Given its apprenticeship week, we’ve taken the opportunity to interview our Founder/CEO at JVP Group, to uncover how the apprenticeship route led her to a successful and rewarding career.
Cath, when you finished high school what did you want to do?
I completed my GCSEs at high school with excellent grades but had no idea which career path to take. Having benefited from one weeks’ work experience with a travel agency during year 10, I’d ruled that out, deciding I’d rather be the one on the holidays rather talking about them all day!
What is your background?
I come from humble beginnings; mum often held down two jobs to ensure we all had the essentials.
My aunty and uncle were the main inspiration for the future I wanted to carve out for myself. Again, they come from humble beginnings, and worked hard to build careers that afforded them to buy a lovely home and live a very comfortable life enjoying frequent holidays and a busy social life with many adventures.
What options did you consider for life beyond GCSEs?
So having completed the GCSEs just before my 16th birthday (one of the youngest and shortest in the year – proud to be 5ft1.8), I started to explore various educational and work options from college and university, to getting straight into the workplace.
I was keen to earn while learn, so opted to pursue the route of exploring apprenticeships, in 1998 they were called Modern Apprenticeships. Given that online job boards and social media channels didn’t exist, the main place to look for jobs in the local area back then was in the Manchester Evening News.
I quickly uncovered two apprenticeships that piqued my interest. One for a Finance Apprentice with the NHS, and the other for a Business Administration Apprentice with an insurance broker.
What approach did you take to applying for apprenticeship opportunities?
I used the application process to demonstrate my skills being keen to show my enthusiasm and demonstrate the skills and personal attributes I could bring to the table from the outset, with a strong desire to learn.
I was delighted to be invited to interview for both roles, so hurriedly went to purchase suitable but relatively inexpensive business attire for the interview, to make the best impression.
What did you make of interviews at school leaver age?
On arrival for the NHS interview, I was greeted by a formal panel of interviewers, I recall 4 or 5 of them. Especially at age 15, the experience of being interviewed by a panel sat across a boardroom table was quite intimidating – even for an independent and confident young girl. But I believe everything happens for a reason and this experience made me determined that if a similar situation occurred in the future, I would be even more prepared.
In the same week I had my interview with the insurance broker. In this case, the interviewer instantly made me feel at ease, and asked plenty of open questions that gave me the chance to really shine.
So, how did your career start?
I was offered the insurance broker apprenticeship role and from there on I never looked back, my foot was firmly on the first step of the career ladder, and it was the start of an exciting journey.
The company gave me the opportunity to move around various departments on a weekly rota. Some tasks certainly weren’t overly exciting like filing, making tea for the team and hours spent hand writing insurance cover notes. However, it was all a learning experience, and I quickly started to get to know the people, systems, processes, and essential workplace skills; professionalism, team working, organisation, attention to detail, communication and the importance of excellent customer service.
During my two years with the company, I progressed into different roles across administration, customer service and sales, building plenty of knowledge, skills and confidence along the way. I also made many friends, some of which I’m still in touch with today.
How did you embark on a career in recruitment?
Following a brilliant 2 years with the insurance broker, I was ready for a fresh challenge, so moved to a role in the telecoms industry where my skills were easily transferred. I remained here for 12 months in a technical support role, before it was suggested to me by a friend that my skills, experience, and strong work ethic could work well to build a career in the recruitment industry.
I subsequently secured my first role working in a recruitment agency, where I was given access to a phone and two boxes of cards – one with details of registered candidates the other with details of employers, and tasked with speedily placing lots of Drivers into temporary jobs on a daily basis. I embarked on a huge challenge but one that I was excited about and determined to succeed with.
After 6 months, still at the age of 19, I decided to launch my own recruitment agency in Manchester which I ran for two years before relocating to North Wales – which has become home ever since.
I continued to build my career in the recruitment industry, and having run someone else’s business for a few years, in 2013 I set about launching JVP Group – a job advertising company. Here I have hired and developed a highly motivated team and we continue a very exciting business growth journey.
There have been many challenges along the way from school leaver to CEO, but I continue to find solutions with determination to succeed.
I find it hugely satisfying to help others develop in their careers which for me makes leading a team and working in the recruitment industry the perfect fit. And I’ll never forget how it all started with the experience of those interviews for apprenticeship roles – from the formal interview panel to the fantastic interviewer who saw my potential and gave me that important first opportunity.
What would you say to someone thinking of embarking on an apprenticeship?
I’d highly recommend considering the apprenticeship route, going to university is not the only option to forge a successful career.The most important advice I could give would be to find the path that is right for you.