08 Feb 2021

Championing Engagement in the “New Normal”

Kenneth Barker joined EY in September 2019 and writes about his experiences as an apprentice Representative Engagement Champion while remote working for National Apprenticeship Week 2021.

Remote working has certainly been an interesting experience for everybody. Whilst some people have taken to WFH like a duck to water, and could not imagine returning to the office five days a week, this is not the whole story. For some people, it’s exacerbated mental health issues, or perhaps been a tough balancing act alongside home schooling and family life.

Remote working also presents a brand-new challenge to those starting Apprenticeships for several reasons. Some individuals may be entering the world of work for the very first time, fresh-faced from full time education, which in itself represents a significant culture change. To then combine this with being resigned to the spare room or the kitchen table as a result of coronavirus, it’s understandably a bit of a shock to the system, and might not quite meet the expectations of what they had envisaged when receiving a job offer from a “Big Four” company.

For this reason, in 2020 myself and Apprentices from across the various study programmes EY offers, those studying BSc/Masters, and working in different areas of the business came together as a group with the aim of creating a new platform capable of providing real added value to our peers; through additional support, facilitating networking and increasing engagement, in the form of “Apprentice Representatives”.

Having this support available, and knowing how to access it, is incredibly important - especially at a time when it might be slightly harder to come by as the world adjusts to the “new normal”. New hires at businesses face the daunting task of their first week at work without ever setting foot in the office, and without meeting colleagues face to face.

As an Apprentice Representative Engagement Champion, I’m striving to help create a safe space where colleagues can openly share feedback, experiences and concerns with us and each other, where we can act as a conduit; collating these views in a way that Apprentices across the UK have a collective voice that will be heard by people within the business. We act as a point of contact for Apprentices, to answer any burning questions they may have around professional development, such as the EY Badges programme, where individuals can work towards an accredited MBA, or exciting career opportunities – for example, earlier in the year I was able to complete a month long secondment working with PAS (People Advisory Services) helping to operationalise the NHS Nightingale North West field hospital in Manchester.

Additionally, we want to shine lights on those experiences once they’ve happened, and really celebrate them, so that Apprentices across Tax, Consultancy and Assurance will feel a deeper level of engagement with both their role and their co-workers - even though this might be limited to the other side of a Teams call for the time being. Whilst we don’t yet know for sure when we’ll come out of the other end of the “new normal” (are you fed up of hearing that phrase by now?), we are striving to ensure that current and new Apprentices have a strong support network from Day 1.


Kenny Barker joined EY in September 2019, seeking a change in direction from London’s hospitality industry, and put down roots in Leeds shortly before the pandemic arrived.