I began my apprenticeship in customer service not long after starting a new role as a library assistant in March 2019. The library assistant job is completely different to my previous roles so I had to learn it pretty much from the very beginning. In my previous role my job was to assist patients. Switching to the library meant that now was to help staff. Around two months after starting my new role, I was offered the opportunity to do an apprenticeship. The objective of the apprenticeship was to get me to a point where I could perform my role with confidence and accuracy.

Getting started on my apprenticeship was a quick and easy process which was mostly sorted out by my manager, Organisational Development and my training provider, Prospect Training. I had a meeting involving myself, my manager, and Prospect to discuss which NVQ would be most suited to my role, and what we hoped to achieve with the apprenticeship. At the time I felt that the meeting covered everything it need to, however in hindsight it wasn’t very clear what the training provider was going to provide. I think a more official timetable with meetings, and observations planned out from the beginning would have worked better and provided more structure.

Issues outside of my control meant that I ended up with three different learning tutors throughout my apprenticeship which was a bit disruptive; however I made the best of this and was able to use the knowledge, skills and behaviours framework I had been given to work independently when necessary to ensure that I didn’t fall behind with my work.

My apprenticeship contained eighteen different modules covering the whole spectrum of customer service. The wide variety of modules helped to keep the apprenticeship interesting.

The personal development module was the part of my apprenticeship that I enjoyed the most, and gained the most from. This module was interesting as it allowed me to analyse my strengths and weaknesses, learn more about myself, and my personality type in relation to models of psychology, and to adapt to working in a much smaller team than I had previously been used to. Reflecting on all of this allowed me to identify how to consolidate my strengths, and how to improve on my weaknesses. One of the weaknesses I identified was with my organisational skills. This led to me introducing a notepad to my daily routine, which allowed me to plan out and prioritise my work more effectively and to record any important messages that I needed to relay to my colleagues.
I also found the product knowledge module really useful as it allowed me to learn about our products and services in detail. I was able to apply that knowledge to my role to write blog posts about both BMJ Best Practice and NHS Core Content. I was then able to share these blog posts on our social media page to reach not only our customers, but also our colleagues in the wider library network.

The reflective journal aspect of my apprenticeship was extremely useful as it allowed me to identify what I was doing well, and what needed to improve. With each reflection I was able to see improvements gradually being made as I became more experienced in my role. The reflections weren’t always positive, but I made sure I learned from each one, and established how I could improve each time. For example, I was able to use my reflections to identify that I could change the order in which I spoke about products and services. Changing that order allowed my interactions with customers to become more coherent.

As part of my apprenticeship, my manager organised some shadowing opportunities for me which I really enjoyed. This included a day working with the Medical Education reception team, and a day shadowing at the NHS library at Leeds General Infirmary. I found both shadowing experiences useful as they allowed me to see how other professional environments approach customer service, and to see different styles in practice.

In the end my apprenticeship was successful in helping me gain the skills and experience required to do my job to a high standard, and my confidence has increased as a result of it.

Gavin Grainger
Library Assistant
The NHS Staff Library
The Mid Yorkshire Hospitals NHS Trust