On Wednesday 28th November I made my way to Old Billingsgate for the 15th National Apprenticeship Awards.
The awards ceremony was terrific and the night is one I will always remember, because I was lucky enough to be a guest speaker. I shared the stage with architect and television presenter, George Clarke, and former-apprentice, Lois McClure.
The awards don’t just celebrate the success of apprentices and employers, they also recognise the hard work and achievements of everyone working to make apprenticeships successful for anybody.
I was overwhelmed to be chosen as this year’s speaker and it was an honour to share my story on the night. Two years ago, before I had started my apprenticeship, I lacked confidence and would never have spoken to more than 30 people in a room. Now, having completed my level 3 apprenticeship, I am an ambitious, resilient and confident young person who has gained real world skills, which allow me to do what was once the unimaginable.
My apprenticeship has changed my life and, like all other apprentices, it has put me ahead of many in the careers stakes. The on the job training and work environment has helped me develop skills, knowledge and attributes that I know make my CV shine.
My journey is of course unique, but by no means uncommon in the world of apprenticeships. The National Apprenticeship Awards recognises everyone’s journey and provides a forum for apprentices to share their stories.
One story we were all lucky to hear on the evening was George Clarke’s. George had dreamt of being an architect from a young age, but his schools careers advisor doubted he would achieve the necessary grades – so suggested he did a different job. However, more determined than ever, George, still doing his GCSEs, opened the Yellow Pages and wrote to every architectural company near his family home. He was offered work experience which led to a job on the basis that he would attend his local college to study for a BTEC in Building & Construction – this was the start of his apprenticeship. After successfully completing his apprenticeship, George went on to graduate with a First Class BA Honours in Architectural Studies, and a Certificate in Architectural Practice from Newcastle University.
George was not just a great host, but a fantastic advocate for apprenticeships. He was also a huge support while I was preparing to speak and soothed my nerves with his helpful tips. His co-host, Lois, is not only a Studio Delivery Co-ordinator at the Co-op, but is also the chair of the North West Young Apprentice Ambassador Network and won the National Intermediate Apprentice of the Year award four years ago. Louis has come a long way since then and has gone on to complete an advanced apprenticeship and gain three promotions!
It is clear that apprenticeships offer great opportunities and lead to long, successful careers. I hope that more apprentices join the Young Apprentice Ambassador Network to help influence the next generation young aspiring people.
Apprenticeships are not a second choice nor are they just for those who don’t fit the narrow prescription of what we tend to consider ‘bright’. However, unlike other education pathways they are open to everyone and offer opportunities to people from all backgrounds at any stage of their lives.