About you

Tell us a little about yourself.

I left school at the age of 16 with the intention of working for a year and then returning to further education. I found an opportunity to join a ‘School Leaver Programme’ at energy company SSE – and I’m still there 14 years later! I initially worked in IT before moving into the company’s Corporate Communications function, where I’ve undertaken a number of digitally-focused jobs, before working my way into the role of Digital Communications Manager.

Why did you choose to study a Graduate Apprenticeship (GA) at QMU, and what attracted you to the course?

I was first made aware of the programme by a colleague. Revisiting further education was always in my plan. The Graduate Apprenticeship opportunity – combined with the fresh perspective I’ve got on things thanks to coronavirus – encouraged me to go for it.

The Course

What have you most enjoyed about your course?

The feeling of learning and doing something good is great. In terms of highlights, passing all four assignments in the first semester was a real high point and started to convince me that I could do well with the course.

Has there been a particular course activity you found especially interesting? How have your lecturers supported your learning?

I really enjoyed working as part of a team in the Group Presentation assignment for the ‘Business in Society’ module. It gave me an excellent opportunity to collaborate and work in a different way – I think this was reflected in the end product, with my group doing especially well. The lecturers do a remarkable job and are incredibly helpful, despite the difficulty associated with the entire course taking place at a distance (for now!)

What have been some of your challenges with the course and university life? How have you overcome them?

Learning entirely at a distance has been challenging. The first day was on-campus – since then, I haven’t been able to get to QMU or speak with my classmates and lecturers. That has been the biggest challenge.

Any advice for students who might be interested in this course?

Do it! I’ve really enjoyed it, and I’m learning loads – QMU works closely with my employer to ensure that the coursework is relevant, so everything I’m learning can almost all be directly applied to my day-to-day working life. 

Enhancing student learning and personal development

How has the GA helped you in the workplace in terms of developing a career path? 

I’m only one year into the four-year course – but I’ve already learned a lot about the successful running of a big business – this will be critical as I aim to progress my career.

What University services have you used to support you through your university journey and how have they helped you?

I’ve sought the support of more experienced learners at QMU through the PALS (Peer Assisted Learning Sessions) initiative that is in place – this help has been invaluable. They are all ahead of me in the learning journey and can call upon their experience to help answer any questions I’ve had.

Life as a Student at QMU

What’s your ‘top tip’ for making the most of being a student on a GA programme?

Ask questions. A lot of information is thrown at you very quickly – take time to make sure you understand everything – it’s a cliché, but there are no wrong questions.

What has been the most valuable lesson that you’ve learned at university?

If you want something, you need to work for it! The assignments that I have undertaken so far have challenged me. They require a lot of hard work and studying – but the feeling when you pass is well worth it.

And finally...

What are your plans after graduation? Tell us about your ambitions and where you see yourself in the future?

Graduation feels quite far in the distance right now, but I hope to graduate with a strong degree and feel more equipped to seek progression in my career as a corporate communicator at SSE. 

"QMU works closely with my employer to ensure that the coursework is relevant, so everything I’m learning can almost all be directly applied to my day-to-day working life."
Thomas Nicoll, BA (Hons) Business Management (Graduate Apprenticeship)

[Published July 2021]