Sussex apprentices reveal the schemes that changed their lives
Although often thought of as just for school leavers, apprenticeships can boost your career at any age.
As businesses celebrate National Apprenticeship Week, Rolls-Royce leathershop apprentice Clare Howieson joined the scheme after years working in the textile industry and is proof apprenticeships are a great way of launching a new career path.
Clare, who works at the company’s Goodwood site, describes herself as a mature apprentice and took on the challenge having previously designed fabrics for companies including John Lewis.
She said: “I was looking at the upholstery course at Chichester. I thought I would apply and see what happened.
“The other apprentices are a great bunch of people. They’re really kind.
“It must be like having their mum sit with them when they’re having their tea.
“You’re just one of the team at the end of the day.”
That the apprenticeship linked in with a college course was a big draw for Clare, but she said the scheme put her completely out of her comfort zone.
She added: “[Rolls-Royce] give me the tools to succeed.
“You just have to grab hold of them and keep running with them.
“Just go for it.”
National Apprenticeship Week, March 4 to 8, celebrates schemes which offer a way to become qualified while working full time, allowing applicants to gain work experience while studying.
Apprenticeships are offered by numerous businesses including Rolls-Royce, Horsham based company Trend Controls and this newspaper.
Chichester MP Gillian Keegan is an apprenticeship ambassador has her own experience of apprenticeships and is a big supporter of the schemes and the transferable skills they offer.
She took a degree level apprenticeship at a car factory which she said completely changed her life.
She said: “It’s given me a lifelong approach to learning.
“It’s not for everybody but I think it’s for more people than are currently going down this route. For me it was basically a social mobility ticket.
“The apprenticeship was what offered me the chance to get into the workplace and continue to be educated.”
Gillian told how she wanted to dispel myths that apprenticeships were a ‘second class route’.
She added: “It’s something that gives your career a real boost.
“I want people to understand that actually an apprenticeship is as valued a route to the top of any profession.
“It can propel you very quickly up the career ladder.”
In January 2018 Sussex Newspapers began its 18-month apprenticeship scheme for four journalists.
The apprentices spend four days a week working in the newsroom and one day a week gaining their Diploma in Journalism, the industry standard qualification.
The apprentices spend their time writing for the community team while studying media law, video journalism, shorthand and more.
Belinda Dickins, one of the apprentices, said: “I feel like I have a really good grounding in journalism for my career going forward.
“It has been really hard work but I am so glad I chose to do the apprenticeship.”
Yasmin Randall told how one of the highlights of the scheme was covering the visit of Prince Harry and Meghan Markle to Chichester.
She added: “It was amazing to cover such a prestigious event.
“The scheme has given me so many incredible opportunities.”
Sian Cripps told of her whirlwind journey from a waitress at a family tea room to becoming one of the successful applicants on the scheme.
She said: “It has honestly been the best year of my life.
“I have learnt so many different things from other journalists in the office but I have also learnt a lot about myself. The best part of my apprenticeship has been the people I’ve met and how much it’s changed me as a person.”
Rolls-Royce Motor Cars has been a strong supporter of apprenticeships since launching its scheme in 2006 and has 60 active apprenticeships covering various departments.
Sam Evans is a production specialist in planning. He started an apprenticeship at the firm in 2010 and finished in 2014.
He said: “[Rolls-Royce] expose you to so much. It’s just so different to everywhere else, the investment that they put into you is huge.
“It’s a job for life.”
Lucy Harris, a leather shop apprentice who’s been at the company six months, added: “If you’re even considering [an apprenticeship], it’s probably a really good option.
“There is no point considering something and then not trying it.”
Georgie Heath, on the same scheme as Lucy, told how her parents were ‘really proud’.
She said she spends two days a week at college and three days at the factory and before starting the course had never picked up a needle.
Tom Hurford is a quality apprentice and three and a half years into the four years scheme.
He added: “I applied for Rolls-Royce the first year out of school. I was unsuccessful.
“I took an agricultural apprenticeship, did a year of that. I think that experience with John Deere gave me the skills to get in here.
“It’s definitely worth it. No two days are the same.
“It’s nice to have a bit of a different challenge each day.
“You’re pushed to grow and better yourself but there’s a really good support network around you.”
Calum Rafferty, a woodshop and lacquer apprentice told his apprenticeship has given him transferable skills, despite not knowing what he wanted to do at the end of sixth form.
He said: “Apprenticeships were there but I never really looked at them.
“It’s a great opportunity to learn something and meet new people. It’s not down to what you have done before this [the scheme], it’s about you. It’s not about what you are it’s about who you are.
“I was very surprised when I got the call and overjoyed.”
Andrew Ball, head of corporate relations, heritage and philanthropy, added: “[The scheme is] about nurturing future talent.
“The vast majority of people [who] go through the programme stay with us.”
Apprenticeships can cover a range of subjects including more hands on industries like construction or horticulture, or more office based areas for example digital marketing or web development.