Almost 2 years ago I was employed by one of the biggest companies globally in this industry - luckily for me State Street, the American investment bank and is participating in the IFS Apprenticeship programme. I am based in the main office located in IFSC in Dublin. The programme is sponsored by Ibec and NCI and Apprentices and Employers are registered with SOLAS.
Were you always interested in getting into this line of work?
To be honest, If someone told me that I would end up doing an apprenticeship in the finance sector straight after completing my Leaving Cert I would not have believed them. My initial plan was to do a full-time course in Business Studies and start working after I get a BA as opposed to working and studying a degree at the same time. But life is unpredictable and it led me in a different direction; rather than starting a full time degree, I looked for alternatives and found the information about the IFS Apprenticeship and the opportunity to complete a qualification and get a job – earn and learn. It is an amazing opportunity in the financial services sector.
How did you come across the IFS Apprenticeship?
I heard of the IFS Apprenticeship programs at a college open day. At the time when I had to apply for college courses in 6th year of secondary school I realised that apprenticeship might be something that would suit my financial situation better. So, I did my online research and discovered that there are dozens of apprenticeships in various sectors like Engineering, Carpentry, Computing, Finance etc.; the last one caught my interest the most.
How is the Apprenticeship going so far? What skills are you learning?
My class of IFS Apprentices 2018/20 are winners of the Consortia Led – Generation Apprenticeship 2020 Competition. This is a great achievement for the class and our NCI lecturers and academics. I'm finishing up my 2nd year of employment with State Street. There have been challenges throughout the programme. The first year of the program (and especially the first semester) was probably the most challenging time; I just came out of secondary school and had never worked for a company before so starting a job at a multinational corporation while studying in college at the same time was a big change and hard work. Not having knowledge of finance obviously didn't help in this situation. The first few months in State Street involved constantly learning - learning new terminology, broadening my knowledge of investments, adjusting to the corporate environment etc. I did a lot of online courses in my company as well as some on-site training to get a better understanding of my role. The college lectures which covered financial markets, some basic accounting, the essentials of customer service, project management, fund administration etc. were relevant in my day-to-day work at State Street; I was able to apply the knowledge I gained in classes into the various tasks and responsibilities I have in my workplace now.
How has the programme benefited you?
Looking back at the past 2 years I can definitely say that participating in the IFS Apprenticeship was a great experience which will benefit me in many ways in my future career progression. First and foremost, I have made so many new connections not only within my company but also in my college group, with NCI staff and lecturers and other stakeholders in the finance and education industries. As I said, this was my first job and working for State Street really taught me how to interact and communicate both verbally and in a written form with my colleagues, senior management and clients. I also think that it's pretty cool that I was able to earn a QQI Level 6 degree while getting paid a full-time salary! And hence why I became more independent - I'm now able to afford things that I want without asking my parents to pay for it.
Plans for the future?
I'm currently taking a part-time BA in Business Management course which is delivered by NCI so my short-term plan for the next year is to earn a Bachelor's degree. I'm still planning to work in the financial sector to be able to support myself while studying but once I'm finished with college I would like to move on to a different area in business - Marketing and Project Management.
What would you say to someone who's interested in doing the apprenticeship?
I would say that if you are interested in finance and/or business - then definitely consider doing the IFS Apprenticeship. The amount of practical knowledge which is also combined with relevant theory is huge - you would never get this sort of experience in college. But don't underestimate the workload - it is not something you can easily fly through; it takes time and dedication to achieve the end result - but that end result is definitely worth it.