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An interview with Lesley Burrows: National Apprenticeship Week 2021

It’s National Apprenticeship Week 2021, so we sat down with Lesley Burrows, Managing Director of Positive Footprints, to discuss all things apprenticeships.

So Lesley, why do you think apprenticeships are important?

One of the main reasons apprenticeships are important is that those who complete them participate in experiential learning. Apprentices get to learn academically while gaining industry experience, so essentially, they get the best of both worlds. 

Another reason is that during the process apprentices build confidence within themselves and relationships with other people.

As an apprentice, you are either building relationships that will serve you in that company or you will forge an ability to build relationships that you can use elsewhere. You also have opportunities to connect and network with others within the industry too.

A great thing about apprenticeships is that you get to know the job and can make an informed decision on whether it is something you want to continue doing or not, once the apprenticeship has finished.

You get the opportunity to test your skills, your qualities, your personality, and your passion against the industry itself, while still gaining an education and qualification. 

I also think it’s important for companies to employ apprentices. I have always said: “You’re never too old to learn and never too young to teach.” Having the ability to learn from apprentices is very important. 

Young people are great at thinking differently to us, questioning and challenging us about the way we do things and without that constant flow of young fresh talent coming into the business, we will be very quickly out of touch with the way the world is. 

Bringing young people in allows for new and creative thinking which is vital for companies like Positive Footprints who look to continuously deliver services that meet the needs of customers across all age groups.  

Why do you think more young people are choosing to complete apprenticeships rather than going to university?

Apprenticeships are more attractive, more credible and offer so much more in terms of broader opportunities.

Having the ability to earn an income while learning is more appealing than facing the financial burden that comes with the university and I think young people now are less willing to go into debt for education because there are more options and different pathways they could go down instead.

Apprentices also learn vital industry experience while gaining a qualification, which is again more appealing for some people than going to university and doing a four-year degree. 

I also think that young people now don’t see apprenticeships as a ‘backup option’. A number of people are choosing apprenticeships as a first option because of the credibility they have now with employers as opposed to this time 10 years ago. 

Employers give apprentices more respect now and I think that’s due to the quality of apprentices and apprenticeship training at places like The Learning Foundry.

The quality of the pathway has massively improved and the fact that employers are engaging with apprenticeship providers to tailor the delivery more to a specific sector means apprentices and the company will get a better experience all round.

I also think that the sectors that now offer apprenticeships are far vaster than was previously.  If I were to start again, I would definitely choose an apprenticeship over A-levels and university, to gain on-the-job experience while still learning.

Why did you employ an apprentice at Positive Footprints?

We’re passionate about young people! That’s no secret and being able to give a young person the opportunity to begin their career within a supportive environment which revolves around building people up to be the best that they can be while bringing someone into the business who is fresher, younger, and is more connected to education was ideal. 

We also made a commitment, as part of the Regenda Group as a whole, to employ 15 apprentices in 2019 so we were doing our bit and playing our part to help a young person start their career and it was a good decision.

Who are apprenticeships for?

Apprenticeships are for anybody who wants to have an experiential education. Whether you are young or old, if you are starting in employment for the first time or are retraining, an apprenticeship is a very attractive pathway to take.

The fact that the wage for apprenticeships has risen means that it’s a perfect opportunity for people who are thinking about retraining do so without having the financial burden of giving up a job and a wage to go to university. 

What do you think is the biggest challenge apprentices face?

At the moment, the biggest challenge an apprentice would face is the fact that they will be starting their apprenticeships working from home and not being in an office or work environment and therefore not getting the full experiential package that usually comes with an apprenticeship.

I think a big challenge apprentice face is managing the balance of off the job training and on the job commitment. 

Not everyone goes to an organisation where apprentices are given credibility, although it’s happening more, I would still think some apprentices will feel undervalued and may not be given opportunities to advance quickly but I would say that is far less frequent now than it used to be.

Finally, I would say that actually getting an apprenticeship can also be a challenge as it’s becoming quite a competitive and sought-after opportunity. 

When should schools start teaching children about them?

I think schools should start teaching about apprenticeships in primary school. We by the age of 7 children are beginning to think about their future, so they should have a good understanding of the different pathways they could take when they are older.

That is why we developed the Raising Aspirations Programme. It allows children to explore the world of work and the different pathways they could take to get to their dream job while learning about vital transferrable skills and qualities and build resilience to enable them to aim high.

You can learn more about the Raising Aspirations programme here >

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