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A show of resilience: apprenticeships shift to an online world

This National Apprenticeship Week, North East Local Enterprise Partnership (LEP) Skills Director, Michelle Rainbow, celebrates the resilience of the people who have continued to deliver apprenticeships throughout 2020.  

As it’s National Apprenticeship Week, I wanted to take a moment to really thank all the apprentices, business and training providers who have worked so hard to overcome the challenges brought by the past year.

Of course, the pandemic meant that everyone has faced significant changes to the way we work and learn. While it’s been unavoidable that some businesses have had to pause their recruitment of apprentices, or place existing apprentices on furlough, I’ve been incredibly impressed with the efforts people have taken to adapt to an online world.

Training providers shifted to virtual delivery with impressive speed, meaning apprentices could continue to learn. And businesses have changed the way they operate to enable apprentices to continue with on-site learning where possible – take a look at some examples from maritime crane manufacturer Liebherr-Sunderland, and Newcastle’s NEL Fund Managers.

Of course, many businesses have needed extra support during 2020 and we’ve seen an uplift in businesses applying for funding and support which is available from government to help employers deliver apprenticeships. It’s part of our job as the North East LEP to make sure that businesses know about the support available to them and I was really happy to see nearly 200 people at our online North East Ambition event this week, which included a presentation from the Skills Funding Agency on the range of support available for businesses which want to take on an apprentice.

We also work closely with schools and colleges to help make sure that young people are aware of the full range of routes they can take when they leave school – including A levels, T levels, university and apprenticeships.

Of course, not all apprentices are school-leavers, and the relatively new degree-level apprenticeship has proven to be a popular way for existing staff to upskill or reskill. We’re seeing a good take-up of these apprenticeships here in the North East, with people choosing to combine degree-level learning with workplace experience, and I hope this will continue to grow as we move through 2021.

As businesses across our region plan their recovery from the impact of COVID-19, I’d love to see more businesses thinking about what their future skills needs are, and whether these might have changed in the last year. Apprentices bring so much to a business including a fresh perspective and the latest skills, so if you know that your business needs to build on its digital capabilities, for example, apprenticeships could be one way of bringing these skills in, or upskilling your existing team.

It’s a testament to the dedication and resilience of our region’s apprentices, businesses and learning providers that we’re still seeing apprentices complete their training during the pandemic. As we begin a new year, I hope we can build on this achievement and offer more young people the opportunity to learn at the same time as gaining hands-on experience in the workplace. And ultimately, by building our apprenticeship offer, we will build a skilled workforce for the future, and help to bring more and better jobs to our region.

For more information on apprenticeships, visit the North East Growth Hub’s Apprenticeship Toolkit.

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Delivering apprenticeships during the coronavirus pandemic

Abigail Cook joined NEL Fund Managers in 2017 as a Level 2 Administration Apprentice. On completion of her Level 2, Abigail immediately progressed to Level 4, which she successfully completed during the coronavirus pandemic.

Yvonne Gale, Chief Executive Officer of NEL Fund Managers, and Abigail Cook, Investment Associate at NEL Fund Managers, discuss the impact COVID-19 has had on apprenticeships, and how organisations have adapted to ensure apprentices and employers continue to benefit from this important route to employment.

Yvonne Gale, Chief Executive Officer

What immediate impact did the coronavirus pandemic have on the delivery of Abigail’s apprenticeship?

At the time when the coronavirus pandemic began, Abigail was right at the end of her Level 4 apprenticeship. At that stage there’s a final completion assessment that includes observation in the workplace.

Obviously that couldn’t happen, so the main disruption was the timescale for moving Abigail onto her Level 7 apprenticeship. We couldn’t get the paperwork signed off on Level 4, so we couldn’t get her enrolled for Level 7.

We were also in the process of moving to a new specialist training provider who could deliver Level 7. The new provider was unable to enroll Abigail onto the new apprenticeship programme until they had official sign off the Level 4 NVQ, and that was on a backlog of around six-eight weeks.

It was just unlucky timing as that was in March/April 2020.

Did NEL Fund Managers benefit from continuing the apprenticeship during the coronavirus pandemic?

Abigail is currently in a developmental role and we know it’s really important that she keeps getting opportunities to learn so putting her apprenticeship on hold could have affected its momentum and her motivation. We were keen COVID-19 didn’t disrupt that and that we could keep it moving forward.

I actually spent a lot of time working with the new training provider, Kaplan, to make sure it could continue. During the early stages of the coronavirus pandemic everything was temporarily disrupted and for people in a developmental role it’s important they don’t feel like they’re going to be left on the sidelines. Apprenticeships could have been something that was easily left on the shelf but we didn’t want to do that; we felt it was really important to keep pushing to make sure it continued.

Why has NEL Fund Managers chosen to invest in apprenticeships?

There are multiple reasons. NEL Fund Managers does a lot of technical work and we need technical skills. Whilst the Level 4 apprenticeship has given Abigail a good grounding we spotted an opportunity for her to move from an administration role to a technical role.

Although we do a lot of learning in the workplace, I think it’s really important people have external learning as well. People in a developmental role will bring improvements to processes as they go, so if they’re only learning in the workplace, where are they going to get that knowledge? We really want people to experience that cross-pollination from training in the workplace in addition to the external perspectives offered through an apprenticeship.

Another reason is that NEL Fund Managers focuses a lot of emphasis on staff retention; over 50% of our staff has been with us for ten years or more. You can’t just assume people will stay, you have to offer them progression and the best way to do that is through training. We’ve got a very long history of that at NEL Fund Managers; everyone in the business has done a lot of training. We’re keen to support people who want to continue to learn and develop because we want to keep those members of staff and we want to keep their skills too.

The other benefit is that apprenticeships offer a structured programme and for small businesses, it’s quite difficult to deliver a three-year structured training programme. Going onto a planned apprenticeship means someone takes on the care of that structured programme for us, and makes sure it happens.

Abigail’s apprenticeship is in accounting and we have several accountants here in the business and that have all learnt through the apprenticeship route. We know it works and there’s tradition there. Because we benefitted from it, we want the next generation to benefit from it too.

Abigail Cook, Investment Associate

What changes did you have to adapt to in order to complete your Level 4 during lockdown?

Towards the end of my Level 4 there was a series of final observations that had to be done. My assessor, Olivia, couldn’t come and visit in person so we had to think of new ways to get the observations done, and that was mainly through Zoom and Microsoft Teams. We had professional discussions that were then recorded and uploaded to the portal that stores evidence of all my work.

I redid one module for my technical certificate and found I actually had more time to do research as I had fewer personal commitments because of lockdown.

Did you find it challenging to move to a home learning / working model?

It wasn’t necessarily challenging, just very different. I’m mainly office based unless I’m attending meetings, and my bedroom has turned into a home office, which is working well now. There were some challenges at the beginning with parents and younger siblings all working/studying from home, and we invested in some new WIFI.

A lot of the work we do at NEL Fund Managers, such as getting wet signatures on documents and having investment files signed off, had to be adapted to be digitised, and that took a lot of work initially. But since then it’s a case of pressing a button and sending it off via email to someone. It was challenging at first but we’ve all adapted to the new processes we’ve developed.

Doing some of the technical learning at home has been hard as normally you might want to sit with someone to go through it. When we are doing revision sharing now it’s about sharing screens on Teams. As a learner I’d prefer to do some of that in person.

The Zoom sessions we’ve been doing have been really interactive but it’s not quite the same as being sat in a classroom being able to ask your peers questions.

Yvonne Gale – We actually picked Kaplan as they were the only training provider that could offer us classroom learning in Newcastle. It’s a three-year programme so I’m hopeful we can go back to a classroom model. Abigail, and our other accounting apprentice, Mike, actually requested classroom learning when we were looking at providers so it’s a shame we’re not able to offer people their preferred method of learning at the moment.

Why did you choose to complete an apprenticeship over another route to employment?

I originally went to sixth form after doing my GCSEs to study AS levels but after my first year I questioned why I was doing them. At the time I also had a part time job and was enjoying the work ethic, as oppose to full-time study.

I saw the Level 2 apprenticeship advertised at NEL Fund Managers and even though it was a very different environment, after my interview I thought ‘yes, I’d like to work here’. Thankfully Yvonne and Suzanne took me on, which was great.

An apprenticeship allows me work and earn whilst I’m studying. Being in secure employment – as opposed to a university experience with a part time job and a lot of debt – seemed really attractive to me.

It was also encouraging to learn other people in NEL Fund Managers have been apprentices as well. That showed me there is a lot of scope for development here and NEL Fund Managers – as an employer – are very encouraging.

Yvonne Gale – Abigail has gone from working part time in hospitality to doing a postgraduate qualification in four years – and she’s skipped all the student debt.

The apprenticeship system really works for us as an employer too. The course she’s currently doing – had we been paying that ourselves – would cost £20k. For a small business that’s a huge amount of money. Because of the apprenticeship system we’ve been able to get that for 5% of the cost – so it costs us £1k for a £20k piece of training.

And Abigail is getting £20k worth of training, and she’s not having to pay for it.

What are your career aspirations moving forward?

Ideally I’d like to move into more of an investment executive role, managing my own investment opportunities and working with yet more growing local businesses. I’m definitely getting the skills I need through my apprenticeship. The amount I’ve learned is really helping me develop in my current role.

I’d like to finish the current apprenticeship in the next three years and move into a permanent investment executive role. In the long term I’d like to continue at NEL Fund Managers and see what other progression opportunities there are.

Find information and guidance for businesses on hiring an apprentice on the North East Growth Hub Apprenticeship Toolkit.

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New website helps people access job and training opportunities in the North East

A new website with job opportunities, apprenticeships and training courses in the North East has been launched to support people in the North East who have lost their job as a result of the economic fallout from the COVID-19 pandemic.

www.northeastopportunities.co.uk lists opportunities in the North East, with similar sites available in other regions across the North of England.

Michelle Rainbow, Skills Director at the North East Local Enterprise Partnership, said: “Businesses and communities in the North East have been hit hard by the pandemic, and we have seen our rate of unemployment increase. This new website is the result of collaboration across the North and makes it easy for people to see the employment and training opportunities that are available in our region.”

The North has been disproportionally affected by the COVID-19 outbreak, suffering an estimated decline of 20.7% in GVA between 2019 and Q2 2020. The NP11 – a group of all 11 Northern local enterprise partnerships – has partnered with software specialist PDMS, to launch a pilot of their innovative online service called SignedUp Skills to help those affected. The pilot will run until the end of 2020, with the aim that if successful, it could develop into a long-term initiative.

The free-to-use platform makes it easier for those across the North, who have been adversely affected by the COVID-19 pandemic, to find new employment and training opportunities in their local area. The website is a comprehensive resource for accessing real-time vacancies, training courses, and apprenticeships across the region, as well as finding opportunities from throughout the UK.

More than just a traditional online jobs board, the service provides users with unique insights into their region’s growing industries and identify the skills and training most in demand in their communities. This includes information and signposting towards industries where there is particular demand and important regional sectors.

People from across the North can use the platform to access a wealth of employment and training opportunities immediately. This resource will enable those who have been adversely affected economically by COVID-19 to plan their next career steps in confidence. Careers guidance, information, and advice will also be provided on the website.

Roger Marsh OBE DL, Chair of the NP11 and Leeds City Region Local Enterprise Partnership, commented: “Many people and businesses across the North find themselves facing an uncertain economic future.

“Now more than ever, to achieve a confident North with the skills it needs to thrive, we must work across sectors to build a culture of  progression and development in our business that helps both companies and individuals flourish.

“The North will be integral to the future economic recovery and prosperity of the nation. However, our region’s recovery can only be as strong as the economic strength and security of the people living here. To deliver extraordinary economic and social transformation, we must not only invest in the technology and the skills for today, but also for the future.

“Working together with LEPs, combined authorities, Mayors and civic leaders to address the skills gap, our ambition is to create a careers platform for the whole of the North, which will guide people through these difficult times and help connect them with prospective job opportunities.”

Chris Gledhill, Managing Director of PDMS, commented: “Throughout the pandemic, technology has allowed us to stay connected with family, friends, and colleagues. As we enter a new phase of this crisis, we can draw upon our software expertise to now connect people with new employment and training opportunities.

“We’re delighted to be partnering with the NP11 in this pilot project which creates a platform to transform the lives of its users for the future and establishes a new starting point for labour market interventions.”

Visit the North East website at www.northeastopportunities.co.uk.


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In conversation with Michelle Rainbow, Skills Director at the North East Local Enterprise Partnership, about National Apprenticeship Week

03-07 February 2020 sees the arrival of National Apprenticeship Week, putting this important route to employment in the spotlight. Michelle Rainbow, Skills Director at the North East Local Enterprise Partnership, highlights the benefits that apprentices can bring to businesses and new support that’s on offer from 2020.

If you’re a business planning for 2020 and beyond, it’s likely that staffing and skills will be on your list of priorities.

Apprenticeships can be a great way of bringing fresh talent and skills to your business, by employing an apprentice or upskilling staff via an apprenticeship scheme, with qualifications going all the way up to degree-level.

From 2020, larger employers who pay the Apprenticeship Levy can transfer up to 25 percent of their funds to smaller businesses to support them to take on an apprentice, which is great news for SMEs.

However, smaller businesses often tell us that they struggle with ‘where to start’ when it comes to hiring an apprentice; from how to fund an apprenticeship to recruiting the right person for the job.

To support businesses in that situation, we’ve just updated our Apprenticeship Toolkit on the North East Growth Hub to offer simple and clear advice on where to start and where to get support.

The Toolkit brings together useful information to help businesses find, recruit, train and develop an apprentice. It also includes case studies from local businesses that have benefited from employing apprentices.

On a national level, a significant development for 2020 is that all employers in England will soon have access to all the benefits of the National Apprenticeship Service – including greater choice of quality training providers, more control over how they pay for training, and how they access and recruit apprentices.

The transition of non-levy paying businesses onto the full apprenticeship service will take place from early 2020 and extra funding will be available to support up to 5,000 new apprenticeship starts through the service every month until March 2020.

If you’re not able to offer an apprenticeship, you might want to consider offering a traineeship instead, which consist of 20 percent on-the-job and 80 percent off-the-job training.

Traineeships help 16 to 24-year-olds get ready for a job or apprenticeship if they don’t have the appropriate skills or experience. It involves a minimum of 100 hours of work experience over a maximum of six months. Employers need to deliver a meaningful work experience to the trainee, but it’s a much smaller time commitment than an apprenticeship. It’s a great way to give someone their first step onto the career ladder, and your business gets to benefit from an injection of fresh ideas and talent too.

During 2018/19, we saw over 15,500 apprenticeships start in our region. By offering an apprenticeship or traineeship, businesses can help to improve skills across the North East, boosting the economy and creating more and better jobs. It would be fantastic to see these numbers really grow from 2020 onwards.

To find out more about the benefits of apprenticeships and the value they can add to your business, visit the Apprenticeship Toolkit on the North East Growth Hub.

You can also find more information about apprenticeships and traineeships by visiting www.gov.uk or www.apprenticeships.gov.uk.


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In conversation with Michelle Rainbow, Skills Director at the North East LEP, about new, improved changes to the apprenticeship service

Since it launched in 2016, more than 2.2 million people have signed up to use the Education and Skills Funding Agency’s apprenticeship service.

The award-winning online platform has helped over 17,000 levy-paying employers take control of their apprenticeships and make better decisions for their organisation.

The good is news all employers in England, whether they’re levy-paying or not, will soon have access to all the benefits of the apprenticeship service. The Education and Skills Funding Agency has decided to open it up so any employer, big or small, can choose how they want to manage their apprenticeships and make them work for their business.

Previously, non-levy paying businesses only had access to certain areas of the platform, for example, the find an apprenticeship service. Now they’ll be able to take full advantage of all the services on offer, including greater choice of quality training providers, more control over how they pay for that training, and how they access and recruit apprentices.

The transition of non-levy paying businesses onto the full apprenticeship service will take place over the course of this year with a selection of employers and partnered providers invited to test the service.

I hope all North East businesses take full advantage of this exciting change. Providing more apprenticeship opportunities will help improve skills across the North East, boosting the economy and creating more and better jobs.

To find out more visit www.gov.uk or sign up to receive apprenticeship email alerts.

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National Apprenticeship Week – What next for the North East?

North East LEP Skills Director Michelle Rainbow gives the lowdown on apprenticeships and calls on the Government to listen closely to businesses and help create more demand.

The Government plans to create three million apprenticeships by 2020. It’s an increasingly ambitious target, not least because the number of apprenticeships has dropped since the Apprenticeship Levy was introduced in April 2017.

So what’s going on? Here in the North East it’s a mixed picture. Having seen apprenticeship schemes promoted heavily, pupils, parents and schools have understandably bought in. Conversely, businesses have been hanging back, waiting to see what the quality standards will be like – so there is supply of eager applicants but less demand.

The complexity of the Apprenticeship Levy hasn’t helped. An early assessment report by the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD) shows that 22% of employers don’t know whether they have to pay the Levy or not.

This plays out here, where SMEs continue to seek clarity. There is a big difference between sectors which are used to hiring apprentices, such as construction, manufacturing and engineering, and those for whom this is still a new innovation. It’s one of the reasons our case studies focus on the fields of pharmaceuticals and law as they’re not traditionally associated with this type of scheme.

Right now our ask of Government is that it continues to liaise closely with employers to understand their needs, provides reassurance about quality standards and simplifies how the Levy works – and this has to include clarification on how unspent monies will be used to set the record straight.

We need an agile system which can flex and respond to opportunities and issues in a much quicker timeframe. We also need to create real business demand.

Better qualifications and better jobs for all

Here at the North East LEP we particularly welcome higher and degree apprenticeships as we strive to create more and better jobs to support the local economy.

The North East Growth Hub lists the various providers and is well worth a look for those looking for more information.

However we are keen that the government takes steps to ensure these remain open to everyone.

Access to affordable degree-level education will of course prove popular across the board as more people understand the opportunity and move to maximise this. As such there is a particular need to engage with the more disadvantaged and not just the squeezed middle classes if we are to raise ambitions, keep a level playing field and make sure no one gets left behind.

Ultimately the apprenticeship drive is moving in the right direction but implementation always brings new challenges, as well as the need for expectation management.

Rest assured, we will continue to work with the business community, schools and parents to represent their needs with Government and do all we can to achieve the greatest success possible.

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North East teachers forge links with engineering sector

Every year, Tomorrow’s Engineers Week inspires the next generation of engineers, letting young people know about the career opportunities available within the engineering industry.

In the North East, as part of an event organised by the North East LEP, EngineeringUK, Unipres UK Ltd and STEM Learning, a group of STEM subject teachers were invited behind the scenes at Unipres to gain an insight into the career paths on offer to their students.

Moira Shaftoe, Employer Support Manager (NE) at EngineeringUK said:

It’s great to have Unipres on board as part of the Tomorrow’s Engineers North East employer Network. Tomorrow’s Engineers Week shines a spotlight on engineering careers in a way that young people may have never considered before.

We understand the importance of taking teachers on that journey too, many of whom have limited knowledge about the exciting career opportunities available in the sector. We aim to inform teachers about the routes into and relevance of STEM subjects to those careers and how to maximise the potential of engaging with an employer to help bring the STEM curriculum to life. Participating in the event at Unipres will enable teachers to use the experience to enrich the teaching and learning of STEM subjects in school and contribute to the development of their wider careers strategy.

The teachers attending the event were all from schools which are part of the Good Career Guidance Benchmarks project which is being piloted in the North East. One of the benchmarks of the project, which aims to improve students’ transition from school to work or further study, is encounters between schools and employers and employees.

As well as a behind-the-scenes site tour of the Unipres Sunderland plant, which manufactures steel components used to form the internal structures of cars, the teachers heard from the company’s HR Manager and Apprentice Coordinator, who spoke about routes into a career in engineering or advanced manufacturing.

Rob Dodds, Apprentice Coordinator at Unipres UK Ltd, said:

We’ve been working with Moira as an active partner of the Tomorrow’s Engineers employer network for a couple of years now. We have a strong outreach programme that extends across the region, inspiring young people of all ages about careers in engineering and manufacturing and career opportunities within our business. The event we hosted during Tomorrow’s Engineers Week provided teachers with an opportunity to explore how they can make use of the Unipres resource, and wider network of local employers, by integrating employer engagement into the curriculum.

The day also included a presentation from a teacher who had completed an Insights into Industry placement, and time for attendees to plan how they will use their findings when they return to the classroom.

Chris Bryant, a teacher at the King Edward VI School in Morpeth, said:

This event will help me to build careers learning into the curriculum. Having links with employers makes a big difference to being able to use real world situations, companies and people to allow students a more thorough understanding of their future opportunities.

Moira Shaftoe added: “We want to help make young people aware of the variety of opportunities there are in the engineering sector, especially in the North East which is home to world-leading engineering organisations. We plan to work with more companies in the region, helping to build and nurture relationships between teachers and employers.”

Find out more about Tomorrow’s Engineers

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In conversation with George Ritchie MBE, Chair of the North East Apprenticeship Ambassadors Network

By the year 2020 there will be three million new quality apprenticeships in the UK, that’s the ambitious target set by the government.

It’s a figure that reflects the resurgence in apprenticeships across the business community. More than 2.2 million apprenticeships have been created since 2010 and that number is growing.

As a member of the North East LEP’s Apprenticeship Growth Partnership, we’re working with government to help realise that target by supporting businesses in developing more apprenticeship vacancies and higher level apprenticeships. We want to see high quality apprenticeship provision that businesses really value.

I am a passionate supporter of apprenticeships and traineeships. I believe they’re a fantastic route to work for many young people and they provide businesses with access to a talented pool of ambitious, creative and committed workers.

As Chair of the North East Apprenticeship Ambassadors Network, it’s my role to grow the apprenticeships programme in the North East by engaging employers and promoting the benefits of apprenticeships and traineeships. In the five years I’ve been in the role I’ve seen a huge step change in the value and importance employers place on apprenticeships but there’s definitely more we can do.

One of the new initiatives we’ve introduced is the North East Young Apprenticeship Ambassador Network – a collective of passionate and talented apprentices whose role it is to be the voice of apprenticeships and traineeships in the region.

As committed as I am to flying the flag for apprenticeships, I know that young people respond to advice and guidance from friends and their peers; someone like them explaining why an apprenticeship or traineeship is a great route to work is far more valuable.

That’s why you’ll be seeing members of our North East Young Apprenticeship Ambassador Network at skills events, jobs/careers fairs and delivering talks in schools and colleges to enthuse and inspire the next generation of apprentices.

One of the first events the Network was involved in was actually one of the most significant. In September this year the Rt Hon Robert Halfon MP, Minister of State at the Department for Education, visited the North East to see first hand the positive impact apprenticeships and traineeships are having amongst young people.

Rhys Goulden, a member of the North East Young Apprenticeship Ambassador Network who is currently working towards a Higher Apprenticeship in Mechanical Maintenance with Unipres UK, delivered a fantastic presentation to the Minister about the value of the apprenticeships and traineeships. Rhys did an outstanding job and the event really showed us how important the Network will be going forward.

All our young apprenticeship ambassadors go through a formal training session where they gain skills in communication, presentation and develop the self-esteem and confidence that will see them flourish in their careers. We’d like to recruit more people like Rhys to join the Network and help us raise the profile of apprenticeships amongst young people and businesses right across the North East.

If your business supports apprenticeships and traineeships, at any level, and you have a dedicated and committed member of the team you’d like to put forward to be part of the North East Young Apprenticeship Ambassador Network, I’d love to hear from you.

The Network is one of only four across the entire country and my ambition is for it to be the best. For that to happen we need more outstanding young apprentices to join us.

For more information and to put an apprentice forward to join the North East Young Apprenticeship Ambassador Network, please email me on [email protected] or call 01642 623 000.

I’m enormously proud of the all the young ambassadors involved in the Network and I look forward to working them, and others, to reach the government’s target of three million new apprenticeships by 2020.


By George Ritchie MBE
Chair of the North East Apprenticeship Ambassadors Network

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Hands-on training accelerates career opportunities for Nissan apprentice

A former A level student is urging young people to consider apprenticeships as way of realising their career ambitions after finding his own success through the hands-on training route.

Nissan apprentice, Stephen McCarron, 20, from Wallsend, has shown that despite widespread perceptions that apprenticeships are less valuable than a degree, they are in fact a great way to fast-track your way into a highly skilled job.

Stephen started a five-year apprenticeship in September last year after completing A levels at Burnside Business & Enterprise College and then deciding the academic route at university to become an engineer wasn’t for him.

He is now working his way through a course that is helping him to fine tune his skills in everything from electrical installation, electronics and circuits and mechanical work to welding and computer aided design (CAD). All while earning a wage and taking the opportunity to develop softer employability skills to help him make the move from education into the workplace.

Stephen, who is completing the course at Gateshead College’s Skills Academy for Automotive, Engineering, Manufacturing and Logistics at Team Valley in Gateshead, said: “I’ve always wanted to train as an engineer and after gaining good grades at A level, thought that university was the only option for me. I soon decided that the academic route was too focused on theory and that I’d like to work more on my practical skills.

“Taking up the apprenticeship is the best career move I could have made. I’ve progressed far quicker than I would have doing a degree and an added bonus is I’m earning a wage while doing it.”

Judith Doyle, principal and chief executive at Gateshead College added: “Moving on to university after studying A levels is not for everyone and some people are more suited to learning in the workplace rather than spending the majority of their time reading textbooks. That’s why it’s vital to provide young people with clear, impartial and valuable career advice to help them pick the right career path.

“While university can be a valuable experience for some, we want to put the message out there that there are some fantastic apprenticeship opportunities open to those who want to fulfil their career ambitions. It’s not just academic learning that can get you higher level qualifications or help you to secure a highly skilled, prestigious job. Apprenticeships allow you to earn a wage while getting that all important work experience under your belt as well as highly desirable qualifications.”

Gateshead College’s careers advisors provide friendly, impartial and expert advice on which learning path is right for you. For more information, call call 0191 490 2245 or visit gateshead.ac.uk