This blog post was published under the 2015 to 2024 Conservative government


Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office Apprentice

Guest blogger for FCDO Careers

Part of Our Apprenticeship Schemes

5th February 2021 United Kingdom

Molly: My Apprenticeship during COVID-19

Molly is a HR Support Apprentice at the Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office.

Why I chose to do an apprenticeship with the FCDO.

In 2020 I published a blog as to why I chose to do an apprenticeship with the FCDO. I still stand by my words. Since then I have successfully completed my apprenticeship but not without its trials!

How did COVID-19 impact on your apprenticeship and how have you managed to overcome the barriers?

COVID-19 had quite the effect on my apprenticeship! We were scheduled to trigger the End Point Assessment in approximately March/April time and so unfortunately it did have an impact!

Completing the consultative project aspect of the apprenticeship was an interesting challenge. While our cohort of apprentices would usually gather together in the office to discuss each of our approaches, this wasn’t possible from home, and so we set up a group chat to support one another virtually. Setting up my HR project remotely in a pandemic was definitely a challenge, but it was a good opportunity to make the best of a bad situation. Being able to work on a project to improve/assist with delivery was a great way to feel productive in a time when lots of things were locked down!

The end of our apprenticeship required a “Professional Discussion” to discuss HR skills and behaviours and evaluate our understanding, however the original plans to conduct the professional discussion in person didn’t seem feasible at the height of a pandemic! Thankfully, the central HR Team worked with CIPD to arrange a workaround so that we were able to complete our Professional Discussions while adhering to all the distancing and security requirements. Being able to conduct the professional discussion was a fun and interesting experience and a great opportunity to discuss HR values with someone external to the business.

How have you adjusted to working from home during lockdown and in managing your apprenticeship?

Our day-to-day work was overhauled as we changed to working entirely from home. Having just moved a 40 minute commute away from work I was grateful at first as I had some extra time on my hands, however it did require some creativity to settle into an at-home routine. Due to the number of people working remotely, we were encouraged to be flexible in our working time and do what we needed to do to make the new norm manageable.

As we were all of a sudden working separately to one another, our Team Lead set up regular catch ups so that we kept in touch with one another. Our department set up non-work zoom calls so that we could take the time to socialise as we would have done in breaks in and around the office without feeling pressure to keep everything 100% work focussed in a time of increased pressure and stress. Our managers and teams were all incredibly supportive, everyone recognised that current times made it quite tricky to carry on as normal, and so we’ve adjusted!

Working from home can be monotonous and so it’s important to break up the day. I made sure I had regular coffee breaks and I occasionally arranged a call with one of my team-mates to discuss casework in the day. I also tried to go out for a walk during my lunch hour, it keeps me feeling fresh instead of being at my desk all day!

I found completing the apprenticeship during lockdown to be an interesting challenge. At first it felt quite daunting, there was a lot to do and I really wanted to ensure that I put my best effort in to passing my apprenticeship. The FCDO Apprenticeship Team set up a call with the course provider and the CIPD to explain what we needed to do and provided some resources which helped provide me with a foundation to start working on my apprenticeship project. My colleagues and Team Lead were more than happy to facilitate my apprenticeship work, which proved invaluable in getting it done. Being able to work on the apprenticeship project has also been a welcome change of pace at times, and having the flexibility to prioritise my own work has meant I was able to stay productive and sane!

The workload changed a little (a lot!) thanks to the mobilisation of staff to assist in the repatriation efforts, however thanks to our teamwork and some strong communication through Microsoft Teams, we’ve managed it. I’m in awe of all the hard work everyone in the business has done this year and the help and support in received throughout my apprenticeship. Despite the challenges, I’m proud that I’ve now completed my apprenticeship during the heart of the pandemic!

Three words to describe ‘working for the FCDO’.

Challenging, varied, intriguing

Why I would recommend doing an apprenticeship with the FCDO.

I would recommend an apprenticeship with the FCDO because there’s such a variety of pathways you can take. The opportunities available to staff are ever-changing and it can be a great way to develop transferrable skills and find a career passion, or try a few different types of roles.

The Civil Service seems to be full of passionate people with such a variety of backgrounds and skills who are all very keen to share and help. If you’re happy to put in work, you’re rewarded and it can feel like you are contributing to a common good.

An apprenticeship is a great way to set you up with the skills, knowledge and behaviours you’d need to succeed in any number of roles, which may otherwise be out of reach in regards to skills and experience. Apprentices are recognised as opportunities, and everyone in the FCDO wants you to grow and develop and be part of the business.

Learn more about our Apprenticeship schemes.