How Apprenticeships at Circularity First are Building Sustainable Skills for the Future

Apprenticeships have come a long way in recent years, with openings in more diverse fields, thoughtfully structured programmes, and closer employer involvement to ensure training reflects industry needs. They remain a great option for school leavers wanting to fast track their careers and, increasingly, present opportunities for those changing direction later in their professional development, with work-based learning that fits in around family and other responsibilities.

Circularity First has been lucky to bring on board two high-performing apprentices who entered the scheme from very different backgrounds. Manrai Rattan chose to pursue a rewarding, intentional route out of full-time further education, while Jinan Al-asady saw the programme as a worthwhile retraining opportunity after achieving remarkable academic success in another discipline. Both excelled in their placements and are ambitious to continue learning, growing, and adding value to Circularity First.

Manrai Rattan

After sitting his GCSEs, the thought of spending another two years at school held little appeal to Manrai, who prefers learning that is hands-on and engaging. Searching the government website, he found a Level 3 Digital Marketing apprenticeship at Tomax that looked like a great fit. Part of the Circularity First Group, the company’s core focus on sustainable IT solutions mirrored Manrai’s own resourceful practice of replacing components in his devices, rather than buying new.

Manrai’s course covered theoretical modules that he was able to directly employ within his placement. Aligning digital marketing models with Circularity First’s commitment to reducing its digital footprint has been a unique challenge that has meant striking a balance between boosting SEO and avoiding the use of unnecessary carbon-heavy assets, such as high-definition images. Manrai’s can-do attitude has shone in the customer-facing side of his placement. He enjoys being around people and is proactive at communicating across the whole company to absorb a broad range of information.

An apprenticeship throws you in and makes you explore all areas of the business you’re in. You get to keep one foot in education while earning money and gaining valuable experience. Having the opportunity to attend networking events like Digital City with your CEO is quite unusual at my age. My confidence has definitely grown.

~ Manrai Rattan, Digital Marketing Apprentice, Circularity First

Growing Confidence, Skills, and the Company

As someone who invented quotes to use in his English exams when he couldn’t recall the set texts – not fooling his teacher for a second – Manrai is a natural problem solver and a fun person to have in the workplace. He’s deeply appreciative of the mentorship ‪he has received from colleagues across the company’s UK, Denmark, and US offices, and is quick to namecheck many people who’ve supported his development ‘from a high school teenager to someone capable of working in a complex business’.

His closest teammate, E-Commerce Manager Bob Greaves, shares his devotion to Manchester United, although only one of them has a prized collection of club shirts hanging on his bedroom walls (it’s not Bob). Outside of work, Manrai is as self-motivated as he is in the office, with diverse hobbies ranging from five-a-side football, to breeding fish in his bedroom aquarium. Since reading the data behind the principle of extending the life of technology, he has started to look at remanufactured IT through a lens that’s not only concerned with saving money, but also the environment.

Manrai is a naturally inquisitive person who is accountable for his own development. Being career driven and a die-hard footy fan, it’s no surprise that his hero is Cristiano Ronaldo, someone he celebrates as ‘resilient, committed, and always first in training and last to leave’. With a similar mindset, he concludes his apprenticeship with a hard-earned distinction. Looking ahead to the next stage in his learning journey, he is a keen ambassador of the route he has taken.

I’ve never regretted a minute of it. Circularity First is a unique place to work – I’ve never felt like I have a manager on my back. You’re allowed to make mistakes and grow. Because we’re all learning all the time, it feels like somewhere I can have a big impact.

Jinan Al-asady

Jinan’s accountancy training with Circularity First takes a different but no less inspiring shape. She reached an impressive academic level before applying for her placement, remarkably beginning her Level 2 apprenticeship with a PhD to her name. Aware that it’s unusual to see someone with her credentials in a junior position most often associated with young people at the grassroots of their careers, Jinan is keen to break down stereotypes associated with apprenticeships and promote the advantages this route can bring anyone.

Jinan previously turned down a research role that did not feel sufficiently challenging, instead taking a career break to reassess her next stage and make up for lost time with her family after giving so much energy to her PhD. A year off gave her the space to contemplate an alternative path that would complement her love of numbers. An apprenticeship at Circularity First offered the flexibility to balance the demands of being a mother to two teenagers while applying herself fully to a new career – and having the freedom to play the odd game of badminton with her husband!

My friends told me I was crazy for going all the way back to the beginning, but I didn’t see it in that linear way. My husband was amazingly supportive and understood that my motivations were less about salary and more about personal growth and balance. I devoted four years to my PhD, completely engrossed in it. What I’m doing now allows me to give more time to my family and apply my knowledge in a practical way at work, which feels refreshing after so long in academia.

~ Jinan Al-asady, Accounting Apprentice, Circularity First


Embracing Lifelong Learning

From studying crossed squares and cat2-groups (absolutely no idea, sorry), to going back to basics, Jinan’s single frustration with the accounting programme was its pace. But despite feeling she might have completed a year’s worth of units in several months, she accepts that it’s about more than ticking off modules. The real benefit has been in developing as an employee and as someone who reflects the company and its values. Jinan finds herself educating friends who are considering buying new IT equipment, urging them to save resources and money by opting for planet-friendly authorised remanufactured products.

An apprentice with a doctorate in mathematical theory may seem incongruous, but Jinan is someone who values learning at every level. She remains inspired by her master’s supervisor, Professor Nasser, who despite holding a prestigious position always invited his students to teach him things he didn’t know. Jinan demonstrates this same humility in her approach to knowledge sharing.

Joining the team as a trainee working alongside experienced members of staff, Jinan at no point discerned a hierarchical culture at Circularity First, where there is a real sense of supporting one another’s success. Jinan is ambitious to make great strides in accountancy and be chartered in three years. Her advice to others? ‘Have the courage to retrain if your work is becoming stale and uninspiring. There is nothing worse than boredom’.


Celebrating Success

Circularity First are passionate supporters of non-linear career paths, recognising the value diverse experiences bring to an organisation. Manrai and Jinan are shining examples of apprenticeships as a gateway into fulfilling careers for those driven to apply their studies in a dynamic way. Everyone at Circularity First expects highly successful futures for them both.

Circularity First Limited

Lexicon House
Third Avenue
SK12 1YL

+44 (0)20 3988 8355

Circularity First LLP

1010 Winding Creek Road
STE 180
CA 95678

+1 (916) 246-6082

Circularity First Aps

Atletikvej 11C
9230 Svenstrup J

+45 (8987) 6244
Registered in England and Wales. Company number 13070956. Registered office: Circularity First Group Ltd, Ground Floor, Egerton House, 68 Baker Street, Weybridge, Surrey, United Kingdom, KT13 8AL
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