One marketer on why being an apprentice feels like ‘hitting the jackpot’

Convinced he would never have made it into marketing without an apprenticeship, Nationwide’s Taylor Kellond urges brands to embrace different ways to attract young talent.

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“I hit a jackpot with it really,” says Taylor Kellond, reflecting on how studying for a marketing apprenticeship helped kickstart his career.

Now a marketing assistant in the social team at Nationwide, Kellond joined the building society in 2019 as an apprentice with a passion for content creation. He grew up as a teenager making vlogs on YouTube and social media content, quickly developing a flair for video editing.

Despite studying A Levels in Business Studies and Media Studies, Kellond recalls barely any mention of marketing, while social media was seen as a distracting pastime rather than a legitimate career.

“Business Studies was primarily numbers based, working out the profits and losses in a business and how to set it up, which looking at it now is completely wrong to how you should launch these days. A very old-school way,” he notes. “With Media Studies it was more reading into scenes in movies.”

Apprenticeships were rarely discussed and always in the context of becoming an electrician or plumber. When studying for his A Levels, Kellond remembers being “bombarded” with discussions about going to university, something he decided wasn’t for him.

It’s one of those things of how do you get experience without experience?

Taylor Kellond, Nationwide

Aside from being much happier with hands-on learning, he didn’t agree with the hefty cost associated with being a student. He recalls a friend who studied marketing at university and finished his course £18,000 in debt struggling to find a job.

“Now he’s moved on from marketing, he doesn’t do it at all. It goes to show if you take the uni route make sure it’s something you’re going to pursue in the future,” Kellond advises. “I haven’t done marketing at uni, but it seems like they teach you stuff that is completely different to what you do in a hands-on role.”

He finished his A Levels in 2016, but it wasn’t until a year later that Kellond realised a marketing career could be a possibility. His brother was working in a marketing-related role and explained how Kellond’s passion for social media and content creation could be steered into a career.

“It opened that opportunity to me and I started looking for what was available, because marketing has such a wide spectrum of roles you can go into. It was quite daunting,” he recalls.

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Then a retail assistant at Sainsbury’s, Kellond applied for an admin position at WH Smith to see if he could get closer to marketing by working at head office. He began asking around about marketing roles and was invited to help on the odd leaflet. However, Kellond had something more creative in mind.

“The roles I was looking at required two years’ experience minimum. It’s one of those things of how do you get experience without experience? I had a portfolio from YouTube and I used that as my experience, but with every job I applied for, if I got an interview, they’d ask me if I had a CIM qualification,” he recalls.

“It’s a big cross on their sheet. The next person would have it [a Chartered Institute of Marketing qualification] or a uni degree, which was better than the nothing I had going into it.”

By chance he saw an advert on job site Indeed, posted by The Marketing Academy Foundation, looking for an apprentice to join Nationwide’s social media team – no experience needed. Instantly, Kellond knew he had landed on a great opportunity.

He says he feels lucky to have come across the job ad, pointing out that apprenticeships should be easier for young people to find.

“I didn’t have a network at the time,” Kellond explains. “You don’t know about all these external agencies if you’re not involved in them.”

Climbing the ladder

Applying for the role, Kellond sent a covering letter outlining his YouTube career and past creative projects, which resulted in a first interview at Nationwide’s offices with The Marketing Foundation CEO Daryl Fielding.

He recalls the interview as conservational, less focused on his strengths and weaknesses, more on his daily life and interest in marketing. Pitched again as a relaxed conversation, the second interview involved meeting people from Nationwide’s social and advertising teams.

Accepted onto the apprenticeship in June 2019, Kellond remembers the marketers treating him like one of the team immediately and helping him settle in, so much so he felt like he’d landed a marketing role at the heart of the department.

As well as studying for a CIM Level 3 diploma, Kellond attended monthly sessions with The Marketing Academy Foundation. These included catch-ups with his manager to ensure he was progressing well and getting the necessary performance and task feedback.

In addition, the foundation hosted bi-monthly full day in-house training sessions covering marketing theory, marketing practice and personal development, presented by industry leaders.

Nationwide Taylor post
Kellond got stuck in with social campaigns straight away. Source: Nationwide

From a work perspective, Kellond got hands on straight away. He describes the managers as motivational people who wanted to push him in the right direction and shape him with the skills the social team needed.

He started by conducting competitor research to gain greater familiarity with the finance sector and social listening to understand how customers perceive the Nationwide brand. Alongside analysing the success of social campaigns, Kellond was encouraged to share his ideas with the social and advertising teams. Next came the opportunity to develop his own ideas for social posts and produce the copy.

“As you develop, your role develops as well. I joined doing the listening and competitor research, and then I started getting into social posts. After that I stepped up to help with campaigns and creating my own content,” he explains. “It’s an easy ladder to climb being an apprentice.”

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The fact Covid hit nine months into his apprenticeship meant Kellond was drafted into helping the comms team address customers’ pandemic-related issues. The time flew by and when his apprenticeship finished in summer 2020, Nationwide offered Kellond a temporary fixed-term contract for a year as the pandemic raged on. After a year the contract turned into a full-time position.

In his current role as marketing assistant, Kellond is an integral part of the social team. Despite the apprenticeship ending his development continues, with Nationwide supporting him to learn more about paid content and the business management side of social media.

In general, Kellond believes brands overlook the opportunities presented by marketing apprenticeships. While he accepts it can feel risky to hire someone with no experience or CV to back them up, Kellond urges businesses looking for fresh talent to opt for an apprentice.

“If you’re looking for a new role and it’s a junior assistant position there’s nothing to lose by going for an apprentice, because at the end of the day you’re getting someone who you can shape in the role and advance in the business, who could even become a manager,” he argues.

Kellond firmly believes he would not have made it into marketing without the apprenticeship, saying he lacked the grades and experience to stand out.

He recognises there is an element of heading into the unknown as an apprentice, who likely knows little about marketing or what a career in the industry might look like. However, the benefits outweigh any perceived risks.

“It’s a great way to get into marketing,” Kellond concludes.

Opening Up brandingMarketing Week’s Opening Up campaign is pushing for the democratisation of marketing careers. Follow our coverage of the challenges and opportunities over the coming weeks. Read all the articles from the series so far here