Government figures indicate that almost a quarter of a million people started a modern apprenticeship scheme in the five years following their introduction in 1994. The people below are just six of those hundreds of thousands who became apprentices in sectors from business to stonemasonry between 1994 and 1999.
Although not all of our six interviewees enjoyed or valued every aspect of their apprenticeship, every one considers now that the scheme they joined was a worthwhile way to start their working lives.
Since graduating from their own apprenticeship schemes, several of these interviewees have taken on apprentices themselves, and some are now part of large organisations that pride themselves on maintaining a commitment to running apprenticeship schemes and on-the-job training.
Whether or not the interviewees continued on the same career track which their apprenticeship prepared them for, they all valued opportunities afforded them at the start of their careers – in particular, the chance to earn a fair wage while gaining professional qualifications.
‘I wasn’t sure what to do in life, but I knew I liked taking things apart and putting them back together’
Martin Price, director of operations
Mechanical engineering apprenticeship
In 1996, I was 17 and wasn’t sure what to do in life. I knew I liked taking things apart and putting them back together, so I took a mechanical engineer’s apprenticeship at an automotive component manufacturer’s. I learned the basics of engineering, doing an NVQ level three and a BTec in mechanical engineering. I returned to do on-the-job training, and gained an HNC.
In 2000, I was approached by my current employer where I now work as the director of operations. We work with In-Comm, a training provider for apprenticeships rated ‘outstanding’ by Ofsted. This is a great time to be an apprentice in the engineering sector.
‘I have started my own marketing and PR company with five employees, including one apprentice’
Katrina Cliffe, managing director
Business administration apprenticeship
I left school just before my 16th birthday in August 1999 and went straight into an apprenticeship in business administration.
After three boring months working for a car dealership, I sought out an opportunity working on reception for a marketing recruitment business. I gained my NVQ level two in business and since then, I have completed a certificate in business with the Open University and gained two diplomas from the Chartered Institute of Marketing.
I worked as marketing manager before going freelance, and starting my PR and marketing company that now works to raise the profile of small businesses in the north of England. I employ five members of staff, including one apprentice.
‘Classroom teaching has its place, but it is no match for the on-the-job experience of an apprenticeship’
Philip Parry, stonemason
I joined Wells Cathedral Stonemasons after my GCSEs in the summer of 1996, gaining an NVQ level three in stonemasonry. I first worked as a banker mason, someone who carves stone, rather than a fixer mason, who fixes it to the buildings. I really enjoyed the work and still do.
After my apprenticeship, I represented the UK at the Skills Olympics, an international competition for apprentices. I then worked at Wolff Stone for nearly 20 years and now I am self-employed. My work varies a lot, covering everything from gravestones to fireplaces, repair work and restoration.
Apprenticeships are the best way to learn physically how to do a job. Classroom teaching has a place but is no match for on-the-job experience.
‘If you want to be an apprentice, then you should just go for it. Not everyone wants to sit behind a desk’
Antony Streets, electrical manager
In 1997, I started an apprenticeship with Wessex Electricals in Shaftesbury. I went to college one day a week, and the other four were out working in the field with other electricians. I finished in 2002, with a level three NVQ.
Now I’m electrical manager for Sovereign housing association. We have 57,000 properties across south and south-west England. I’m responsible for everything electrical: from repairs, to installing new systems. When I started, I made sure we had apprentices – that’s where we get our future tradespeople.
If you want to be an apprentice, just go for it. Not everyone wants to sit behind a desk.
‘I have grown with the company … I love watching new apprentices achieve their dreams’
Kelly Medley, training director
Early years apprenticeship
I left school aged in aged 16 in 1995 with very poor GCSEs, so I did a foundation course at college.
The MD of Tops Day Nurseries, Cheryl Hadland, was my tutor. I asked if she had any jobs; as a result, I started as an early years apprentice in the Parkstone nursery in 1996.
I was made a supervisor at a new Tops nursery in 2000, then became deputy manager. In 2002, I moved to the Aspire training team, part of the same group as Tops. By 2007 I was a training director.
I have grown with the company, which now has a chain of nurseries across south-west England. I love watching new apprentices achieve their dreams and qualifications.
‘The data side bored me to tears … But things really took off for me when I started a role in sales’
Michael Fitzgibbon, managing director
At 18, I had just completed a business and finance diploma at college but I wanted to develop my qualifications while earning some much-needed wages.
My apprenticeship was based in the market planning department of British Steel in Redcar, and I started in 1994. I supported the sales teams with data on manufacturing trends. The data side bored me to tears.
I became a commercial analyst after the apprenticeship but things really took off when I started a role in sales. I left there after eight years and went to the industrial IT sector.
After taking voluntary redundancy from that, I went to uni to do an undergraduate degree, securing a first in music production.
I’m now co-founder of SEO agency, Digital Tepee.