Businesses throughout Chesterfield and North East Derbyshire are celebrating National Apprenticeship Week 2016 from 14 – 18 March.
The annual awareness week is coordinated by the National Apprenticeship Service and designed to showcase apprenticeships and the positive impact they have on individuals, businesses and the wider economy.
Apprenticeships are an excellent way of gaining qualifications whilst getting real life work experience and being paid for it. Available in 170 different industries from hair and beauty to aerospace engineering, apprenticeships have been making an impact on local businesses for hundreds of years. Click here to read stories from some of the area’s current apprentices.
A number of the town’s business leaders and figureheads started their careers as apprentices, including some of the UK’s biggest and best known business leaders and personalities– Michael Caine (not a lot of people know that), John Frieda, Jamie Oliver, Alexander McQueen and Sir Alex Ferguson were all former apprentices who are now leading in their respective fields.
Closer to home, Chesterfield Borough Council’s Leader Cllr John Burrows began his career as an apprentice with the National Coal Board, as did Stuart Cutforth, Principal and Chief Executive of Chesterfield College Group who did an electrical engineering apprenticeship.
Hailing from the mining village of Staveley, university and a teaching career was not even considered for Stuart Cutforth as a 16 year old school leaver in 1970. He followed in both his father’s and brother’s footsteps and spent the next eight years working at Westhorpe Colliery in Killamarsh as an electrical engineer.
He left the mining industry in 1978 after completing a degree in electrical and electronic engineering and having worked his way up to Chargeman Electrician, a modern day equivalent of an electrical engineer, during his period with the National Coal Board.
His entered the further education sector in 1979 and has since had a career in it spanning 37 years and eight different colleges. In 2014 he returned ‘home’ to take up the role at Chesterfield College where he is responsible for the future of over 4000 apprentices.
Peter Swallow, Chair of Destination Chesterfield and Managing Director of Bolsterstone, the developer behind the £300million Chesterfield Waterside scheme, commented: “I am a huge advocate of apprenticeships – they are vital to the economy, particularly Chesterfield’s, where young people are the future life blood of many of the SME businesses within the town.”
A number of local former apprentices are making waves nationally, including Marcus Leverton, director of Leverton UK, and the youngest ever person to become a fellow of the Chartered Institute of Building (CIOB) in 2014 and Liz Fisher, Head of Tax at Mitchells Chartered Accountants and Business Advisers, who last year scooped top honours in a national Chartered Institute of Taxation exam. She beat more than 1000 candidates to gain the highest marks and was awarded the prestigious Ronald Ison Medal and the CCH Prize for the highest distinction mark awarded in the UK.
Liz’s original plans on leaving sixth form were to continue to university and undertake an English Literature degree. Breaking the news that she was turning down her university place in favour of beginning a workplace training scheme was not welcomed by everyone. She said: “The head of sixth form at my school said that it was the worst decision I’d ever make, but he was wrong, I have no regrets about leaving education and taking up a workplace traineeship, not for a second. It was definitely the right thing for me to do. I don’t regret it for a second.”
Marcus Leverton added: “Becoming a Fellow of the CIOB was the proudest moment for me. I think that my apprenticeship was definitely a contributing factor to this as I was able to get professionally qualified a lot more quickly than most other people in my trade.”
With a generation of skilled workers set to retire in the next 10 years and no obvious way to replace them, apprentices are being seen as keen to addressing the severe shortage of skilled workers across the construction, engineering and manufacturing industries.
Struggling to recruit skilled staff and faced with an ageing workforce, United Cast Bar, based in Chesterfield, instigated an apprenticeship programme in 2015. The business currently has three apprentices and will recruit a further apprentice in 2016.
Managing Director James Brand explains: “With our apprenticeship programme we are taking a medium to long-term view to address the issue of recruiting skilled staff. A number of our skilled workforce will retire in a few years and we are training apprentices now to replace their roles. The beauty of having apprentices is that we are able to handpick their studying and tailor their learning to our business’ needs and ensure they become rounded individuals and have a long-term career with United Cast Bar. Although we are a foundry, we have roles right across the spectrum from maintenance and machinery to sales and admin.”
The ability to experience the many different roles within a business as part of the apprenticeship programme enabled Marcus Leverton to decide on the area he wanted to specialise in. He explains: “It was through doing an apprenticeship and shadowing skilled members of all different trades that I realised being in the construction industry was the right career for me. I particularly found the project management and computer design side of the business really interesting so I decided to specialise in this area of the business.”
“As I say to my 15 year old niece, do something you really enjoy and feel passionate about because in reality, you’ll be working for a really long time, and you don’t want to be stuck doing something you don’t like for the next 60 years.”
As well as Chesterfield College, Chesterfield has a wealth of apprenticeship and training providers including NLT Training Services which specialises in the engineering sector, East Midlands Chamber and Slic Training.