Matthew Calfe is currently studying a customer service apprenticeship, and is working as a payments officer in the Global Transactional Processing Centre at the Foreign and Commonwealth Office. Here he tells us about his job, and how becoming an apprentice, after already being in the workplace for some time has benefitted his career.
“if you want to switch careers or you’re fresh out of school and don’t fancy the university route, an apprenticeship scheme can lead you into some fairly interesting work.
As a government department with over 274 posts in 170 countries worldwide, my workplace is somewhere you could describe as fairly interesting! Our chief goals are threefold: protecting British nationals overseas, projecting British interest in countries around the world to facilitate better international links, and promoting British businesses in these countries to help drive the economy.
The precise nature of what I do is something I cannot really discuss due to security restraints, but the job is varied, interesting and changeable. No day is ever the same as the last, and you end up dealing with some fairly interesting people and scenarios.
A typical working day for me starts at 8am – The FCO is fairly flexible about the hours you work, but I like arriving into the office early as it means I can get through the bulk of it before lunch, and then spend the afternoon clearing up the details of the more complicated post queries before leaving at 4pm. My morning is spent dealing with the posts of the FCO within Europe, for example speaking to the British Embassy in Paris. Sometimes this involves phoning the post up to discuss issues, but most of the time it involves corresponding through emails with Officers at post to help them manage their requests.
Without my role, British embassies and consulates across the globe could not operate, and so I feel a real sense of achievement and fulfilment in what I do, which is something not many jobs can offer you! The skills I’ve developed whilst in this role include paying very close attention to detail and maintaining accuracy, as well as engaging with customers which is very important in this line of work. My IT skills have also come on leaps and bounds, as we use a variety of software and different programmes to communicate and manage data.
During my lunch break I’ll meet up with the other apprentices on the same intake as me. We use this time to socialise, work on assignments we’ve been set by the College, and what our plans are for meeting up outside work.
Finishing lunch, I’ll go back to my desk and finish working on the issues that post have raised with me earlier in the day – usually everything will be completed within the day, but sometimes I’ll carry issues over which are really complicated or that have timed out due to the time zone differences between the office and the posts we deal with.
Would I recommend an apprenticeship scheme? Yes, I would. Through the apprenticeship scheme, I’ve gained access not only to some excellent training and development opportunities, but also the opportunity to visit the main offices of state as part of my professional development (and access to the Commons bar in Parliament!) It’s allowing me to retrain from a fairly boring career as a self-assessment and small business book-keeper into that of a civil servant assisting Diplomats, National Security practitioners and Consulate staff overseas to protect, project and promote British interests.”