Posted on Nov 24, 2020
Chris Geary shares his experience and the impact upskilling with an apprenticeship has had on his career.
At the age of 35, could you still be an apprentice? That was my initial thought when I first saw an internal email regarding taking part in a Level 3 NVQ course in Property Management. In my head an apprentice was a school leaver, or maybe someone in their early 20s.
I had wanted to progress my career in property management for some time. I had been with FirstPort for nearly eight years and although I had enjoyed the roles during this period, I wanted to develop my knowledge and skills so that I could be a manager on the front line, making a difference to our customers’ lives. Despite this, I disregarded the apprentice email at first, concerned that my age would be a factor. How wrong I was!
I explained to my line manager why I had not yet applied for the apprenticeship, and she encouraged me to change my mind; explaining that it would be one of the best decisions – career wise – that I could make. I submitted an application and waited patiently, then a month later I was emailed by our HR team confirming that I had been successful, along with six other colleagues.
The course itself was the first of its kind in the UK and we were to be the test group. I remember the first time we met our tutor in one of their London offices, along with apprentices taking part from other management companies. The enthusiasm from everyone there was contagious. Although I had never met some of the other apprentices before, you would never have guessed. Everyone on the first day was both nervous and excited about the course, and as we all felt the same, we naturally bonded.
I already felt slightly ahead of the other apprentices in terms of knowledge; this was due to the experience I had gained from working at the largest residential property management company in the UK. The support and knowledge available to me at FirstPort was fantastic and this helped guide me through the course. I was in an incredibly lucky position to be able to speak to some of the country’s leading experts in property management at FirstPort and use this to my advantage. I have no doubt that I would have been able to complete the course without the additional support from FirstPort, however having this available to me, made me feel more valued, and the course more enjoyable.
As you would expect from a test group there were hiccups along the way, and at times the boat seemed to do everything but sail smoothly. However, these hiccups in a strange way made the group closer and made our resolve to finish the course all the more determined. The benefit of being in the test group was that we could help impact future groups, so the constructive feedback we gave to the learning providers, would be used to streamline the course for future apprentices.
I learnt many things by taking part in the Level 3 course, but above all, it gave me the confidence in myself which has helped me to progress my career. The skills and knowledge that I gained were invaluable and I have already used them for the benefit of our customers, which is ultimately what I wanted to do.
I am now halfway through my Level 4 with Learning Curve Group and couldn’t be happier. The opportunities that have opened up since taking part on this course have made the time I spent studying well worth it. I can confidently say that I would not be in the position I am today, if it was not for the apprenticeship. Since completing the Level 3 apprenticeship, I have been successful in applying for three different roles, each one a step up in responsibility. My current role is Mobilisation and Integration Manager.
I was also very privileged to be awarded the first ever ‘Social Housing and Property Management’ apprentice of the year award in 2019 by the IRPM.