Case Study: Gemma Blackburn

Image of Gemma Blackburn

Gemma Blackburn


LOCATION: Sheffield

COURSE: Business Administration Apprenticeship


Gemma Blackburn was ready for a challenge after spending a number of years working in a call centre.

While call centre work leads to successful careers for many, at the age of 20 she knew it wasn’t for her.

She had only stumbled into the sector because she couldn’t decide what direction to go in.

Gemma said: “I wasn’t sure what I wanted to do when I left Longley Park Sixth Form College. I had studied graphic design, textiles and media but university didn’t appeal. I didn’t want to struggle to support myself and waste money on student loans for a subject I might not proceed with as a career.”

She plucked up the courage to change direction and a temporary job in admin at the University of Sheffield made her realise she enjoyed office work.

Next, she landed a full-time administration role at TC Harrison JCB in Chapeltown, Sheffield, and with her employer’s support, she eventually decided to up-skill her job via an apprenticeship.

She started her Level 2 qualification aged 20, then with the support of The Source Skills Academy at Meadowhall, progressed to Level 3 in Business Administration. With that under her belt, she completed a Level 4 in Business and Professional Administration in 2019.

As she studied, she grew in confidence and after completing her level 3 she moved into a senior sales administrator position at TC Harrison JCB.

Gemma achieved her promotion and her qualifications while juggling over three years of study with caring for elderly grandparents. Dedication and strong organisational skills got her through.

“It was difficult,” she admitted. “I had to sacrifice a lot and plan out my time in a diary. I pushed myself to the limit and this showed me I am more capable than I thought I was, that I can handle a lot of pressure and organise my time effectively.”

In her senior role at the independent UK dealership - which sells new and used JCB plant machinery and parts to the agricultural, construction and industrial markets - Gemma was given the opportunity to work on one of her biggest tasks to date.

She had to plan the launch event for a new TC Harrison JCB depot in Hull. It allowed her to work independently and put her knowledge and skills into practice and she feels it is her biggest achievement while on the apprenticeship.

Said Gemma: “I used everything I had learned in studies and my job to make the open day happen.”

Gemma is now 28 and feels her apprenticeship set on track in her career and she now has ever bigger goals and aspirations.

She said: “My apprenticeship qualifications have definitely enabled me to progress, instead of staying in a basic admin position.

“Having grown in confidence and having gained my Level 4 qualification, I’d like to go into management and am considering taking a higher level management course. I can see this helping me to be my own boss and setting my own business one day.”

She advises anyone thinking of doing an apprenticeship to go for it and be prepared for hard work: “Working and doing coursework is time-consuming, but keep going with it, set yourself targets and keep motivated. It is worth it in the end,” she said.

Gemma is full of praise for her tutors at The Source Skills Academy. “They are really friendly and easy to get on with,” she said. “When I was worried I might not complete an assignment in time, my tutor Adrian Plant was really supportive and got me through.”

TC Harrison JCB has a long history of hiring apprentices and currently employs more than 10, who are working in office and engineering roles and studying for Level 1 to Level 3 qualifications.

Gemma’s manager Roy Hanson said: “As long as I can remember we’ve hired apprentices, they bring many benefits. They learn about our company as they progress. Gemma’s can-do attitude in the office has been brilliant, she is always willing to help everybody in the team and will not leave a job un-finished. She is a credit to the sales department.’

Employer Partners

Subscribe To Our News Letter