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Izabela 1

A new life begins at 40 for Izabela after completing her Business Administration apprenticeship

According to the old adage, life begins at 40 and, having reached that landmark age, Izabela Bogusiewicz is hoping her York College apprenticeship can prove the first step towards a £100,000-a-year accountancy career!

Izabela started her new full-time role as a Finance and Business Support Administrator last month at SASH after completing her Level 3 Business Administration Apprenticeship with the York-based homeless charity.

Having moved to the UK from Poland, where she had been educated to Master’s degree standard and employed at senior management level, Izabela had to restart her academic journey in this country, sitting her Maths and English GCSE exams at York College.

She then kept checking the College website for Business Administration apprenticeship opportunities, having been attracted to a pathway that would enable her to become more qualified while paid at the same time with the prospect of a job on completion.

Having successfully applied for the SASH vacancy, her work in the office and attitude to learning on Campus was then recognised at our annual REACH Awards last summer when she was presented with the Apprentice Contribution to College Life/Community prize.

She impressed so much at SASH that she was trusted with added responsibilities including helping the finance department, which has led to her new job title and a plan to combine her work commitments with eventually studying for her AAT Accountancy qualifications, proving how apprenticeships offer a great platform to showcase your all-round talents in a workplace.

“I learned quite a variety of skills during my apprenticeship, including more about English law, such as Health & Safety and GDPR and how it’s always changing,” Izabela pointed out. “I was also responsible for all the paperwork relating to the hosts who offer spare rooms to the young homeless people, which included doing Local Authority and DBS checks and setting up training on Zoom.

“I was monitoring the database as well and was responsible for simple things relating to our staff like getting birthday cards, which I’d also send out to our hosts. I did minutes and booked venues, too, and I was given a variety of new tasks from all the managers on a week-to-week basis.

“I also learned more about finance and the apprenticeship pushed me in that direction. I was encouraged to do it and I definitely enjoyed it.

“I asked for finance to be included in my new job title and Lucy Wilson, the finance manager, is now my line manager. She is training me to do Sage and accounting to learn the basics so it will prepare me to go on a proper accounting course to build my future career and, in ten years’ time (she added with a laugh), I’d like to be a chartered accountant earning £100,000 a year.

“The apprenticeship has opened many doors for me and allowed me to develop in different ways. I’ve also learned so many different things working for a small company, whereas when you work for a big company, you can sometimes find yourselves only attached to one thing.”

Izabela will assume responsibility for the health and safety of staff, the ordering of stock and dealing with suppliers in her new role, while working permanently for SASH is also giving her immense job satisfaction.

“I’ve never worked for a charity before and it always appealed to me, because I wanted to do something special and to help someone,” she explained. “I didn’t have a lot of spare time to work as a volunteer so I thought, if I start working for a charity, that can be the way I help people.

“I know my job is an admin role, so I don’t help them directly, but I can get involved in fundraising and I’m still part of the team that helps these young people, which matters to me. I have met lots of wonderful people who are committed to the job.

“When you see them dealing with young people, you can see they actually care. They really try to help them and I think that’s amazing.

“Maybe, they’re not changing the world, but they are changing their local environment and it might be as many as 20 people whose lives they are changing for the better.”

Izabela’s apprenticeship saw her combine one day a week in College with four working for SASH.

On Campus, she was in the minority as a mature student, but felt welcome and supported from day one, as she juggled childcare responsibilities for her nine-year-old son.

SASH were similarly flexible regarding remote working when needed, with Izabela adding: “At first, I felt a bit strange on the course because there was a lot of young apprentices, but you need to be brave because you can start your new career at any age and York College makes you feel welcome. I could always ask my tutor Stella Franks for any additional help – she has so much knowledge and was amazing for me.

“Sometimes, I’ve also noticed that employers actually value you more when you’re older, because you have more life experience and you might be calmer and perhaps respect a job more because, at my age, you want to find a good job and employer.”

Izabela goes on to stress that she also found a great education provider in York College, who she credits with helping her climb back up the academic and career ladder following her move to these shores.

“I have a Master’s degree and a post-graduation qualification from Poland but they are not recognised over here, so I had to start from the beginning again when I came to England,” she said. “I worked in shops like Primark and Tesco.

“In Poland, I had managed travel agencies and been responsible for training. My degrees were in Politics and Management with Negotiation, but I had to do my GCSEs here first.

“When you’ve passed your GSCEs, though, there are so many options at York College to choose from. If you can find the right apprenticeship for you - and there’s such a wide range - you will get all the support you need from College and it can give you a job and a qualification.

“If you are my age and you have a family, getting into debt to do another qualification isn’t really an option. I’ve never been on benefits, and you need to be able to pay your bills.

“If you find a really good employer, they might pay you more than the minimum as well, which I had at SASH. They gave me a pay rise every couple of months.

“It’s great to be able to study in College and also get that really important experience. I think employers will always look at what experience you have even if you have the highest grade from whatever university.”

SASH Finance Manager Lucy Wilson admitted she is delighted to now have Izabela as a full-time member of her team and believes she is capable of going right to the top of the profession.

“Izabela was really keen and always ahead of her studies as an apprentice and I am so pleased to have her permanently on the team now,” Lucy declared. “She is always enthusiastic and quite tenacious so, although Izabela was working in admin on the hosting side of things mainly during her apprenticeship, I knew she also had a really good attention to detail and they are all qualities I need in finance.

“She is very self-motivated and always looking for opportunities to learn more. The finance role she has now with SASH after a bit of an internal reorganisation is quite varied, so she’s not just looking at a tiny segment - she is getting to see how it all fits together.

“Because it’s a new role, she can make it her own to an extent and go as far as she wants really, because I’m more than happy to keep giving her responsibility, while still offering the support she needs. She’ll probably outgrow SASH, pick up the skills she needs and do a professional qualification off the back of that.

“She’ll maybe go into chartered accountancy and I’d be so happy it that happens, because I’d get the benefit of her help and skills and it’s lovely and rewarding to see somebody grow. It’s mutually beneficial and, who knows, if Izabela moves on and does really well, she could come back and serve on our Board of Trustees as our treasurer. It really could come that full circle.”

Lucy added that Izabela’s story highlights how an apprenticeship can provide the platform for occupational growth in a variety of areas while providing companies with a real insight into that person’s potential.

“When you’re an apprentice, you’re in an organisation and you can see how all the different departments function,” Lucy reasoned. “You might end up following a pathway you had never considered before because you find it interesting.

“As an employer, if Izabela had come in for an interview cold for a finance role, I’d have probably thought, ‘Well, she’s not got any bookkeeping experience’ and she’d have probably scored pretty lowly but, because of the apprenticeship, I have now seen her strengths and skillset, including her ability to learn and pick things up quickly.”

To learn more about our Business Administration Apprenticeship Level 3 course, please click here

For a list of our current apprenticeship vacancies, please click here

For more general information on apprenticeships, please click here

To learn more about SASH, please click here