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College Apprentice gets invite to meet with MEPs in Brussels

4th Nov 2019

Matthew Harris is studying a Level 4 Business Administration apprenticeship at Abingdon & Witney College while working at University of Oxford as an Apprentice Administrative Assistant in Central Human Resources.

We caught up with Matthew, who was invited to Brussels to meet with Members of the European Parliament (MEPs) and members of the European commission this October, to ask him about his apprenticeship and his trip:

What made you choose to do an apprenticeship?

I was studying as an undergraduate in my second year at university when I decided it wasn't for me. I feel the work experience and knowledge I have gained from my apprenticeship has been more valuable than what I was doing before and will look really good on a CV too, not to mention I'm now getting paid instead of getting into debt!

I look forward to coming to work each day and I feel I'm valued by my colleagues and managers. I would highly recommend doing an apprenticeship to anyone considering it.

What do you most enjoy about your apprenticeship?

I enjoy the variety of my work and I enjoy being a part of the wider university. In my role within the university HR team, I am in contact with lots of colleagues throughout the university and responsible for helping to make sure that every new vacancy is advertised for every single department. With over 14,400 staff working at the university already, you can appreciate that it’s always pretty busy!

What’s been the highlight of your apprenticeship?

I think the highlight for me was winning the first-year apprentice award at the Oxford University Apprentice Awards Expo in the Sheldonian theatre back in March. I was so happy and a little surprised when my name was called out for the award but I was absolutely delighted.

I was very grateful that I had been chosen; I always try my absolute hardest at work and have always been enthusiastic about taking on new responsibilities and giving it 100%, but I was also certain that my work ethic would have been shared with many other apprentices too and so I had no idea I would win.

Would you recommend an apprenticeship and why?

Yes, I’d definitely recommend an apprenticeship to anyone considering it. It doesn’t matter if you’ve just finished school or you’re in your 20s. It’s a brilliant way to gain the skills and experience that will pave your way to exciting opportunities in the future, and you get to earn whilst you’re learning!

"I really believe that doing an apprenticeship can give you a massive head start in your career by giving you the vital knowledge and work experience that employers will value more than anything else."

College apprentice in Brussels to meet MEPs
30 apprentices from around the country pose for a group photo in the European Parliament

How did you get selected for the Brussels trip?

I received an email from a member of the Oxford University Apprenticeships team, who had heard about the opportunity and forwarded it onto all the apprentices working at the university; however, there was only two days left until the deadline!

We then had to complete an online application in order to be considered for the trip. The MEP organising the trip, Judith Bunting, wanted some of the questions answered in a video format and some in text so I instantly started preparing my answers and filmed them that night. I’ve been following UK politics very closely since the referendum – at the time, the 31st October Brexit deadline was approaching and I knew this could be the last time that British MEPs may sit in the EU parliament!

I feel very lucky to have been selected and to have had the opportunity to learn about how the EU parliament operates by going to Brussels and seeing it first-hand.

What did you enjoy most about the trip?

We were only in Brussels for two days but there was loads packed into that time. On the first day after checking into the hostel, awe went to visit the EU parliament, where there was an insightful reception event for all the apprentices on the trip. There were about 50 of us in total from different parts of the country.

We had talks from various members of the EU parliament and from those who were championing apprenticeships and the Erasmus+ scheme, which allows for apprentices to work all over Europe and gain experience working abroad as part of their apprenticeship. There was also loads of free food and drinks too which was nice!

I enjoyed getting to know the other apprentices at this event, many of whom were from outside of Oxfordshire in places like Kent, Surrey and Berkshire. It was really interesting to learn about the opportunities for apprentices in Europe and to meet lots of inspiring people.

I also loved exploring the city and getting to try the local cuisine; I’ve never been to Brussels before, but it was an inspiring city with plenty there to keep us busy.

On the second day we went back to the EU parliament and attended a talk from one of the civil servants who works there. He wasn’t attached to any party and explained to us in detail about how MEPs across Europe take their seats in the hemicycle and about how decisions are made. I learnt a lot here that I didn’t know before going on the trip.

What are your future plans?

I still have two years left of my apprenticeship, but I will add my involvement on the trip to my CV as it will be a great talking point when applying for jobs in the future. I hope to continue working at the university and to use my in-depth knowledge of university systems and practice to help me achieve this.