SCHOOL leavers and people looking to reinvent their careers are being encouraged to explore the less trodden career paths.

The theme of this year's National Apprenticeship Week which runs until Sunday is 'look beyond' and celebrates the diversity that apprenticeships bring to employers, apprentices and communities.

Apprenticeships are an attractive alternative to post-16 education and university or for people seeking a career change. Not only do they provide skills and experience in areas from accountancy to engineering and early years to bio science, they also pay a wage and 90 per cent of people in an apprenticeship will stay in employment once their training is complete.

Across York, 1,350 apprenticeship jobs were started last year, from August 2018 to July 2019, according to City of York Council.

Aviva, whose UK Life and Pensions business is headquartered in York, has 67 apprentices across the city; of those, 45 per cent are over 30.

Aviva's apprenticeship roles reflect a broad range of skills. The focus is on developing core insurance skills such as underwriting and actuarial, but also a need to develop new skills such as digital, analytics and cyber.York Press:

Sophie Gray, head of apprenticeships, said: “Originally we thought apprenticeships would primarily attract new talent to entry-level roles, but the diversity of schemes means we can be more inclusive for people from different backgrounds and career stages – be it school leavers, people returning to work, or people reinventing their careers. We’ve found this makes for more engaged and dedicated employees, with the skills they develop being extremely valuable to us.

“We also have people who come to us with fresh ideas, motivation and a propensity to learn over time. We’re embracing new skills such as Data Science to equip us for the future and apprenticeships are helping us grow our own experts."

One appeal of apprenticeships is that they enable people to earn, achieve a qualification and gain invaluable work and industry experience at the same time.

York College delivers apprenticeships covering occupational areas such as accountancy, construction, business administration, hospitality, hairdressing, engineering, digital technologies and science.

Kerry Jephson, head of employer engagement at York College, said: “An apprenticeship is a real job with a contract of employment which is supported by a detailed and specific training programme.

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"At York College we offer a wide range of apprenticeship training programmes and our students find this style of learning to be most effective. We are always looking for more local employers to work with us, to engage with apprenticeships for new and existing staff, to support their business growth strategy and success planning to future-proof the skill-set of their business. Apprenticeships provide a fantastic opportunity for both employers and students.”

Among the apprentices reaping the benefits of their training is Andrew Benjamin, an electrical installation apprentice at Dunnington Electrical.

He said: “I was looking for more on-site experience and the apprentice route enabled me to learn on the job. This experience is invaluable. I am practically applying what I’m learning in real situations and that is what sets apprentices apart.

“It’s all about learning in a real world environment and gaining experience whilst earning a wage."

Site manager Paul Hawley said: “It’s useful to have another skill-set and a fresh pair of eyes, and it’s good to have someone keen and willing to learn on the job. Andrew’s skills are particularly useful when I am working on bigger jobs, enabling me to focus on the more technical aspects and trusting Andrew to take care of the other bits. Apprentices are needed for the future of the trade; it’s only through on-site experience and working with tradespeople that skills are developed.”

For Emma Waitzman, choosing to study stonemasonry at York College gave her a deeper understanding of the trade and secured her a much sought-after apprenticeship at York Minster.

She said: “My apprenticeship has helped me to gain experience that simply isn’t possible in the classroom. Working closely with master craftspeople and observing how things are done in practice is experience that you can’t get in any other way and has helped to develop my skills.”

Emma has many friends at York Minster and says her work place is a real community that helps her to progress and thrive. Emma says: “Working and studying is my favourite part of being an apprentice. I put theory into practice, and it is so rewarding. This style of learning helps to enforce all the lessons I am learning. A real highlight for me is knowing I have two pieces of work in York Minster.”York Press:

Karis Smith, a hairdressing apprentice at Shabby to Chic, felt an apprenticeship enabled her to learn in a more practical way than the more traditional education route. “I see the results of my work whilst learning on the job, dealing with customers and the different aspects of the trade. I watch the people who do this job day to day and their customer interaction is so important, it can’t be taught in the same way in a classroom.”

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Karis has her own client base and is developing in areas where she wants to practice specialist skills. “Pleasing my customers pushes me to get better at what I do, and I use what I learn at College and implement it in the workplace. This experience is the best. I feel more prepared for the workplace and more confident to get a full time job now.”

To celebrate National Apprenticeship Week, a number of events are being held this week.

York College is hosting an Apprenticeships and Partnerships event at Bedern Hall for employers to see how they can work with York College, to engage, recruit and develop future employees.

There will be information about apprenticeship courses and wider working partnerships including work experience opportunities, commercial short courses and curriculum planning. A panel of employers will answer questions from delegates. The event tomorrow, Wednesday February 5, is open to local employers interested to forge links with York College. Employers can book onto the event via Eventbrite.

There will be an opportunity for students to meet with employers at the next York College Open Evening on February 11.

Jon Graham, chief executive of JTL, which has an electrical training centre in York, said: “There is still much more work to be done in ensuring school leavers are fully aware of the benefits of undertaking an apprenticeship and in helping their parents or guardians feel confident and empowered in choosing this route. The UK is experiencing a skills shortage, especially within the building services engineering sector, so apprenticeships offer a fantastic opportunity for school leavers to embark on a career in a highly skilled and well-paid job.

“We really want to challenge people’s understanding of what an apprenticeship involves and importantly what it can lead to, so that all school leavers are fully informed. We also want to encourage more female and BAME learners, who are massively underrepresented within the trades to consider an apprenticeship as an option.

“We look forward to working with the education sector and industry to build on these results and create the next generation of skilled and talented tradespeople.”

In celebration of National Apprenticeship Week, JTL is hosting an electrical apprenticeship open day at the York centre tomorrow, Wednesday, from 10am to 12:30pm. JTL is inviting young people interested in starting an apprenticeship, as well as employers looking for candidates, and anyone else in the local community who may find this of interest, to come and look around its facility.

There will be existing staff, learners and employers on hand to answer questions and provide an insight into both what the courses entail, as well as where they can lead to in the future.

Meanwhile, City of York Council’s Apprenticeship Hub team is inviting young people, their parents and carers, to an apprenticeship recruitment event next month.

The event is on Tuesday, March 10, at the council’s West Offices headquarters from 4.30pm to 7.00pm. It will give people, aged 16 to 24, and their parents or carers chance to meet recruiting employers and training providers.

They will also get chance to learn about and apply for more than 100 local apprenticeship vacancies available in the city for when they finish school, college or sixth form this year.

One-to-one sessions will also be on offer with City of York Council’s Learning & Work Advisers for information, advice and guidance.

The current list of exhibitors include: Fera Science, York College, City of York Council, Haxby Group Pharmacy, Ainsty Gymnastics, York Probe Sources, Army Careers, Derwent Training, James Fisher Nuclear, Legend Club Management Systems, and more to be confirmed in the next few weeks.