Women in PR: Molly Dowling and her journey up the PR ladder
At just 17, Molly Dowling has recently celebrated her first exciting year at Bristol based public relations agency, Purplefish. It has certainly been a busy first year. Despite being younger than most people in her position, Molly has achieved more than most 20-something university graduates already; having been promoted from social media and digital marketing apprentice, to junior account executive then to account executive in only twelve months.
“My new role is definitely a step up. I have been taken on as an Account Executive following my social media and digital marketing apprenticeship. It involves more client contact, more meetings and having more responsibility over client work. I have also taken on some admin work such as doing the timesheets at the end of every month and doing monthly presentations to show our clients what we have achieved over the previous months. I am really excited because there is so much more for me to learn over the next year.”
Molly believes that apprenticeships are an excellent alternative to those who want to further their education without necessarily going on to university. On top of her hectic work schedule, Molly also made it as a finalist in the Bristol Post’s Outstanding Apprentice of the Year awards this year. Molly has a great deal of advice she’d give to other people who are in the position she was this time one year ago…
“I would definitely encourage school leavers to do an apprenticeship because you can train on the same level as students doing A-Levels at college and foundation degrees at University, whilst doing a job that you love. You are being trained and earning an income at the same time. After an apprenticeship, the individual can be kept on which means that they are in full time work after completing the course.”
Thousands of young people are now completing apprenticeships instead of going to university in the UK, according to the department for Business, Innovation and Skills. Figures for 2014/2015 show that more than 872,000 people were employed by government-funded apprenticeship schemes over the year, up from 851,000 from the previous year. Five years ago there were less than half a million people doing apprenticeships a year.
Molly’s choice to enter the seemingly glamorous world of public relations through an apprentice scheme came partly through her love of IT during her school years. “I knew I wanted to go into something involving IT as it was one of my favourite subjects that I really excelled in during school. However, I didn’t want to be an IT engineer which was the only option I knew about at the time! I love PR because it’s so creative, fun and I learn different things each day”.
However, apprenticeships are often not as encouraged on school leavers as university degrees as Molly found in her own experience; “When I was at school, we were always told that sixth form and University was the only pathway, so I didn’t know much about apprenticeships. When I attended sixth form, studying ICT, English Literature and Language and Law, I soon realised it wasn’t for me. I wanted to be hands on doing work and earning money. When I looked into other options, I came across apprenticeships in PR and that’s when I realised an apprenticeship was the right pathway for me.” However, this lack of encouragement is surprising as studies have shown that graduates are statistically expected to earn less than those completing an apprenticeship, as Education Editor at The Guardian Graeme Paton has explained in the past.
Although things could be changing in the UK, as the government are aiming to enroll three million people on apprenticeships by the year 2020. It estimates that for every £1 invested in apprenticeships, the economy receives a return of between £26 and £28. This positive focus around apprenticeships hopes to change the stereotype that this is a less valuable option, as research is proving it can be much more financially viable. All apprentices get paid a wage, so earning while you learn can be a huge selling point to school leavers. The current Apprentice National Minimum Wage is £2.73 per hour (as of 1st October 2014) and applies to all 16 to 18 year olds and those aged 19+ in their first year of their apprenticeship. Having completed the first year of an apprenticeship, if you are aged 19+ you’re also entitled to the National Minimum Wage rate appropriate to your age. This is £5.03 for 18-20 year olds (as of 1st October 2013), and £6.31 for workers aged 21 or over.
All apprentices work a minimum of 30 hours a week and no more than 40 hours per week, which can be useful to those who want to get to know how it feels to work full time hours before they enter the career of their choice.
Different to choosing a university degree which costs on average £9000 per year as of 2014, the National Apprenticeship Service (NAS) pays the costs of your apprenticeship training depending on your age. If you are aged 16-18, NAS contributes up to 100% of the cost of your training. If you are aged 19-24, NAS contributes up to 50% of the cost of your training.
Aside from her busy job day-to-day, Molly was also nominated for Outstanding Young Apprentice of the Year and made it to the finals. (7.) “Being a finalist for the Outstanding Apprentice of the Year awards with Bristol Post was amazing. I had only been at the company for just over 6 months and felt like what I had achieved had paid off. I was so proud that my work had been recognised.”
However, all the success hasn’t rushed to her head. She explained that she’s keen to keep working as hard as possible at Purplefish to climb her way up the PR ladder and learn new skills along the way. She’d like to progress onto an account manager role, and aspires to start her own PR firm one day in the future.