Is a trade apprenticeship right for you? - Kieran's story
In The Nine to Five with Stacey Dooley on BBC iPlayer, Stacey takes five school leavers into four different industries that are crying out for young workers. They each get to spend two days doing the ultimate work experience. If the teens do well in the jobs they are given, Stacey rewards them with the national apprenticeship wage at the end of each day. But she also deducts money for poor performance, and so those who don’t make the grade can come away empty handed.
Here, Stacey outlines how school-hating Kieran couldn't muster any interest in the jobs he decided weren't for him, but came alive when he was working with his hands, was praised to the skies by his bosses and plumped for a trade apprenticeship to start his chosen career.
Some teenagers love school but I was never one of them. I turned up for just three of my GCSE exams and have no idea to this day whether I passed them or not. I still think I wasn’t made for the classroom. Yet that doesn’t mean that I disapprove of people choosing to stay in education. Far from it, many of the sharpest minds are shaped in university and if you have your eye on donning a tassel hat and grabbing a degree, then absolutely go for it!
But, if like me, you’re dying to spring out of the classroom but don’t know which direction to head in, please don’t stress. There can be a lot of pressure on young people to go on to a degree course and take on the debt that can come with it, without exploring what else is out there. So, to all the school leavers who don’t know if the hallowed halls of academia is the right choice for them, there are quite a few reasons why an apprenticeship in a trade might be a better option for you.
Firstly, of course, you are getting hands-on experience from day one. If you have a pretty good idea of where your interests lie then why beat around the bush? The best way to learn is to hit the ground running and show employers that you are bursting with potential. Yes, there are plenty of instances where you will need to continue with an academic education to get to your dream career; you want to be sure your doctor didn’t skip out on six years of medical school!. But not every stellar career choice needs a degree to back it up. In fact, many businesses are actively looking for school leavers to join their business and do a trade apprenticeship.
I recently visited Pimlico Plumbers, one of the country’s largest service and maintenance companies, and they believe that hiring apprentices is vital to tackling the UK’s skills shortages and a fantastic way to kick-start a long and rewarding career. They take young people fresh from school and tutor them on the job alongside a day-release course to give them the tools to build a stable and lucrative career in plumbing or electrics or motor mechanics. If you know you have an aptitude for working with your hands, for doing something technical, making things or fixing them, why not go for a trade apprenticeship?
One of our teenagers in this series of The Nine to Five was Scottish school-leaver Kieran, who was on the cusp of turning 16, but already knew the classroom wasn’t for him. He needed help getting his foot on the right career ladder, something that would float his boat.
During our work experience trip, it was pretty clear from the get-go that if Kieran didn’t like a task or an industry, he would drag himself slowly through it, lacking any enthusiasm or application to the task! Believe me, watching Kieran begrudgingly pack cucumbers was a sight to behold! However, watch Kieran learning plumbing and he’d be eagerly halfway down a drain before you knew it! Or watch Kieran getting the hang of brick laying and he’d have a wall built before your eyes in minutes! All so impressive. Kieran walked away with a range of hands-on skills and some great employer references that will get the ball rolling for his chosen career as a trade apprentice.
If you are a trade apprentice, as you progress, you will often be trusted to deliver a task by yourself. You will then be using your own yardstick to measure how fast you work. You get back what you put in. At school, you can often rely on your teachers to coax you, to encourage you, to set you deadlines and targets. That’s all well and good at school but it doesn’t always set you up for a bit of self-reliance at work.
I’m a big believer that if you need someone to step up to the plate, don’t take away their responsibility but give them more. For Kieran, being trusted to build an external wall at the construction company Redrow, inspired him to take pride in his work and deliver the best service and product he could. He was so enthused by it, he even worked though his lunch break!
See the difference fast
In a trade, you can see your work make a difference quickly. Trades like plumbing, construction, electrics and carpentry can give you immediate satisfaction. In creating or fixing something with your own hands, you get to see pretty fast how your work is making the world a better place. You did that. Do you sometimes find you struggle to keep motivated? Well, it’s easy to lose motivation if you lose sight of why you’re doing something to begin with. Getting a piece of paper with an A on it only means something if you can see the value of that A. With a trade, you get to physically see the results of your hard work. There’s a hole in the roof? Fix it. There’s a drain to be unblocked? Clear it. There’s a circuit broken? Re-wire it. Now you’ve earned yourself a happy customer!
A trade apprenticeship offer you the chance to put your work out there and see a speedy positive change. But just because you’re motivated by physical work doesn’t mean you have to forfeit getting a qualification. With the practical experience of an apprenticeship, you can work towards an NVQ (National Vocational Qualification) whilst you’re on the go.
Put the earn into learn
Let’s be honest, it’s no fun begging your parents for an extra tenner so you can put it towards new shoes. I have always had an eye for fashion but I admit that keeping your wardrobe up-to-date is not cheap! As soon as I was able to, I got myself a job, covering day and night shifts at two different places so I could feel the money on payday. Money is a great motivator and a great necessity! If you have pound signs in your eyes, then a trade apprenticeship could be the gateway to getting some skills under your belt at the same time as seeing the pennies roll in. They can offer you a long-term lucrative career.