Young school pupils are being given valuable insights into the world of work, thanks to an initiative by a South West apprenticeship provider.
The Skills Group Apprenticeship & Schools initiative was launched two years ago to provide closer links between schoolchildren and apprenticeships as potential future career paths.
Skills Group currently has 51 apprentices working in more than 34 primary and secondary schools across Devon and Cornwall, either as teaching assistants, PE specialists or business administrators. In total, Skills Group has seen 114 apprentices go through this route.
In January, the Government announced the launch of its Primary Futures Apprenticeship scheme that aims to introduce the value of apprenticeships at an early age, and help youngsters make connections between classroom learning and how it relates to the world of work.
Unveiling the initiative, David Cameron’s apprenticeship advisor Nadhim Zahawi MP said: “Many of us develop our idea of a dream job while we’re at primary school, and apprenticeships are a great way of achieving these dreams. As the Government seeks to hit the target of three million apprenticeship starts by 2020, school pupils should be aware of future options they have from a young age, so they’re familiar with the system and what the possibilities are as they shape their future.”
Mark Boulting, managing director of Plymouth-based Skills Group, said: “We welcome the Government’s drive to ensure school pupils are being given information about the value of apprenticeships, although this is something Skills Group has been actively doing in the region for some time now.
“While some schools are good at promoting apprenticeships, too many are failing in their duty to provide impartial advice and guidance leaving youngsters unaware of the options open to them.
“At Skills Group we have noticed a huge appetite amongst employers to engage with apprentices and provide work experience opportunities. However, while we have over 180 vacancies for high quality jobs, we still don’t have enough suitable candidates. This begs the question as to whether enough information is getting into schools about the value of apprenticeships compared to academic routes.
“I truly believe that youngsters completing apprenticeships have a better chance of continuing employment – because they are armed with the skills needed for the world of work, while university graduates may have a narrower range of skills and little, if any, experience.”
Schools who actively take on apprentices include Tor Bridge Primary in Plymouth who recently invited Skills Group’s school liaison team in to talk to Year 5 and 6 pupils about apprenticeships and careers, with the apprentices based at Tor Bridge.
Head teacher Cathryn Thompkins said: “It has been my first experience of employing apprentices and it has worked well. From the apprentice’s point of view, they are getting that first-hand experience of working with young people while still in a learning environment. They are learning as they go along and it greatly helps with their confidence.
“For the children, seeing a younger person working and in a position of responsibility will hopefully encourage them to think about their future aspirations.”
APPRENTICE CASE STUDY: Zach Vaughan, Mid Cornwall Sport Network
Zach Vaughan is a Level 3 Sport and Leisure apprentice with Skills Group. The 19-year-old works as an assistant for the Mid Cornwall Sport Network helping organise and run sporting events for local primary and secondary schools throughout Cornwall.
Zach, of St Blazey, said: “An apprenticeship has given me the chance to learn a lot of new skills that I can take into later life, while also gaining a good working relationship with new people. I would definitely recommend an apprenticeship to youngsters who is unsure on what they want to do, it’s a good route to go down. It is a great stepping stone into employment.”
Emma Moore, manager of the Mid-Cornwall Sports Partnership, said: “We took on apprentices from Skills Group after realising there were some great opportunities that we could offer young people through our establishment.
“For youngsters, an apprenticeship gives them great experience in the workplace, especially in education, which can be difficult to get into.”
APPRENTICE CASE STUDY: Dean Squire, High View Primary School
Keen to find a career he could stick with rather than a university degree ‘that did not give me many options’, Dean Squire worked for a year as an apprentice teaching assistant at High View Primary School in Plymouth.
During that year, it was Dean’s job to assist the class teacher, prepare resources, coach lunchtime activities, work with pupils on a one-to-one basis, as well as running after-school clubs.
“Doing the qualification alongside your job is completely manageable, with the help of my supportive mentor I was able to easily complete all tasks ahead of schedule and complete my course,” he said.
“There were so many parts of my job I enjoyed. I made lifelong friends, learned incredible amounts and made a difference to lots of children. I enjoyed passing on my knowledge in every subject and also coaching children a new sport, as only a handful had ever touched a rugby ball before.”
Dean has now started studying for a BEd in Primary Education with a PE specialism at Plymouth University. The degree will qualify him as a teacher in three years and also give him the opportunity to continue learning about his passion for sport.
“I thoroughly enjoyed my year as an apprentice, it gave me the platform to go on into a career that I enjoy. I gained skills that I will use throughout my life and shared some of my own with others. Without Skills Group I do not know where I would be and I am thankful that the opportunity was given to me,” added Dean.
Dorian Kemp, head of High View Primary School, said: “Dean was an asset to the school, and I ensured he received recognition amongst the staff for this achievements. I fully believe he will be an outstanding teacher one day, hopefully in my school! It has been a pleasure to be part of the scheme and we have taken on new apprentices as others have furthered their careers.”
Dean’s Skills Group assessor, Dave Shurmer, said: “It is really pleasing to see how well Dean progressed and I am sure this would not have been possible without the support of staff at the school who have helped to mould him into such a fantastic coach, teaching assistant and role model.
“Dean is already one of the strongest apprentices I have had the pleasure of working with and I would like to take the opportunity to wish him every success on his initial teacher training degree next year.”
Picture shows: Dean Squire, during his TA apprenticeship with High View Primary School.