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Learner Spotlight – Library Assistant Feb 2021

Apprenticeships offer an opportunity to learn in a more practical way compared to classroom-based teaching. An apprenticeship provides on-the-job training and experience, and are paid roles, meaning you earn while you learn. At WAES we offer a wide range of apprenticeships in a variety of sectors including Business Administration, Childcare, Early Years Education, Customer Service and Outdoor Activity Instruction.

Ahead of the upcoming National Apprenticeship Week (8 – 14 February 2021) we caught up with Ruby Davidson-Leman, a WAES Learner on the Libraries, Information and Archives Assistant Apprenticeship Scheme.

Tell us about yourself – where are you working and what is your job role there?

“My name is Ruby, I’m 17 years old, I work at Surrey libraries as an apprentice for a Library Network Assistant position.”

When did you begin your apprenticeship and when is it due to finish?

“My apprenticeship started October 2020 and it’s going until March 2022. It’s 18 months.”

Why did you apply for the apprenticeship role and what attracted you to it?

“I’d always talked about wanting to go into a research-based career, I just really enjoy learning. The apprenticeship advertisement came up on my Facebook and I thought “this looks perfect”. The archiving sounded really interesting because you’re learning and I wanted to do an apprenticeship because I just love working. This linked to the career path that I was considering, and everything just fell together really. It just seemed perfect.”

Before you took on your apprenticeship, what were you doing?

“I was in full-time education and then I left for this [apprenticeship]. I am still doing my A Levels alongside which finish at the end of this academic year. I have a tutor in the evenings and I just kind of fit everything in!

“I had a BTEC in Health and Social Care Level 3, which I completed in the first year because I compressed it. Now I’m just doing my English Language A Level.”

What does your day to day look like in your apprenticeship role and what are your responsibilities?

“The whole of Surrey libraries has a 2030 community vision because they want to turn it into more of a community centre. Obviously with the pandemic we can’t have more people in than necessary and we can’t have all the big clubs they had before. It is a shame but there are still the fundamentals of a library and the circular thing where we have the books, we rotate them round, people read them – that it still a very prevalent part of my role. There are click and collect services and still the front-line responsibilities of people using the computers.

“It is that relationship building with people that come in all the time, especially with the lockdown. It’s really noticeable the people that need us, because it’s the same people every day and I think that’s really lovely that we do build those relationships on a more personal level.”

What has been your proudest achievement whilst undertaking the apprenticeship so far?

“My favourite moment with a customer was when a woman had come in and she was trying to access her Universal Credit. She had never had access to a computer and didn’t know what she was doing. I was faced with this struggle because I’m not allowed within two metres of her, and I felt quite helpless.

I took one of the keyboards and labelled all of the keys and I had drawn out the exact step-by-step of what she needed to do to get to the Universal Credit website. I really do think it did help her because she did manage to do it in the end. She was really, really, appreciative. I haven’t seen her since, but it made me feel really happy that I helped someone in that way and made that difference for that day.”

Did you know the apprenticeship would need that on your feet thinking and creativity before you took on the role?

“Working in a library really pushes you to have these innovative ideas and creative thinking. There are people that come in with really unique situations. We’re not obviously qualified to help, and that’s not really our job role, but you can sign post them to different places and have that ability for free-thinking to help.”

If you could give any advice to somebody else who was taking on this apprenticeship, what would your advice be?

“I think my advice would be that it is a lot harder than you might initially think. For the first week I was exhausted, I’d learnt so much, I was really overwhelmed! As I settled down, I made friends in the workplace and I began to understand everything. It’s not just shelving books and indexing or talking to customers, there are so many processes and it’s such an interconnected environment within Surrey.”

What do you aim to do when you have finished your apprenticeship?

“I want to go into research. I’m also very interested in politics. I think the fact that Surrey County Council are my overarching employer will really help towards that. I’m hoping to go into some sort of Government archiving service, or journalism. The qualification I get at the end of the apprenticeship is Level 3 Library and Information Archive Services, but also Level 3 Media and Communications within that, so I think that those qualifications would really help towards either of those career paths.”

You can watch the interview with Ruby here:

To find out more about the apprenticeships WAES offer, visit our Apprenticeships page.