Opinion: Apprenticeships all across the UK are changing the lives of young people. I should know, because I’m one of them

I was told growing up that going to University was the pinnacle of all human achievement, that it would set me up for life. I didn’t do well in my A-levels and university became out of my reach, so I began working in students’ unions instead. Now, as an apprentice in Tom Brake’s office, I am gaining knowledge, developing new skills and working towards a qualification – all whilst making a difference in the local area. It has made me passionate to do more; I will be standing to be a councillor at next year’s local elections. I’ve come a long way from where I was, a young lad with poor A-level results and little hope of getting a job.

But I am not alone.

Recently I attended an event in Parliament on apprenticeships. It met so many amazing apprentices and employers from all across the UK, who shared their stories, what works and what doesn’t. Nick Clegg did a Q&A session, and the reception he got was largely one of optimism; employers were proud to show off their apprentices to the rest of the room, and apprentices were positive about their employers in return.

It shows how right it was for the Liberal Democrats to focus on raising the number of apprenticeships. But Nick was clear at the event; we’ve still got a long way to go. He said that out of 5 million businesses in the UK, only around 100,000 have apprentices. The trick, he said, was to get smaller businesses on board to the idea that apprentices are an asset.

There are things that need improving with the apprenticeships scheme. Being on an apprenticeship in Tom Brake MP’s office and living in London, I have the luxury of the apprentice oyster card. This offers me about a third off what an oyster card already offers on public transport, meaning I can get to and from work and college without incurring huge costs. But this is only limited to London, and only if you live in London. So, if you live outside of the M25 but travel into London to do your apprenticeship, you’re not eligible for the apprentice oyster card. Nick rightly recognised this as daft, and promised to look into it. But the #FEparty didn’t stop there.

Many expressed concern that subsidised travel is not offered elsewhere in the UK for apprentices, and potentially all young people. It seems unjust to me that rich pensioners get free bus travel and yet poor youngsters don’t. With Liberal Youth campaigning for ‘Fairer Fares’ at Freshers this year, it seems that public transport to and from education is increasingly being given importance.

Despite the changes needed, we should all recognise the difference Liberal Democrats in Government are making. The huge increase in apprenticeships we’ve brought about isn’t just a statistic – that’s hundreds of thousands of extra lives, like mine, that have been changed. We should be proud of every single one.

(The #FEparty is a hashtag used by Lib Dem members and activists on Twitter who want to see the party focus more on Further Education.)

* Callum Morton is leading the buzz around the #FEparty hashtag and works in Tom Brake MP’s office as an apprentice.

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  • Robert Hamilton 12th Sep '13 - 4:54pm

    “as an apprentice in Tom Brake’s office, I am gaining knowledge, developing new skills and working towards a qualification”
    I have enjoyed working with volunteers, some of whom became employees. You seem to be different, so describe what, as an apprentice, you do, what your are paid, what qualification you seek and why you chose an apprenticeship with the Libdems.

  • Callum Morton 12th Sep '13 - 5:13pm

    Hi Robert,

    I am an apprentice caseworker, so I regularly deal with constituents’ problems. Each month, I extensively learn one area of casework. Last month it was housing, which means I can advise constituents on how Sutton Council allocates Social Housing, I can deal with housing repairs, liaise with housing associations, and more. Soon I will be going on to learn how to deal with immigration & visa issues. I am paid the London Living Wage, £8.55 an hour and work 5 days a week, with one day roughly every fortnight at college to gain my qualification (NVQ Level 3 advanced apprenticeship in business and administration).

    I chose an apprenticeship in the Lib Dems because I wanted to make a difference to people’s lives. University isn’t for everyone, and it wasn’t to be for me, but the apprenticeship (linked to a Further Education College) has given me a chance to gain a qualification I wouldn’t have otherwise have had. Around 95% of apprentices go on to find work afterwards, so it has been vitally important for someone like me – it’s a social mobility winner.

    I hope this answers your question!

  • Rachel Coleman Finch 13th Sep '13 - 10:08am

    When I had my second child, I returned to the nursery that my first child had attended, and was pleased to see them taking on apprentices, which I don’t remember them doing before. The nursery already had a strong commitment to ongoing training and qualification for all their staff, and the apprenticeships fit right into that. I’ve been impressed with the apprentices I’ve met who have worked with my child: their enthusiasm and skill and observation of my child’s behaviour and development has been lovely to see, and I hope they go on to rewarding professional careers in childcare.

  • Whilst I am pleased that you have secured an apprenticeship the same cannot be said for my son who has been refused two by the college provider on the basis that he doesn’t have the gold standard GCSE grade C or above in English or Maths,
    As a young person with learning disabilities and unable to access a GCSE curriculum he is now at home having fallen through a funding and provider gap. There is no mechanism for enabled access to apprenticeships for the considerable number of young people and so they are resigned to a career on the dole.
    So this is how the current government value disabled young people! So much for inclusion.

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