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Dexter's Learning at Work Week Blog

I’ve just completed my level 3 apprenticeship in Digital Marketing and I certainly wouldn’t hesitate - to take a level 4 course to further my skills and knowledge. 

The main perk of choosing an apprenticeship is the practical experience you gain. Learning at work allows you to put theory into practice and pick up lots of skills whilst doing your day to day job. Alongside the other benefits of apprenticeships, such as being paid whilst you learn and having your training paid for, I genuinely believe that what you learn in the workplace can have more resonance than lessons in the classroom.

It’s not just learning new skills which is important, but having the opportunity to practice applying them and there is lots of evidence to suggest than ‘learning by doing’ means you retain information more easily. 

It’s not very long since I left school, but truthfully I have already forgotten about 50 per cent of what I learned during my secondary education. However, when you are putting things into practice in the real world, you gain a much better understanding of the relevance of what you learn. Many people learn best when given examples. 

Some schools are now giving students the opportunity to put their skills to practice in the real world. At School 21 in East London, students in year 10 spend three hours a week working on a project for a local business. The initiative is called Real World Learning and gives students the opportunity to gain some insight into the world of work and critical workplace skills. 

I believe the main benefit of learning at work instead of taking the increasingly conventional route of going to university, is that it gives you a head start in your future career. Not only do you have practical evidence of what you can do, but you also gain valuable experience and learn transferable skills which can be used in any job. 

One of my favourite life stories is that of Jimmy Iovine. Iovine is a record producer best known as the co-founder of Interscope Records. In 2006, Iovine teamed with Dr. Dre to found Beats Electronics, the company producing the iconic headphones. Iovine hated high school, so left and went to work. By the time he was 20, Iovine had landed a job as an assistant at The Record Plant, a Manhattan studio where the Velvet Underground and Jimi Hendrix had recorded. 

His life could have taken a very different turn had he listened to his mother on Easter Sunday, 1974. That morning, his boss, the producer Roy Cicala, had called to say that he needed Jimmy to come to the studio to answer the phones. This enraged Iovine’s mother. He still lived at home and she had spent the morning cooking lunch. She wanted him in his suit and with his family in church — like the neighbourhood’s other Italian-American families — and ‘went nuts’ when he told her he was going to work. 

It was the right decision. Cicala was testing him to see if he was ready to ‘take a step up’, and there, sitting in the studio, was John Lennon, waiting to record his rock n’ roll solo album. Iovine would be helping to engineer it. Over the next five years he would work on three Lennon albums, as well as two for Springsteen and one for Patti Smith. 

Given my own story so far, and stories of other apprentices I have met, I wouldn’t hesitate to continue onto a level 4 qualification because I can see clearly that a higher level of qualification is going to be valuable to my further progression. Learning at work can be a great way to break into an industry or progress further in a company or sector that you would like to work in. My Digital Marketing qualification proves to employers not only my digital knowledge and level of competence, but that I possess a skill set developed in the work place. This now means I can go into an interview for any higher level apprenticeship in the digital sector and demonstrate that I can work in the sector. Learning at work is certainly the best stepping stone in most career paths.