Hastings college apprentices challenge stigmas over ‘image problem’

James Martin studied at Sussex Coast College Hastings four years ago before returning to study an electrical installations apprenticeship in 2014. Photo courtesy of SCCH
James Martin studied at Sussex Coast College Hastings four years ago before returning to study an electrical installations apprenticeship in 2014. Photo courtesy of SCCH
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Young adults studying for apprentices at college in Hastings disagree with the perceived negative image apprenticeships have as they champion the university alternative.

A report suggested young people in East Sussex do not see apprenticeships as a viable career option and would favour university to further their careers.

Samantha McIver is studying for her second apprenticeship having completed a Level 2 at a local law firm. Photo courtesy of SCCH

Samantha McIver is studying for her second apprenticeship having completed a Level 2 at a local law firm. Photo courtesy of SCCH

But Sussex Coast College Hastings (SCCH) would suggest apprenticeships do not have an image problem as there has never been a more popular time to start one.

Samantha McIver, 19, is currently studying for her second apprenticeship having completed a level two at a local law firm and is now studying a Level 3 and working at the college.

“I certainly disagree that apprenticeships have a bad image. I knew an apprenticeship was what I wanted to do when I left school,” she said.

“I didn’t want to have a student loan, or face fierce competition for one job. In my opinion, apprenticeships have changed a lot in recent times.

“It isn’t just about learning to be a carpenter or plumber anymore. There are lots of different options you can choose.

“Plus, some employers really value the contribution of an apprentice and pay them more than the standard apprentice minimum wage; so it isn’t just cheap labour.”

When asked, only seven per cent of 18-24 year-olds thought apprenticeships were the best way forward and less than a third (28 per cent) of people aged 55 and over agreed.

But this year SCCH helped start over 2,000 apprenticeships in the local area, 10 per cent more than the year before, and more than 1,500 of these were taken up by people who were aged 19 and above.

Samantha said she progressed really quickly at the law firm as there were lots of opportunities which she believes would not have been available had she not started as an apprentice.

“I have found that apprenticeships give you so many more opportunities to get into a job that you want to do,” she said.

“Some people go to university and study for three years, and when they graduate they find it so difficult to get the job they want.

“The beauty of an apprenticeship is that you gain industry experience, which is what a lot of employers are looking for, as well as earning money simultaneously.”

The Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development released a report last year in which they found that more than half (58.8 per cent) of graduates are in non-graduate jobs.

In response to the NCFE call to action for better careers advice, SCCH has been championing apprenticeships for some time.

In 2014, the college was instrumental in helping 1,066 young people become more employable through work experience and apprenticeships.

SCCH were fully behind National Apprenticeship Week in March to help raise its profile, and throughout the year have regularly held assemblies at the college and local secondary schools to help give career advice to students and parents.

James Martin studied at SCCH four years ago before returning to study an electrical installations apprenticeship in 2014.

The 21-year-old has just completed the course and gained full-time employment, as an electrician, with the college.

“I wouldn’t consider apprenticeships to have a bad image at all. I’m so glad I did the apprenticeship as it’s got me to where I am today,” he said.

“I’m working full-time in a job I love doing and I’ve got a great qualification behind me.

“I knew an apprenticeship was the best way to take my career forward because I could learn everything I needed to know while doing the job.

“I was able to learn so much from the team I was working with, which really added to the academic side of the course.

“From here, I can go on to study a higher apprenticeship and further my qualifications if I wanted to, which is basically degree level.

“The apprenticeship has really opened up some many options for me and helped me start my career.”

Susie Faulkner studied a level three business administration apprenticeship at the college while working within the marketing department in 2011.

The 25-year-old has since gone on to study at university, will be graduating with a first class degree this summer, and is the welfare officer at Windermere Boarding School in the Lake District.

“I left St Leonards Academy not 100 per cent sure what I wanted to do after school,” she said.

“Back then, I didn’t have to go to college or sixth form and could have chosen to find a job, but once I saw the position of marketing apprentice advertised at SCCH, I was really excited by the opportunity to work and study at the same time.

“It was such a valuable experience as I was involved in lots of different projects, including the move to the new college site.

“You receive so much one-to-one support which develops you as a person and moves away from a ‘production line’ education.

“When I started my apprenticeship I was so shy. I only communicated through email, but by the end of the course I was giving presentations to hundreds of people.

“Apprenticeships allow individualised learning which is so relevant to the real world. If I hadn’t have done the apprenticeship, I probably wouldn’t have gone to university.

“I had never considered uni as an option, but getting a level three qualification meant that I could. Doing an apprenticeship at the college has turned my life around.

“The job market is so competitive, so by doing an apprenticeship I feel I have an extra edge over other graduates because I’m leaving university with lots of work experience and a first class degree.”

To find out more about apprenticeships at the college, call its apprenticeship team on 01424 458410, or email apprenticeships@sussexcoast.ac.uk.

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