In National Apprenticeship Week, GEMMA SHERLOCK speaks to apprentices in Lancaster and Morecambe who are aiming to climb the career ladder.
The word ‘apprentice’ may make many think of Lord Sugar’s BBC TV show where people battle it out to become his business partner and avoid the words “You’re Fired.”
But the reality for the thousands of apprentices in Lancaster and Morecambe is far different as they learn new skills for their future careers.
Today’s apprenticeships offer thousands of career prospects with an ‘earn while you learn’ approach.
In Lancaster 1,410 people enrolled onto an apprenticeship last year, up from 1,350 in the previous year.
They are available in 1,500 job roles, covering more than 170 industries – which may explain why so many youngsters are choosing them over university.
“I believe the ability to have a ‘normal’ working life, earning money and gaining education is more of a benefit over going to university,” said Jack Carter, who is currently doing an apprenticeship at Optimum Coatings in Morecambe.
“However going to university is a great way to gain the necessary knowledge for specified jobs, such as a lawyer or a doctor.”
Thousands of businesses are raising the profile of their apprenticeship programmes to school leavers and other job seekers.
This comes as the Government launches the apprenticeship levy from April 6 as part of their drive to train three million apprentices by 2020.
Employers with a payroll of over £3 million will be required to pay into the programme as part of the levy.
These significant changes will affect all companies regardless of the number of apprentices they employ.
“The changes to apprenticeships are significant and wide ranging,” said Jamie Hughes, director of Business Development at Lancaster and Morecambe College (LMC).
“It is vital that every single current and future employer of apprentices understands what is happening and how it will affect their business.”
Businesses may be daunted by the new apprenticeship changes but so too can youngsters when choosing between an academic or apprenticeship career route.
Sometimes the decision can come naturally, as it was for Lucy Boulton.
Lucy works at Brookdale Day Nursery in Lancaster, who employs a number of apprentices and takes them through childcare qualifications before management training.
The 26-year-old started at the nursery as a volunteer and has gradually climbed up the career ladder to become Room Leader. “For me I have worked my way up from the bottom, progressing my way up,” said Lucy, who lives in Glasson Dock.
Lucy has been at the nursery for five years but admits it was hard to begin with.
“It is very easy to give up to start off with, I wasn’t earning any money, I was still young, it is quite easy to give up but then it is so worthwhile and rewarding, I’m glad I didn’t.”
According to the National Apprenticeship Service more than 90 per cent of apprentices stay in employment after their apprenticeship ends.
The chance of employment after an apprenticeship is something Radek Gaszczyk hopes to achieve.
The 18-year-old from Lancaster is training as a Level 2 Gym Instructor at 3-1-5 Health Club on Mannin Way – quite different to his first engineering apprenticeship.
“I have got a big interest in sports and fitness and this is the sort of thing I want to do, it’s a great opportunity for me to get qualified in something I enjoy.
“I hope to get a full time job here afterwards, I feel like I may have a chance, everyone has been so supportive and it’s a great place to work.”
This week (March 6-10) marks the 10th year National Apprenticeship Week has taken place.
“For 10 years, National Apprenticeship Week has been showcasing how apprenticeships help people of all ages ‘get in and go far’ to gain the skills and knowledge they need for a rewarding career,” said Sue Husband, director of the National Apprenticeship Service.
“The benefits to employers are well documented, with businesses taking advantage of the opportunity to grow their skills base and increase productivity.”
Lancaster & District Chamber of Commerce have been a part of those benefits after it launched its first apprenticeship focused event back in February 2014.
A Chamber spokesman said: “Not only have apprenticeships become the new big thing for businesses and young people alike, they are also a great way for learners to gain real industry experience and a qualification, whilst allowing a business to expand their skills base.”
Their youngest employee, Josh Rooney, joined the Chamber in December 2014 at just 16 to undertake his apprenticeship in Business Administration.
“I decided to choose the traineeship/apprenticeship route because I wasn’t comfortable being in a classroom for another year,” said Josh, who is now 18.
“I knew I was ready for working life and this was the perfect opportunity to get me into the world of work.”
Lancaster & Morecambe College (LMC) is holding a free briefing session for local employers to help them prepare for changes to the way the UK Government funds apprenticeships.
The talk will take place on March 28 from 5pm-6pm in the LMC Business and Conference Centre, during which refreshments will be provided.