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  • Writer's pictureSafer Highways

Active Training Team | Apprentices: rocket fuel for our future



Apprenticeships and vocational education have had a bit of a week. Our partners at Thrive, Ørsted, have been celebrating #WindWeek by shining a spotlight on the apprentices who joined their programme in September. It’s exciting to see the renewables industry attracting ambitious, enthusiastic young people with such great opportunities for earning and learning. Over 80% of Ørsted’s employees live within an hour’s drive of their office which means the local talent stays local. Ørsted apprentice Wind Turbine Technician, Olivia Mills, was quoted: ‘I applied for the Ørsted Apprenticeship because renewable energy is something I am highly passionate about, and I am keen to be a part of making a change to the world.’

Meanwhile as part of the BBC’s centenary celebrations, furniture restorer and television presenter Jay Blades welcomed King Charles to The Repair Shop programme. The team were challenged with restoring a vase and a clock from the collection at Dumfries House, the 18th century home of the eponymous earl and now home to the Prince’s Foundation Building Craft Programme which provides training in traditional crafts and rural skills such as blacksmithing, stonemasonry and wood carving.

A joyous moment was watching horologist Steve Fletcher work alongside his son and apprentice Fred. Having made a piece of the mechanism with huge precision, using a small piece of brass, a blow torch and a vice, Fred says to the camera, ‘Learning on the job and making mistakes for myself; that has taught me far more than I could have learned from a book.’

Fred’s thoughts were echoed by HRH who commented, ‘Apprenticeships are vital’, possibly reflecting on the 64-year apprenticeship he has served himself in preparation for his current job.

Then the news that the latest iteration of the UK government plans to introduce education reforms with a focus on apprenticeships and the creation of elite technical institutes to transform vocational training. This week’s Prime Minister, Rishi Sunak, is said to view investment in education and skills as the ‘one silver bullet’ for public policy. The appointment of Gillian Keegan, who left school aged sixteen to do an apprenticeship, and Robert Halfon, a long-time advocate for apprenticeships, as ministers in the Department for Education, could signal a policy shift away from a singular focus on academic qualifications and reducing schools to Ofsted-pleasing exam factories.

The lessons we learn to help us negotiate the workplace, to form positive, enriching relationships with colleagues and to produce good, fulfilling work, are not found in a textbook. Global consultancy behemoth PwC carried out some research into why some of their employees were progressing more quickly in their careers than others; they identified three factors in those that were thriving: an adverse childhood experience; having worked in a team – playing football or an instrument in an orchestra – and having a job when you were a teenager. GCSE grades didn’t factor at all and, if anything, people with lower grades were doing better than their straight-A peers.

The approach in ATT’s programmes is very much ‘learning by doing’. Actively participating in something which is engaging and interesting helps us to absorb and retain learning. If it resonates with us at a personal or emotional level, then perhaps even more so. To paraphrase Maya Angelou, we may not remember exactly what someone said or did, but we do remember how they made us feel.

The world of work is more complex, more pressurised and changing more rapidly than ever before. It demands creativity, emotional intelligence, the ability to solve problems, to communicate effectively, to build relationships, work in a team and to adapt. We are almost a millennium away from the tanners and the cordwainers of medieval times. Today’s apprentices are our future engineers, lawyers, digital designers – the makers, the thinkers, the doers and the creators.

Listen to what young people have to say about apprenticeships, training and safety leadership in our Link two-parter podcast, Young people in construction and renewables – what are the risks and benefits? and Creating equal opportunities in construction for young and diverse people


I am keen to be a part of making a change to the world

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