What do I actually do?
We have a bit of a joke in our team that no one seems to understand what I do for work. Friends and family know I’m always really busy, they know I work a lot of hours, they know it’s ‘something’ to do with apprenticeships…
I guess if I had to sum it up it would be that I own and run a business that works with the government and many other organisations and individuals to help to raise awareness of apprenticeships across England with schools, students, parents and employers.
So where did it all begin?
In 1998, I left school having completed my A levels. I did ok (I definitely could have done better if I’d been more interested in revision) but in truth, I just wanted to get working and to have my independence. My friends knew exactly what they wanted to do and excitedly filled in UCAS applications and celebrated when the offers came in. I didn’t want that….but I wasn’t quite sure what I did want.
Apprenticeships were around in those days but they were definitely pitched at those who were perceived by the school as not suitable for university or needing support to be able to get into a job. At that time, apprenticeships were positioned so negatively as a ‘last resort option’ that I didn’t see myself in that group – I’d already had a string of part-time jobs and felt confident that I would succeed in business…I just didn’t know what I wanted to do.
My big bang moment
I didn’t actually know it back in 1998 (you can do the maths) – but this whole negative and confusing experience was one of the most crucial moments in my life.
I was one of just a handful of students in my year who didn’t want to go to university. This went against everything I had ever been told to expect from my life. My secondary school years had been spent preparing for the excitement of going to university, moving away from home, partying a lot, meeting new friends, securing my future…..so why didn’t I want it?
I knew I wanted something else. I wanted to get into work, to get started with my career and I didn’t see why I needed to spend three years at university to be able to do this.
Many teachers, friends and family members all tried to convince me I was making a mistake. A couple of comments really stick with me. One teacher told me ‘You’ll never make anything of your life if you don’t go to university’ and another said ‘You are really going to struggle in your career if you don’t go. You might be fine for now, but if you ever want to do anything senior or in management, no-one will take you seriously if you don’t have a degree’
Luckily, this was all the motivation I needed to want to prove them wrong!
It’s always been my style – tell me I can’t do something and I will try everything to show you that I can!
Today, 11 years after setting up my own business, we employ 14 amazing staff. My incredible team work tirelessly to find new and innovative ways to help to share positive messages about apprenticeships.
We work with approximately 4,500 schools across England, engage with thousands of teachers and create resources that support hundreds of thousands of students. We have worked to set up a network of Apprenticeship Champions which now has more than 2,000 members and have also been instrumental in the set-up and roll-out of the Young Apprentice Ambassadors Network – a 900+ strong network of apprentice ambassadors who go into schools to share their stories and inspire others.
We are incredibly proud that we have launched the Genie Programme. A really unique, 12-month, immersive programme that brings employers together to learn about social mobility, equality, diversity and inclusion, and to then apply this to their apprenticeship programmes so that more individuals can benefit. We’re working with Coca-Cola, Astra Zeneca, the Open University, B&Q and many other fantastic employers to help to diversify their workforces through apprenticeships.
We are also hugely excited to have launched Project Positive, enabling Care Leavers to access apprenticeships in Hertfordshire. The Parent Perspective Podcast, supporting parents and carers to hear from experts about the opportunities available to their children and have many other exciting projects in the pipeline – all of which achieve social change and positively impact some of the most disadvantaged young people in England.
Helping others to explore their options and realise how many fantastic opportunities there really are out there.