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The value of Apprenticeships

My journey into the world of apprenticeships and what they could offer comes from a very personal perspective. Judith Scott

Four years ago, my now 21 year old and I attended the World Skills show at the NEC in Birmingham. This was a parental attempt to inspire a teenager who didn’t have a clue what to do and who was heading down the traditional university route, even though she said she didn’t really want to.

The Gatsby benchmarks talk about ‘meaningful encounters’ and emphasise that they are so important in helping young people make informed decisions about their future. Well, we had our meaningful encounters at the World Skills Show that day and it made such a difference to me as a parent and to my daughter as a young person thinking about what she wanted to do next.

At the show we visited lots of stands, attended talks and observed skills showcases. We came across many providers offering a range of different apprenticeships and degree apprenticeships, but we were particularly enthused by a woman from HS2 who illustrated the benefits of following such a route.

Fast forward to 2020 and my daughter has now completed her apprenticeship, has secured a promotion and is currently working in procurement in HS2, whilst also completing her professional qualifications – and loving every minute.

Watching my daughter flourish in this environment has inspired me to bring the same opportunities to the attention of every one of my students at Rawlett School. As a result, all Year 11 now visit the NEC as an annual event and have exposure to the vast number of diverse organisations offering Post 16 and Degree Level apprenticeships.

Local companies have supported our careers programme and we incorporate visits from apprentices. In our ‘World at Work Days’ in Year 8 and 10, we are normally supported by Ocado, the Army, NHS and Eurocarparts who bring apprentices to school to talk about their experiences.

We have also managed to make good contacts with Belways, a local construction company, who offered 8 of our students’ apprenticeships in plumbing, bricklaying and plastering. Particularly impressive has been the visits from women who have forged good careers in construction and engineering.

One local company, Plastic Omnium, have been particularly helpful in promoting careers for females. And, of course, my daughter and her colleagues have visited our school from a variety of HS2 departments giving a real insight to the benefits of this route.

What has been particularly successful is getting young people into school to talk to other young people through the Young Apprenticeship Ambassador Programme. As teachers, we can extol the virtues of apprenticeships, but there is nothing better than having young apprentices themselves promote their roles. They are articulate and proud of the work they are doing and this has a positive impact on current students.

We have also been helped in our promotion of apprenticeships by ASK Apprenticeships, particularly during the covid crisis. Their virtual assemblies are excellent, informative and interesting. In addition, they offer workshops which the students find particularly engaging. Their innovative approach during the lockdown has been invaluable and they offer talks to parents virtually about the different types of apprenticeships and the application process.

We are also helped by the use of UExplore START - a dedicated careers information platform that we invest in. Our students use this portal from Year 7 but it is especially helpful for the older students when researching their next steps. As well as outlining the current labour market information, it helpfully links to the current live vacancies within a local radius – it is an excellent tool for students.

We promote apprenticeships all year round and to every year group through our careers programme. However, we also celebrate and promote apprenticeships via assemblies and tutor periods in National Apprenticeship Week and encourage students to attend the Apprenticeship show in Birmingham. The week helps us ‘shine a light’ on everything to do with apprenticeships -  from what they are to applying for them and ensures that it is a pathway known by every student and available to all students.

We have been successful in promoting apprenticeships in our school and are delighted to be part of a Multi-Academy Trust, AET, where there is an above national average progression into apprenticeships across our 21 secondary schools.

But there is still a long way to go. A change in mind-set is still needed as some students and parents have a ‘we must go to university’ attitude. Whilst I would never not advocate the university route, I have genuinely found as a mum and a teacher, that apprenticeships do offer students a viable alternative, with the added benefits of no debt, a full time position at the end and being paid whilst studying.

Careers education has never been more important given the current pandemic crisis. We owe it to our students and parents to prepare our youngsters fully for the future by ensuring that each and every student has relevant and up to date information about all progression routes and all of the opportunities open to them. Apprenticeships are a major part of that.