In what can only be described as a year like no other for those moving on to higher education, Toby Harris-Layne, who studied for an Extended Diploma in Business at City College, said he couldn’t be happier with the choices he has made since leaving school, and said he feels incredibly lucky to be in the position he is today.
As a first-year, degree-level apprentice studying supply chain management, Toby is gaining vital work experience in his job with Premier Foods, but will also get to study for a degree alongside his job – a position, he said, is largely down to the opportunities provided to him by City College.
“I don’t think I would be where I am today had I chosen another route,” Toby explained. “I am quite a practical person and my overall goal is to have a good, secure job, and I felt business was the best option as it can lead to a variety of career opportunities. I knew early on that I wanted to go on to do an Apprenticeship and my lecturers were amazingly supportive and would signpost me towards the different opportunities out there.”
When Toby first joined the College he knew very few people, with most of his school friends going on to sixth form, but he said that soon changed. Toby said: “I made friends very quickly – some of whom I believe will be friends for life. It’s a very relaxed and friendly place to study. You never feel pressured by the staff. I honestly can’t fault the staff: they are knowledgeable and insightful, but they are also really approachable – they are basically your cheerleaders and they fill you with such confidence.
“I loved that we got the opportunity to engage with work experience and start making connections with the world beyond education. The College really focuses on preparing you for your chosen career in everything they teach you. I also valued how the College approached assignments: it felt more like you were managing projects, which again is a useful skill for business.
“Had I followed a different path, I don’t know whether I would have had the confidence to go into the job I’m doing now, but the business skills I gained as a result of studying at the College have prepared me for this role – 100%.”
Raluca Birken, HR Business Partner (Learning & Development lead) at Premier Foods, said: “It was clear from the interview that Toby was a strong candidate, whose skills and knowledge were what we were looking for in a Supply Chain Apprentice. In addition, Toby’s desire to learn, his enthusiasm and energy, as well as his friendly approach with colleagues, will certainly see Toby progress well within the supply chain.”
Toby’s line manager, Richard Turner, planning manager at the Premier Foods factory in Ashford, added: “Throughout the interview process, Toby impressed me with his level of professionalism; straightaway, he was a strong candidate for the apprentice position. As we would be working with the successful candidate for several years, it was important to choose someone that would fit in well with the team, and Toby did just that.
“From the offset, with social distancing, we were thrown into unknown territory of shadowing someone whilst maintaining social distancing which created its own complication. Toby has not been phased by this and has been driven to succeed and assist where he can. This is a massive opportunity for Toby and the team, and I am looking forward to what the next few years will bring and watching Toby develop.”