Melanie’s apprenticeship journey

Portrait image of Melanie Nicholson
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This National Apprenticeship Week 2021, Melanie Nicholson looks back over her journey from apprentice dental nurse to managing director of Total People.

“I started my career as an apprentice and as I reflect on my journey, I have to say I wouldn’t change a thing. My apprenticeship gave me both the opportunity and the springboard to learn while practicing my skills. It also gave me the platform to shape and to progress in my career.  

“I was 18 when I secured a role as an apprentice dental nurse at Warrington Hospital, and I worked in the Orthodontic and Maxillofacial unit. The skills and experience I gained led to me working and supporting the consultants on more complex cases in surgical environments.  

I absolutely loved my apprenticeship because I was working with an experienced team who supported me and shared their knowledge. I was gaining real hands on experience of working in a surgical and theatre environment. In addition, I was also being paid a salary and gaining knowledge from the some of the best mentors in the business.

“I successfully completed my dental nurse exams after two years and remained at Warrington Hospital as a dental nurse for an additional three years. I was then approached by an Apprenticeship Training Provider who offered me a role as a dental nurse tutor because they felt that my knowledge and experience would be valuable when teaching the next generation of dental nurse apprentices. I took a leap of faith and thought ‘let’s give teaching a go’! It wasn’t a career I thought I would end up in but I’ve never looked back as I’d found the long term career that I was looking for.  

I’m passionate about education and ensuring that everyone has the opportunity to learn, to progress while working in a career that they love and to become the best they can possibly be.  

“I started my PGCE and undertook my assessor and verifier qualifications and that was the start of my career in education and my path to becoming an Executive Director/Managing Director within the apprenticeship and skills industry. 

“After progressing from tutoring and assessing dental nurse apprentices to quality-assurance roles and then national management roles with large training providers, I secured my first director role heading up large national training provider by the age of 31 and my first executive director role a few years later. I have now worked in the industry for over 25 year. I’m still here and I’m still enjoying it as much as ever.  

I learned early in my career that there is no such thing as shortcuts, you have to work hard, be willing to constantly learn and strive to better yourself and those around you.  

“During my career I’ve managed the training for tens of thousands of apprentices. I truly believe that apprenticeships are a valuable way of learning and I practice what I preach. I encouraged my son who is now 25 to undertake an apprenticeship when he left school, he is now doing well in his chosen career.  

“Apprenticeships are now seen as real alternative for individuals of all ages, they have been developed by employers with the sector and have been aligned to specific job roles with an emphasis on the skills, knowledge and behaviours required to do the job. They are viewed as a serious career path, especially with the introduction of higher apprenticeships which enable individuals to progress their learning while being employed. 

My message for current apprentices or anyone thinking about applying is don’t get up every morning just to do a job, get up to do something you really enjoy.  

Engage in your apprenticeship, learn well, believe in yourself and aspire to be the best you can be.

Find your perfect apprenticeship or boost your business growth with our apprenticeship expertise – visit 

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Total People offer apprenticeships in a variety of different industries.