Starting an apprenticeship mid-career

Sarah Smith holding a certificate

Photograph: NFU Beet Intake Manager

If you're looking to upskill, whether you're a school leaver just starting out, or an older person considering a career change, an apprenticeship could be the route for you. NFU Sugar Beet Intake Manager Sarah Smith explains the benefits.

Sarah Smith, 48, a Beet Intake Manager with NFU Sugar, based at the Wissington Sugar factory, has just been awarded a distinction in her Level 5 Foundation Degree in Operational and Departmental Management.

Sarah worked in poultry for 16 years before joining Germains Seed Technology for three years. She began her apprenticeship while working as a production supervisor there and continued her studies when she joined NFU Sugar in 2022.

Skills for life

Sarah said: “When I was approached by HR and asked if I wanted to do the training, I thought: ‘I’m too old to be an apprentice!’ but I manage people and teams and get results and I wanted to be able to quantify that.

“I’ve shown that I have the skills I need, and I’ve learned to be more self-aware and self-critical, which has helped me to develop both as a person and a team leader.

“I thought – wrongly – that my management experience would make my course easier, but it’s taken a lot of hard work and dedication and hopefully I’ve learned some skills that will really help me.

I thought: ‘I’m too old to be an apprentice!’ but I manage people and teams and get results and I wanted to be able to quantify that.”

NFU Sugar Beet Intake Manager

“I would recommend an apprenticeship to anyone who really wants to upskill in their role, but it’s a lot of commitment alongside your day job, so you really have to want to do it and it has to be in something you’ve got an interest in.”

Sarah completed her studies supported by James Northen, NFU Head of Sugar, and the NFU People team. James said: “Those of us who have studied while working full time and juggling family life know how hard it can be, so her result is exceptional.”

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