George Flowers- Finance Apprentice
This is George, he joined our Finance Centre of Excellence in 2019 as Finance Apprentice. George tells us why he canned the traditional university route of learning, and why his Virgin apprenticeship is absolutely worth his daily commute.
Tell me about your journey into Virgin.
Whilst studying for my A ‘Levels I worked in retail. I did the usual and applied for University but knew that I wanted to take a gap year, to earn some money in preparation. It was only then when I started working full time and I got the taste of earning money- I had a re-think what plan B would be. I felt good about deciding not to go to Uni, I look now and most of my friends went as they were nervous about finding their feet feeling, that continuing their studies in that way was the only option. After a year I realised there are lots of different options.
Whilst working I got promoted quite quickly to supervisor and luckily got exposed to a new store project and got insight into retail sales strategy. I felt like I was understanding more how a business worked and enjoyed looking at the sales data. On the plus side I visited lots of my friends at Uni, so I still got to get a feel for student life.
I found the apprenticeship role on Virgin careers, when I read through the job profile it was interesting and felt right up my street. Application completed, I was invited for the telephone interview- my first serious interview. Feeling a little unsure and nervous of what to expect the call played out. I had loads of prompts (notes and research I’d done) to hand and it really helped having my phone on speaker so I could write things down or grab notes when needed.
Great news, I was invited to the Assessment centre and yet another first for me. It was such a great experience, I was made to feel at ease and felt that I was really judged on my values and work ethic not necessarily just my experience (or lack of it).
Tell me more about how you are finding the apprenticeship programme?
It’s so good. At the start we were offered, ACCA or CIMA, I decided to choose the ACCA route, but both are great qualifications. To achieve the levels, you need to have a certain amount of experience in each area, so you are placed in a team for around 6 months at a time to get the relevant exposure. My first 6 months, I spent in accounts payable for Virgin Holidays. It’s been a great experience, learning processes, dealing with suppliers and discrepancies. Since then I have joined the VAA accounts payable team for Marketing, which is really interesting. Getting into these departments is really helping me piece together the picture of the organisation.
In terms of the study, you record 20% study off the job training, this could include things like monthly meetings that expand our knowledge. We also complete essays focused on 12 skills and behaviours which is around 1200 words on each. There are only 3 exams in the first year and you have flexibility to stage it out- I’ve passed the first and am about to take my second. The provider also does progress reviews too to see how you are doing and what additional support you may or may not need.
The Finance team have given such an abundance of support- and that really feels to be the Virgin way. At the start we were designated buddies and mentors, buddies (for all the silly questions) and mentors (the serious person to help with work). We are a small team of apprentices, so we also have each other to lean on too.
Highlights so far!
In December my family (My parents and 2 brothers) travelled to NYC for Christmas using my staff travel, we were all lucky enough to be upgraded! It was such a good experience to share with my family- probably an experience we wouldn’t have necessarily done had I not worked at Virgin.
How would you describe the culture at VA/VHL?
My expectation of working in “an office” had been warped by too many films as the Virgin office is modern, open plan and the hot desking is great. Even though we sit in clusters of teams it’s nice that you don’t sit next to the same person every day. We have a degree of flexibility, I travel a fair distance so one day a week I get to work from home which helps balance work and study.
There are activities and fun things to do too. For example we organised a table tennis tournament during Wimbledon which brought some competitive entertainment. I’ve also applied for VA adventures, which is linked to the charitable work the company does. I’m hoping to join a team for a Caribbean sail, 9 days round the Virgin Islands, heading to schools and supporting with rebuilds after the hurricanes. The fact that Virgin has these initiatives is important to me.
Any message / encouragement to anyone contemplating joining or applying to work at VA/VHL?
If you’re motivated enough and feel like you could do well, get on an apply. If you see a list of requirements but you perhaps couldn’t do the whole list, apply anyway- as I mentioned earlier I felt judged on my work ethic and values in the assessment centre not necessarily the list of experience I had.