Terry talks college apprenticeships, his communications career taking off and big life changes
Life has changed a lot for Terry. At not far off 24 our former Sandwell College apprentice has already packed so much into his early career. After a big move to Birmingham, he is now enjoying new opportunities in local and regional government at the West Midlands Combined Authority. We caught up with Terry for a catch-up on his future ambitions, how it felt to leave college, which had become like a family to him, and how life has changed since.
You joined Sandwell College at a very young age. Why did you want to become an apprentice?
Due to personal circumstances, I needed to get into employment and start a career. My dad had passed away and I wanted to support my mom financially. I applied for multiple apprenticeships but it was Sandwell’s Angela Tombs, who was Head of Creative Arts at the time, who gave me my chance. I have always been passionate about the Creative Industries and have been exploring different ways to express my creativity since I was a child.
I worked for the Sandwell College group for 5 years, and my apprenticeship as an Art Technician gave me the chance to start my career within Creative Industries and this quickly developed into external engagement, events, marketing and communications.
So how did you get from Art to Local Government? Were you intimidated by changing industry or did you just take it in your stride?
Whilst working for the college group it allowed me to get more involved in the public sector aspect and ignited something inside. I have always been passionate about local government and politics, and have been exploring ways to get involved since I was a young adult.
I have always been a proactive communicator, never afraid to take the initiative to reach out to people and ask questions. I am always eager to learn new things and take on new challenges, and I feel confident in my ability to quickly pick up and understand new concepts.
Were you proactive in developing and advancing your skills once you’d completed your apprenticeship qualification?
Yes, absolutely. The opportunity to gain free Chartered Management Institute qualifications presented itself and I snapped it up. These were delivered by Sandwell College and funded by the WMCA, so it was a win-win all round. I combined coursework, professional experience and research, and this experience boosted my managerial CV. Whilst working full-time I also completed other qualifications such as Project Management, Professional Consulting, Teaching and Learning, and a marketing qualification. Even to this day my learning has not stopped; I’m now studying towards a Level 7 Crisis Communications Qualification!
Do you still keep in touch with people at college who started you on your path? How do you feel your experience as an apprentice helped your professional growth and contributed to your career journey?
I built up many relationships during my time at the college, and some of these have turned into life-long friendships. I still socialise and have regular catch-ups with past colleagues, and some of my work at the WMCA still requires me to work closely with Sandwell College, so my professional relationships are still growing there.
What do you do now?
Since leaving Sandwell College I have worked for West Midlands Combined Authority (WMCA), based in Birmingham. I initially joined on a six-month contract, but soon had the opportunity to go permanent just before Birmingham 2022 Commonwealth Games, and work on Digital Strategy, Crisis Communications, Social Media Communications and Digital Marketing for the Productivity and Skills and Transport for West Midlands departments. I also work closely with the Mayor of the West Midlands’ team. There have already been so many great things I’ve worked on during my time there, and some of the key ones are:
So what exactly does your role involve?
Basically, working with external and internal stakeholders to deliver compelling digital communications content. It’s my job to raise people’s awareness of the work of the West Midlands Combined Authority by delivering cost-effective, digital content which supports the business priorities of the WMCA and Mayor of the West Midlands. This means establishing WMCA as a recognised and trusted brand for the citizens of the West Midlands.
Last year I was Communications Lead for Transport for West Midlands at a majorly exciting time for the city of Birmingham – the 2022 Commonwealth Games – and I think the way I rose to this challenge really helped my career take off.
What do you think makes you good at your job?
I am a persuasive and logical thinker, able to present ideas to others in an organised and convincing manner. I am also a great listener, able to take in and process information quickly. I am passionate about finding solutions to problems and working together with others to create positive change. I think my communication skills, enthusiasm and willingness to learn make me stand out from the crowd. My ability to create enduring relationships at work and being approachable are key skills, which for me, will always help you to succeed.
What do you like most about your job?
I thrive on Crisis Communications and stressful situations. I’m incredibly used to working under pressure to turn successful projects around in a cost-effective and productive manner. Working under pressure during the pandemic gave me the chance for these skills to shine through when I created a virtual platform for the college to deliver open days and events online with the ability to track KPIs. At the WMCA this is no different. The large amount of work we do for the West Midlands, including Housing, Economic Delivery, Skills and Net-Zero to name a few are the reason I go to work every day, because every day is different.
So what’s coming up for you next? Are you excited about what potentially could come next?
I am always eager to take the next step in my career and I am confident that my experience and knowledge will be an invaluable asset in any future role I take on. The future of the WMCA is that we are growing, and my time there will be spent ensuring that we continue our stance which is to “build a better connected, more prosperous, fairer, greener and healthier West Midlands”.
Is your focus mainly on politics now? Are you still open to creative roles?
Although my job title no longer contains ‘Creative’ this does not mean that my role isn’t – communications and marketing require a creative person.
Do you have any ideal roles you’d like to take on? Is there anyone who particularly stands out for you and inspires you as a role model?
I would like to keep developing my career, learning and ‘going up the ladder’ over the coming years. I won’t stop until I achieve where I want to be and now the ‘sky is the limit’.
My role model would be Catherine (Director of Marketing) at Sandwell College group. She saw my potential when she started and believed that I would deliver great things for the growth of the group and encouraged me to prosper into the career I’m in now.
What are you hoping to achieve in the future?
I will keep delivering for the West Midlands and I will hopefully one day be working for Central Government or a Political Party.
If you’re inspired by Terry’s story and want to find out more about creative or business apprenticeships, get in touch and we’ll help you take the next step.