National Apprenticeship Week 2021: Delivering our future trailblazers

woman wearing headphones and studyingThe last 12 months have hit the working population hard, with UK redundancies tripling in the final quarter of 2020 compared to quarter one, and 3.9 million people on furlough schemes as recently as December 2020.

As the education sector celebrates National Apprenticeship Week 2021, we explore the benefits of opting for a less traditional route to a successful career.

With around sixty-five per cent of apprentices being offered a full-time job with their employer at the end of their apprenticeships, now couldn’t be a better time to retrain. Here, we get the lowdown on apprenticeships with Abby Clark, a 19-year-old from Crook in County Durham, who is studying Applied Science Biotechnology.

Abby attends Newcastle College University Centre one day a week and works as a laboratory scientist on the other four days and says that an apprenticeship was always in her mind. “I decided that a degree apprenticeship was for me due to my high work ethic established from having a job since being 13,” she said.

“I hadn’t spoken to many people about my career options as it wasn’t the regular route to go down from my sixth form, but I wanted to continue to work and develop my skills alongside my education. The apprenticeship structure has provided an appropriate balance between academia and industry.”

She added: “My university standards closely link to my work life, so I gain skills which benefit me in everything I do. The main advantages of a degree apprenticeship are the opportunities and experience I gain, which are necessary for competitive jobs within the industry.

“My favourite thing about my apprenticeship is how much experience I have already had and how many skills I am now confident with. If I was to go through university the traditional way, I wouldn’t have been able to develop my professionalism or get to work with scientists from all different backgrounds at different stages of their careers.”

As National Apprenticeship Week takes on the Build The Future theme, Newcastle College Principal Scott Bullock, has reiterated the importance of apprenticeships in reskilling our working population and preparing people for a return to work.

He said: “Newcastle College is committed to developing a workforce that is fit for purpose and apprenticeships are a key part of the skills training that we offer. Our vision is to develop the skills and talents of our students to succeed in modern enterprise and apprenticeships are a vital way of giving people of all ages the skills they need to get ahead.

“We put employers at the heart of our skills training, ensuring our apprentices gain real skills and experience that will lead to meaningful careers and bring value to the businesses we work with, such as Accenture and Sterling Pharma Solutions. The theme of this year’s National Apprenticeship Week is ‘Build the Future’ which aptly reflects the role that apprentices will play in our recovery from the impact of this pandemic.”

On Thursday (11th February), Abby will celebrate International Day of Women and Girls in Science. Her love of science goes back to primary school, but now she wants to join a field of more than one million will in STEM roles in the UK.

She added: “Science has always been my favourite subject; particularly biology. Since primary school I have always wanted to be pushed to achieve the best things possible; I enjoy the challenge which science brings as well as the constant opportunity to learn in an ever-developing career.”

Women make up 24% of the STEM workforce in the UK, a figure that rises to 45% when applied directly to sciences. Abby added: “Traditionally, men would go to work while woman would stay home and look after children. In the current climate, childcare has not been steady with school closures so society observing woman still working within science in order to do quick development or intense research will go a long way towards ending the stigma surrounding woman in STEM.

“Many news articles are arising surrounding one of the UK’s leading female vaccinologist due to COVID being at the front of everyone’s mind, reading about how the UK is being directed to safe vaccines by a female scientist can alter the way in which people perceive woman in this industry.”

Since 2016 the number of women working in STEM jobs has steadily increased. The sector is evolving from a male-centric one as women infiltrate the industry, but women still face many obstacles in the industry as they seek out the same career opportunities as their male peers.

With Newcastle College already offering world class science facilities, including an instrumentation room with specialist spectrophotometers, a HPLC chromatography, and an organic chemistry teaching laboratory, Bullock expects Newcastle College to be a leader for sciences in the region.

He said: “Our goal at Newcastle College is to become the leading college provider in all STEM subjects and we’re currently undertaking a huge level of investment in resources, facilities, and employer partnerships to grow our STEM provision.

“This includes growing the number of students on our STEM courses by 40% over the next five years and inspiring more girls to study these subjects is an absolutely vital part of that. It is always encouraging to see more girls taking an interest in these areas and we are committed to helping more create a career in industries such as Engineering, Science and the North East’s growing Offshore and Renewable Energy sector.”

With employers who have apprentices in their team claiming they are 15 per cent more employable than those with other qualifications, it really does look like a bright future beckons for Clark and her peers!


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