ‘Skills For Life’ – couldn’t be more apt.

Speaking about this nationwide theme and whether an apprenticeship truly has set her up with skills for life, she stated with conviction: “Yes, I think it has. I’ve learnt a lot, especially communication-wise, which is really important.

“They’re transferrable skills such as communication, IT and maths. It’s all sorts of other important aspects too, like making your own decisions and building relationships.

“An apprenticeship helps you progress your career and you can use the skills you’ve learnt in various different ways.”

Just a 10-minute chat with Alex is enough to see how she’s put her life and soul into both her apprenticeship and the employment this new qualification has enabled.

It’s hard to leave the grounds of Thornton Primary School without both a smile and feeling of admiration.

A Bradford College apprenticeship has turned this dream into a reality.

Are you interested in an apprenticeship? Has Alex’s story inspired you to pursue a similar path? Follow the links below to find out how to get started.

Published: 6th February 2023




# Apprenticeship # Business

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