My apprenticeship story: Hedi Mehrez, Swindon Advertiser

National Apprenticeship Week is taking place between 8-14 February, and the NCTJ is proud to support the campaign. Throughtout the week, we will be sharing first-hand accounts from current and former apprentices and employers to demonstrate the benefits of journalism apprenticeships.

Hedi Mehrez completed his journalism apprenticeship at the Swindon Advertiser, where he now works as health reporter. He shares his story below:

“Why are you doing an apprenticeship instead of working full time?” A question I have been asked many times over the past two years.

There is a common misperception that apprenticeships are exclusively suited to those who do not have a degree.  

I am the living proof that it is untrue.

I joined the Swindon Advertiser as an apprentice after finishing my master’s degree in international journalism at Cardiff University. At the time, I would have never imagined that I would be back in education, but the few jobs I applied for required the NCTJ qualification.

It is extremely rare to see French people working in local newspapers in Britain but that did not stop me from applying. I was lucky to get a job shortly after submitting my master’s dissertation, but it really is difficult to break into the industry.

Over the first few months, my love for journalism has gradually grown. The apprenticeship has helped me develop my writing skills, as well as providing me with the essential tools required to work in this field, including media law, public affairs, and shorthand.

My editor and news editors, as well as my teachers at Darlington College, have all been incredibly helpful, and I am truly grateful for their continued support.  

I have met some of the most inspiring individuals who trusted me to share their stories. My exclusives include an emotional tale about a grandmother who lost her fingertips and legs after an insect bite and an investigation into a rise in hate crime in Swindon.

I have also covered a pandemic, Brexit, BLM protests, community events and several breaking news. There are no two days alike in journalism.

While there are limited opportunities to use my language skills, I still managed to write a couple of articles about the French community in Swindon – yes, I am proud of that.

I have recently been promoted to health reporter in December last year. This means I attended council briefings with Swindon’s director of public health, and I have reported about the various challenges nurses and consultants face when dealing with Covid-19 patients at Great Western Hospital.

I also had the honour to be named as one of the ‘80 regional journalists who sum up why local journalism matters’ in the Public Interest News List and I have also been shortlisted for the NCTJ’s Apprentice of the Year Award 2020.

I recently finished my apprenticeship with a distinction. I am thankful for this opportunity which has been very beneficial for me personally.