As we celebrate National Apprenticeship Week, we caught up with our three Apprentice Rising Stars and asked them to talk us through how a typical day looks for them.
Joel Matthewman, Thomas Cook, Wombwell
8.30am: Our manager Sarah talks us through our daily and weekly targets, allocates duties and goes through any new campaigns and how we communicate those to our customers.
9am: The shop opens and we have different responsibilities. We are all dual-skilled, so on some days I’ll be responsible for opening up the foreign exchange. Otherwise I’ll go through my emails and deal with any outstanding queries and invoices. We’ll also check our social media accounts. Our shop has 2,000 likes on our Facebook page so it’s a really important way to communicate with our customers. During the morning I’ll be dealing with enquiries from customers.
Sarah will greet them and pass them on to whoever’s available. I deal with different queries, but I have a strong knowledge of our branded hotel product, so I’m confident dealing with those. We have brochure racks, particularly for specialist areas such as cruise and ski, and I find that a lot of customers still like to have something to look through and take away.
1/2pm: After lunch I work on training and development for an hour. I’ll go onto Thomas Cook Academy online to check what tasks my assessor has set me, and I’ll then complete those and send them back to be reviewed. My learning and assessment is really varied – on some days I’ll be doing geography modules, and on others I’ll be doing e-learning on sectors and products or English or maths. The training is really flexible: we had lots of ski enquiries at the start of the year, so my assessor sorted out modules to help me build my understanding of the product.
PM: After my training, I’ll go back to my desk and catch up with ongoing queries and emails. I’ll also post deals on social media, which I really enjoy as you get lots of immediate response.
4pm: If I’m working on the banking side, I’ll make sure the numbers are correct and all the transactions are compliant, and we’ll make sure all the urgent conversations are dealt with. At the end of the day we make sure everything is tidy and the VCC (virtual call centre) system, which allows us to field calls from online queries, is turned off, and that’s the end of the day!
Natalie Economides, Flight Centre, Richmond
8.30am: Our morning meetings cover a range of topics and give us an opportunity to discuss any requirements or ongoing bookings in an open conversation. On a Friday we usually have a visit from a supplier – recently we’ve heard from Virgin Atlantic, Etihad, Insight Vacations and G Adventures.
9am: I check my emails, particularly for anything urgent. If any of my customers have had to call our emergency assistance line, I’ll be informed and I make sure I also get in touch personally. I also deal with enquiries and extra requests from customers. Earlier this year I arranged for a vintage Porsche to be provided to a customer in Thailand for the day so she could surprise her partner on Valentine’s Day, so we get some really varied requests. The morning is also a good time for me to have ‘buddy time’ with my manager. I’m lucky to be able to ask whenever I have a question, but at least three times a week we have official meetings to go over targets and highlight any issues that need working on. During the morning, I’ll deal with phone, web and walk-in enquiries, and I feel the training I’ve received so far has really given me the confidence to develop my own enquiries and customers on my own.
PM: After lunch is a good time to take half an hour to work on my training, and ideally I like to log on to our Compass online coaching on a daily basis to make sure I meet my monthly targets. The training is really varied, from systems like Amadeus through to destinations, customer service and opportunities for progression beyond my apprenticeship. I can ask any of my support coaches for help if I need it, but the online coaching is really helpful.
5.30pm: Our store opens until 7pm, so those of us working on the 8.30am-5.30pm shift tend to take a step backwards as the day progresses to allow staff on the later shift to take the new enquiries. This gives us time to make sure we’ve dealt with anything pressing, and also make sure we leave a full handover if we’re not going to be in the following day. I’m really enjoying building up my knowledge and feel I have the confidence to deal with queries and put together itineraries on my own. During the peak period I had enquiries for everything from Peru to Borneo.
Kimberley Steer, Skybreak, Gatwick
12.45pm: We have two shifts, running from 7am-3pm and 1pm-9pm. The late shift tends to be slightly busier, but I always try to make sure I’m in 15 minutes before I’m due to start.
1pm: On a late shift, I have a two-hour crossover with the early team, so I’ll initially be shadowing the other apprentice, and also getting a handover. We work on behalf of a number of airlines, so we might be dealing with cancelled flights, any forecast delays or disruption expected later in the day, and passengers who may need special assistance. We’ll receive calls from the ground handlers to alert us to any issues, and we check Twitter and email for notice of delays. I aim to do two hours of training a day, so the crossover period is a good time to do that. We have a mentor from an external training company who sets us assignments for each month, and we also have training on specific parts of our job – recently I’ve done training on our lost property systems and how to deal with customers with dementia. If I have any issues I can speak to my mentor on my team, my team leader or internal Skybreak trainer. When I’m on the desk, I check manifests for the operators we represent, and communicate with airlines and operators to advise of any no-shows. At the moment apprentices don’t have airside passes, but that is changing so we’ll be able to escort any late passengers to ensure they reach the gate quickly.
5pm: In the later part of the shift, we’ll continue with our morning duties and I help process excess baggage and make hotel and transport bookings for customers who need to rearrange their travel plans. The apprentices also have some responsibilities, which we focus on at this time. The first is processing lost property for Norwegian, so we’ll receive items left on the aircraft and aim to match those with passengers who have reported lost property. The second is balancing payments for Norwegian, which involves cross-checking the payments we’ve taken against a spreadsheet provided each day.
9pm: If we’re on the early shift we can do a personal handover, but if we’re on a late shift we will send an email for the morning.
Apprenticeships in Focus
Travel Weekly’s Apprentice Rising Stars initiative forms part of our 2017-18 Apprenticeships in Focus series, run in association with headline sponsor Virgin Holidays.
The series has featured advice for companies taking on apprentices and those paying the apprenticeship levy, introduced in April 2017, and also included a special Travel Weekly Business Breakfast, where industry leaders discussed the changes and how they would be implemented.
To read previous features in the Apprenticeships in Focus series, head to go.travelweekly.co.uk/apprenticeships