Magic Word Media

Digital agency builds remote team with degree apprenticeships

It has been almost eight months since the first apprentice joined Generate Leads Online (GLO) team through the digital marketing degree apprenticeship programme – since then GLO hired three more!

As John Parnell, the founder of GLO says: “Having the opportunity to partner up with leading higher education institutions, such as Anglia Ruskin University and Cambridge Marketing College, to deliver high-quality apprenticeship programmes for ambitious people looking to kick start their career in digital marketing has been instrumental to the growth of our team.

“We’ve been impressed with the value our new apprentices have brought to the company and would highly recommend business owners to consider employing young talent through this initiative, not only to add a valuable asset to their team but also to enable those individuals to launch their career with the best of both worlds; practical and academic training.”

How does the Apprenticeship Programme work?

The apprenticeship programmes are funded from the contributions made by the government and the employer. They offer people of any age the opportunity to learn and train for a specific job by combining work and study. Businesses offer workplaces, while the government secures the delivery of theoretical knowledge through various higher education institutions.

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Being able to complete top-level courses and receive recognised qualifications, some equivalent to bachelor and masters degrees, from reputable higher education institutions, while at the same time gaining practical experience and earning money is the most optimal setup for those looking to start a new career, or shift to another industry.

The programme requires apprentices to study for at least 20% of their working hours, meaning the majority of their time is spent applying what they learn to real-life situations. In this way, whether the apprentice chooses to stay with the employer they were with for the duration of the apprenticeship or not, they are prepared for the current job market where more and more employers favour hands-on experience.

There are hundreds of apprenticeships available to choose from, covering multiple disciplines and offering different levels of qualifications. It can take between one and 6 years to complete an apprenticeship depending on which one you choose, what level it is and your previous experience. Taking GLO as an example, almost all of their apprentices are completing a different level and length of apprenticeship – there is a programme to suit everyone’s needs!

Why did GLO decide to offer Digital Marketing Apprenticeships?

Generate Leads Online is a young, digital marketing agency in Ipswich, Suffolk, with a strong ambition to develop a team of talented professionals who never cease to improve their skills. They operate in one of the most dynamic industries – digital marketing – and as Mr Parnell admits, “finding staff with the right set of skills, and a willingness to continue learning in order to keep up with the evolution of the industry, is difficult”.

“New technologies and ideas are entering the digital marketing industry practically every day and many students completing a purely study-based bachelor’s degree may find that by the end of it, what they learnt is no longer as applicable as it was at the start of their course, or that it’s difficult for them to connect the theories with real-life examples. Equally, those that have practical experience in the field but lack the theoretical knowledge may fail to understand the bigger picture.”

For those reasons, GLO turned towards the Apprenticeship Programmes in search of young talent, and has already found that the way these courses are set up, meets their requirements perfectly.

“The strong academic training the apprentices receive in their respective higher education institutions can be applied all throughout their degree in the work that they do here at GLO,  on a daily basis. This helps them to assimilate the knowledge and gives them a chance to engage in experiential learning”, says the founder of the online lead generation agency.  

Furthermore, Generate Leads Online believes that offering opportunities for aspiring digital marketers to enter the exciting yet competitive industry is a way for the company to contribute to the future prosperity of the young generation and economy at large.

While many businesses in the hospitality and retail sectors were brought to a standstill when the UK entered a national lockdown, the nature of the work GLO delivers let them swiftly transition to being a fully remote team. Many small businesses that previously didn’t feel the need to have a strong online presence rushed to catch up and the team found themselves busier than normal, trying to set up the foundations for those local businesses to allow them to generate leads online. This gave the team at GLO further motivation to cultivate a digital workspace using tools like Slack and Asana to enable the apprentices to keep working and studying.

Adapting to being a team that works from home not only allowed GLO’s first apprentice to continue her apprenticeship but also proved to the team that they can welcome more apprentices during the lockdown period and offer remote positions to those keen to learn. Between November 2020 and now, the number of apprentices working at GLO went from one to three. What’s more, they are now recruiting to fill another digital marketing degree apprenticeship position!

Meet the GLO’s talented apprentices

Beth Craig – Level 6 Digital Marketer Degree Apprenticeship BSc (Hons), Anglia Ruskin University

Tell us a little bit about yourself

Hi, I’m Beth! I joined the GLO team as a degree apprentice in September 2020. Prior to starting here, I lived up in sunny Scotland, having briefly studied English Language and Literature in Edinburgh, and worked part-time whilst interning as a digital marketing assistant. Seeing the results of my social media marketing campaigns for my first ‘clients’ helped me realise that I wanted to change my path and get into the digital marketing industry. After doing copious amounts or research, I stumbled across GLO’s Apprenticeship Programme listing, and the rest is history!

The role gives me the perfect opportunity to combine my passion for completing work within a real environment, applying theory, and producing positive, tangible results.

What do you do on the GLO team?

After joining the team and putting together some optimised FAQs for a client, I soon discovered that I fit very well into a SEO copywriting specialist role – and that’s what I’ve been doing ever since! Whilst I’m actively educating myself across all areas of digital marketing on my less busy days, most of my time is spent preparing long-form content for our clients, meaning you’ll most likely find me researching, writing up websites from scratch, putting together articles, or in meetings.

What has been the highlight of your apprenticeship training so far?

Overall, I really appreciate being given the opportunity to actively contribute to real work. I truly feel that this is the best way to pick up even complex skills and knowledge, especially in an actively evolving digital environment. With regard to the course itself, I was one of two people in my year nominated by our course leader to complete an extracurricular IDM certificate in digital marketing, which was a nice end to the semester.

What tips would you give to new starters?

Don’t be afraid to jump in at the deep end! It may seem like a daunting prospect at first, but applying your theoretical knowledge to real projects is one of the best ways to test your skills, find your strengths, and scope out weak points for improvement.

Learn more about what other ARU apprentices say

Callum Marshall – Level 6 Digital Marketer Degree Apprenticeship BSc (Hons), Anglia Ruskin University

Tell us a little bit about yourself

I’m Callum. I’ve been a part of the GLO team since November 2020 and started my degree apprenticeship in January this year. My background has revolved around customer service and sales, during which I did some management training. This got me curious about my direction; I’m good at delivering a service once people are through the figurative door, so I figured the ‘next layer of business’ to get involved in was to help to get people through the door instead. The future is digital, so naturally, a career in digital marketing appealed massively!

What do you do on the GLO team?

My day-to-day duties revolve around SEO and PPC ad campaigns. Some days I may be auditing and improving the on-page/off-page SEO of our clients’ websites, others I may be setting up, managing, and improving PPC campaigns on Google Ads. These are very keyword research intensive, so alongside these, I also contribute to the keyword research for new websites being designed and assist the content team with their keyword research. I also deliver expertly timed one-liners where necessary.

What has been the highlight of your apprenticeship training so far?

The overall highlight of the last few months definitely has to be the constant learning of new skills. Digital marketing is such a dynamic, changeable field with a broad scope of disciplines under the umbrella so you can’t be complacent at any stage. If you want to engage your brain while helping businesses succeed, this is the field for you!

What tips would you give to new starters?

  1. Ask loads of questions so you can understand the why as well as the how. It really helps!
  2. Practise makes perfect with every area. The more you do it, the better you’ll get.
  3. Read around the topic. There is always something new to learn, and sometimes you may uncover something that nobody in the organisation will have heard of that could have some positive implications for us and our clients. Everybody wins!

Learn more about Callum’s Apprenticeship Programme.

Kat Haladus – Level 6 Marketing Manager Apprenticeship, Cambridge Marketing College

Tell us a little bit about yourself

I’ve started my apprenticeship training with GLO and the Cambridge Marketing College in January this year. Prior to enrolling on this programme, I’ve worked in the digital marketing industry as a freelancer, and despite having a degree in International Business with modules in Marketing, I’ve always felt like I could do with a more solid theoretical foundation when it comes to developing targeted marketing strategies. I felt this course and the on-the-job training I would receive through GLO’s Apprenticeship Programme would help me to fill those gaps!

What do you do on the GLO team?

I am responsible for GLO’s content marketing strategy. This involves maintaining our social media presence and adding regular long-format content to the website. My job is to craft an online marketing strategy for GLO that helps us to gain online authority as an expert in the digital marketing industry. Since the company is quite young, sometimes we all need to wear different hats and do different things. Having had experience as a project manager on web and mobile app development projects, I contribute to keeping our projects run smoothly, which allows me to be involved with the client work, too.

What has been the highlight of your apprenticeship training so far?

What stood out to me so far during my apprenticeship training have been the ‘lightbulb’ moments where I notice how I can apply the theoretical knowledge I’ve been learning about to everyday situations, whether that’s while working on GLO’s marketing strategy or contributing to team discussions regarding a client project. Noticing how parts of the framework play out in real life helps to make more confident decisions as I am more capable of analysing the bigger picture.

What tips would you give to new starters?

Voice your opinion! Just because something has always been done a certain way doesn’t mean it’s the most effective way. You’re coming in with a fresh perspective on everything the company does and your contribution may be more valuable than you think. And even if sometimes it turns out there are reasons not to apply your ideas, it’s still a great way to learn more about the company or the project you’re working on, and show your employer your engagement.

Learn more about Kat’s Apprenticeship Programme.

GLO’s academic partner institutions

Between the three apprentices that have joined the digital marketing agency, GLO partnered up with two higher education institutions – Anglia Ruskin University and Cambridge Marketing College.

Both partners offer courses that not only allow the apprentices to gain a Level 6 qualification, which is equivalent to a bachelor’s degree but also opens doors to further prestigious accreditations such as the Chartered Institute of Marketing certification.

GLO’s apprentices benefit from blended learning, which is being delivered online by highly-experienced tutors, many of whom worked in the marketing industry itself prior to moving into academia. This is advantageous to the apprentices as they’re learning from those who are able to bring in the theoretical knowledge and frameworks, as well as real-life examples.

The future of the Apprenticeship Programmes

When the coronavirus pandemic hit the UK in March 2020 those who were at the time ready to enter employment found themselves in a difficult position. The job market suddenly shrunk, and the government was faced with the issue of managing an imbalance in the supply and demand of people looking for work and jobs available to them. Hundreds of graduates and school leavers were raring to begin paid work but there were not enough jobs to accommodate them all. 

The turbulence that the pandemic brought made the apprenticeship programme particularly vulnerable. A survey carried out back in 2020, in the midst of the pandemic, revealed that out of the firms who were running an apprenticeship programme at the time, on average, only 40% of those programmes were able to carry on as normal, with the rest facing learning disruptions. This raised fears that after the crisis, there would be fewer apprenticeships on offer and fewer businesses willing to provide them.

To simultaneously support businesses in the creation of new workplaces, and job seekers in successfully securing a paid position, as part of its March 2021 budget, the government announced that it is upping the support by injecting a further £126 million to enable 40,000 traineeships and doubling the employer incentives. This comes after £1.6 billion stimuli dedicated to boosting work search, skills and apprenticeships, which was revealed back in July 2020.

With this additional government funding, the future of Apprenticeship Programmes feels a lot more secure and enables more individuals to train in the field they’d like to work in. It equally incentivizes more businesses to employ eager apprentices who bring a fresh outlook and new ideas.

How to apply for GLO’s Apprenticeship Programmes?

Generate Leads Online advertise their apprenticeship positions on Indeed and LinkedIn. The application process varies depending on the level and type of apprenticeship programme it is. Their 4-year Digital Marketing Degree apprenticeships required candidates to record verbal answers prior to having an interview. Other courses required applicants to only submit a CV and a cover letter in order to potentially be shortlisted for an interview. Depending on the role, the digital marketing agency has in the past also given shortlisted applicants a test project to complete before a specified deadline.

The application process is always clearly laid out in the job advertisement and will be reiterated to you in any further communication.

Some of the things GLO normally looks for in their apprentices include:

  • Willingness to learn continuously
  • Ability to work autonomously and in collaboration with other team members
  • Confidence to ask questions and ask for help when needed
  • Determination to put your 100% in and produce work of the highest standard possible
  • Eagerness to contribute and take ownership of your tasks

For more information about the different Apprenticeship Programmes available, visit the Further Education and Skills page on the government website. And if you believe your future is in digital marketing, head to GLO’s website to learn about the current digital marketing apprenticeships!

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