Generation Next Awards 2022 winner: Ruby Birks

Posted by: JasmineThompson
Posted on: 19/01/2023

Last year, Ruby Birks was awarded the Apprentice of the Year title at the Generation Next Awards. The project manager at full-service marketing agency Purpose Media tells us about how winning the award has impacted her career so far.

Tell us about your journey from starting out to winning your Generation Next Award.

I knew when I left school that I wanted to do an apprenticeship, however, as I was a part of the GCSE “class of Covid”, there were very few companies who wanted to take on new hires at all, let alone take on an apprentice.

I started college, but knew it wasn’t what I wanted to do. So, I started looking for apprenticeships again in November 2020. Initially, I was just looking at marketing apprenticeships, which is how I found EMA Training.

The team advised that I look into the digital support technician apprenticeship, as they thought I’d be a better fit for that. They then put me in touch with Purpose Media, who were hiring for an apprentice. I interviewed for the role and was successful, and started working at the agency in March 2021.

Initially, I was working in the role of digital project apprentice, which involved providing technical support to clients, getting involved in the go-live processes for websites, running paid advertising campaigns and working on the development of new processes for scheduling work and managing projects.

In April my company asked me to put forward an application for the Generation Next Apprentice of the Year Award. It was lovely to feel that my company thought I was worth putting forward for the award, so I put a lot of effort into my application to try and showcase what my company saw as my successes. I then spoke to the judging panel in June, in the same month I then passed my apprenticeship with distinction.

In July, I then went on to find out that I had won the Apprentice of the Year award. Since winning the award, I’ve made connections with new people in Derby, Nottingham and Leicester, which has definitely opened doors to new opportunities for me.

What has been the secret to your success?

I’d say the reason my apprenticeship has been successful has been a combination of my drive and my company’s support.

Purpose Media have a long history of hiring apprentices, so I knew when I started that I would have a good support network. Throughout my apprenticeship, my line manager, the MD and the company as a whole were very understanding about helping me do whatever I needed to do to pass my apprenticeship.

Among other things, this looked like letting me work from home to study uninterrupted, mentoring and letting me do online courses so that I could reach the 20% “off-the-job” target I needed to hit.

I believe that the above, combined with my drive is what lead me to getting a distinction and to winning Apprentice of the Year. I’m very driven and I love a challenge.

When I want something, and I set my mind to it, then I do whatever I have to get it. I’m a big believer in the idea that you can teach skills, but you can’t teach attitude, and that is something vital to consider when hiring an apprentice. For example, when applying for my apprenticeship, I knew that Purpose Media wanted an apprentice with a base knowledge of html and CSS.

I had no knowledge of these, but I knew I wanted the job. So prior to my interview, I went away and learnt html and CSS and built a website to display my CV. Going away and learning a new skill in order to get the job was a big contributing factor to me getting the role.

What tips would you have for any young person applying for business or industry awards?

I would say to be honest about your work. If your employer thinks you deserve to be put forward for an award, then they’ve clearly seen something in your work that they think deserves recognition.

It definitely felt very odd to me to try and tell someone why I thought I should win an award. At first it felt like bragging, and I didn’t know how to say it without feeling like I was being too proud. But if you’re working hard and you’re being honest about your achievements then you deserve a degree of pride in your work. Don’t be afraid to shout about your achievements.

How does it feel to win recognition for what you’ve done via the Generation Next Awards and how has that helped you in your career so far?

Having my company put me forward for the award made me feel very valued. Even if an apprentice or younger employee doesn’t go on to win an award, the confidence it can give them that their company values their work and feels they deserve recognition for it is invaluable.

Winning the award has definitely helped progress my career. I’ve met members of East Midlands Chamber and gotten involved with networking events that I previously wouldn’t have gone to. I’ve also had the chance to discuss further opportunities to promote apprenticeships as apprenticeship ambassador for Generation Next, something that’s very important to me as there was a real lack of promotion of apprenticeships when I was leaving school.

Winning the award also feels like a win as a woman who did an IT apprenticeship. When I was initially applying for apprenticeships, I had friends who tried to discourage me from interviewing for IT-based apprenticeships as they said I wouldn’t be taken seriously as a young woman in such a male-dominated field. Thankfully, due to the support of Purpose Media, EMA Training and Generation Next, I’ve had the chance to prove them wrong.


The Generation Next Awards are now open for 2023. If you have a colleague who deserves some recognition, or experienced many successes over the past year, complete an application form before 6 March.

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