Rachel joined the AIB Apprenticeship scheme in August 2023, after becoming inspired by a Workplus presentation at her school.
For Rachel, the path from A–Levels to full–time university never felt like the right fit, so when she realised there was an opportunity to combine learning and real–world experience, she jumped at the opportunity and applied for an AIB apprenticeship through Workplus.
Rachel’s apprenticeship means she works four days a week at AIB and one day a week at Ulster University, studying for an Accountancy with Management degree.
We talked to Rachel, to find out more about her experience at AIB and why she would recommend an apprenticeship.
How was your first week of your apprenticeship?
I was so nervous because I am only 18 and going into a big office job was completely different to anything I’d ever done before. Everyone was so welcoming, and I didn’t feel like I was thrown in at the deep end at all. There are no big expectations, they are committed to training you well and understand that you’re coming straight from school. At AIB, everyone has a “people leader” that you can go to for support or if you have any questions.
How has it been studying and working simultaneously?
Since I’m from Derry, I have moved to student halls in order to complete my apprenticeship. This has allowed me to still live a bit of the university life with the added bonus of a full–time salary. You definitely can still have a social life as long as you get the balance right.
In terms of balancing university work, we get study leave to prepare for exams, and there’s support within AIB to assist with any assignments. They’ll allow me time to do them if I need to, and there are even people there who could help with my work if I have questions.
What have you learned since starting your apprenticeship?
I have learned so much. I didn’t do Business Studies at A Level, I studied Maths, French and Art, so coming to AIB is completely different and I’m learning everything from scratch, but I’m really enjoying it.
What are you most looking forward to during the rest of your apprenticeship?
I’m looking forward to learning new things, I still have four years to go so there’s lots still to learn. I also get on so well with the other apprentices, and there’s even an Apprenticeship Society within Ulster University, so we’ll have activities and chances to meet with other apprentices there too, there’s a good social side to it.
How do you think your AIB Apprenticeship will help your career?
I think it’ll really set me ahead. It feels like nowadays just having a university degree isn’t enough and that the on–the–job learning is just as important. By the time I graduate, I will have four and a half or five years of experience, I’m earning money and I don’t have to pay student fees. I think it’s a no–brainer.
What would you say to someone thinking of applying for an apprenticeship?
I’d say go for it, you don’t have anything to lose. The worst that happens is that you’ll have too many options, but it’s a great opportunity. It’s hard work and you have to put in the effort, but I think it’s worth it, and if you’re interested in that, then you might as well give it a try!
You can find current AIB apprenticeship opportunities here.