Careers Hub News

3 March 2022

Gloucestershire apprentice taking giant career steps

Mark Edwards, St James’s Place Investment Accounting Assistant, is striding ahead since joining the company as an apprentice after leaving Newent Community School in 2020.

Mark Edwards, St James’s Place Investment Accounting Assistant, is striding ahead since joining the company as an apprentice after leaving Newent Community School in 2020.

The GFirst LEP Careers Hub has been keenly watching his progress from student to apprentice and now recently to a fully-fledged Investment Accounting Assistant at the Cirencester based company.

The Hub team first encountered Mark in 2019 during an enterprise competition organised by the Careers Hub and sponsored by SJP. He was part of a two-student team from Newent School who participated in the event and competed against larger teams from other schools, and eventually coming second at the inter-school final at SJP in Cirencester. Mark’s reduced team impressed the panel of judges which featured senior managers from across the business, and he showed a great deal of interest in the company asking for work experience on the day of the final. Mark says of the experience, “it was a competition organised by GFirst in partnership with SJP that opened my mind to the possibility of an apprenticeship. I spent the day planning a new business venture and managed to win our heat. This led me to the finals held at SJP head office and allowed me to meet my first connections in the industry. While unfortunately at the time I came runner up, this experience shaped the path I am now on in a greater way than I realised”.

Mark certainly made the most of all the opportunities put in front of him, and says; “The support I had from GFirst LEP and the careers team at Newent Sixth Form was vital in landing this opportunity”. Recalling his preparations for his application and assessment day he says, “My business teacher and head of sixth form supported in my application but it was the assessment centre I remember feeling most nervous for”. The Careers Hub team were fortunate to meet Mark again at a mock interview day organised by them for younger students in the school. Then in the sixth form, and using his own initiative he asked if he could attend one of the interview slots. Of the experience he says, “days before (the assessment session), I asked for advice and a mock interview with the GFirst team and they kindly offered their support”.  Fortuitously, an SJP staff member was one of the interviewers and the team arranged for him to have an impromptu discussion to discuss working for SJP which provided valuable insights.

Speaking now of his experiences as an apprentice, he shares this reflection with other young people thinking about following this route to employment, “it was here I learned of the value of an apprenticeship: a good salary, debt free, the opportunity for industry recognised qualifications and real hands-on experience with real industry experts. Now having experienced the reality, I can confirm I made the right choice for me and these benefits have shown that apprenticeship programmes by the year are becoming increasingly attractive”. Addressing prospective apprenticeship applicants at SJP and elsewhere, he offers this insight for young people starting out, “support and guidance is always available if you have the intuition and courage to ask for it. I would encourage students today to weigh up their options with an open mind – apprenticeship programmes have moved on from the past and the experience I have had with SJP has helped shape a promising career and has allowed me to take control of my future career decisions”

Of his career journey so far, Mark says, “there is no right or wrong decision when it comes to making what can seem a very difficult choice. I encourage students to take this into their own hands and consider with an open mind what the career landscape really looks like today”. He adds, “the real world is the greatest and sometimes hardest place to learn but these programmes have been designed to enable a smooth transition into the industry”

Supporting the development of quality Careers education programmes in Gloucestershire secondary schools and colleges is the core mission of the GFirst Careers Hub hosted by GFirst LEP and funded by the Careers and Enterprise Company. Speaking for the Careers Hub, Duncan Willoughby, Enterprise Coordinator, says: “We are very proud of Mark’s achievements, and he has illustrated just how important targeted careers support of young people is in helping them to progress into the world of work particularly through apprenticeships. Our local remit, working in conjunction with the Careers and Enterprise Company and a range of partner organisations working in employability and skills is to ensure that schools and colleges in the county are aware of and have access to high quality careers education experiences for their students to learn more about the world of work”

Latest News


Get updates about our upcoming events, our newest initiatives and the latest education, careers and skills news sent straight to your inbox – just enter your details to receive our monthly e-newsletter. 

Are you a …

" & _


  • The Careers & Enterprise Company
  • gfirst LEP