A Fareham business apprentice has thanked his bosses at Hampshire Chamber of Commerce for supporting his journey towards a first-class honours degree.
Membership executive Tom Colbeck, 22, who joined the Chamber nearly five years ago as a 17-year-old apprentice, has graduated from the University of Portsmouth with a BA Hons in Business Leadership and Management.
His first-class degree, the highest level a student can achieve, comes after three years of weekly day releases to university while working full-time for the Chamber.
“I really appreciate the opportunity I’ve had,” said Tom. “It’s a big commitment by an employer to enable an apprentice to spend every Thursday at university. That’s one day a week, all year and for three years. Ultimately, it’s all about the organisation seeing the value of an apprenticeship by having a more useful member of the team.”
Before he began at the Chamber, Tom had been doing A Levels at Barton Peveril College in Eastleigh. He opted for a vocational rather than academic route after sixth form.
As an apprentice, the Chamber put him through two years at Fareham College where he completed Levels 2 and 3 in Business Administration.
“The whole degree apprenticeship came up at Level 4,” said Tom. “As I had just done two years at college I was unsure as to whether I wanted to do a full university course but I’m glad I made the decision to embark on that journey. It was a big step up from college. That was a stepping stone but at university you quickly have to follow the academic way of doing things, referencing sources and so on, and get over any nerves about presenting and speaking in front of others. I started to find my way within a few months and got more confident as it went on.”
The degree apprenticeship, covering Levels 4, 5 and 6, focused on business disciplines such as accounting, finance, marketing, governance, ethics, sustainability and leading change.
Tom was one of seven degree apprentices attending the course from companies and organisations.
“We were a real mix and it was a great chance to share experiences and knowledge of different business cultures. I have really enjoyed it. Another benefit is that because the degree apprenticeship is mainly government funded you don’t leave with student debt hanging over you.”
As Chamber membership executive, Tom is involved in recruiting and retaining members, networking, connecting new members with other businesses, and attending and staging member events.
He is part of a three-strong team reporting to Membership Supervisor Coral Benham and working closely with Business Development Manager David Kemshall.
Hampshire Chamber Chief Executive Maureen Frost said:
“Congratulations to Tom on his first-class honours degree, a great achievement and much deserved. He has successfully balanced the demands of a full-time job role with the rigorous study needed for university. We’re delighted to have supported him in his degree apprenticeship while we continue to improve our member services and strengthen our role as the voice of business in Hampshire.”