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Celebrating National Apprenticeship Week 8th to 14th Feb

This is a blog of two halves, a duet so to speak! Bear with me…..I have a guest within this blog, who is keen to share her experience, but first of course my thoughts 🙂

When I was little back in the 70’s, my brothers were both apprentices. We are an east end family, and the boys grew up knowing they would be expected to get a trade. One of my brothers was desperate to go to art college but my dad insisted that ‘art’ was not a job or career. My other brother went into a solicitor’s office when he left school but hated it, and so he took an apprenticeship in mechanical engineering.

 They have both done well, but I learnt never to ask them to fix anything unless I was prepared to wait. But for years 70’s onwards, apprenticeships were seen by some as slave labour. Young people working for minimal pay while learning on the job.

Gladly there has been a global shift on the world view of apprenticeships. Degree apprenticeship is a normality and being paid a fair salary despite the title ‘apprentice’ is widely accepted as the right thing to do.

 Personally, in my (very) long career, I have always worked with apprentices in hospitality, health, and social care and now here at the BEC. It’s not always a bed of roses, it can be challenging. Sometimes it needs a ‘Supernanny’ approach around those soft skills, being on time, that work is not like school, and no I don’t want your mum to ring in sick for you! From our latest apprentices, we learnt what the aubergine emoji was! We have learnt the meaning behind Netflix and chill, and all other new words and phrases.

 Our last two apprentices in 2017 were a breath of fresh air most of the time. Sean and Ameena brought a real vibe with them when they started back in 2017. Sean went off to work for a company we work with on completion of his apprenticeship, which was great. Ameena, well she stayed and this is her view on being an apprentice. She was delighted to be asked to contribute, and when I read it, it reminded me just how far she has come. She is 22 this year, having had a lock down on her 21st, we are still waiting to celebrate with her.

 Here is Ameena Sharif’s story:

 “I began my apprenticeship journey here and I am now coming up to my third year of working for the Barking Enterprise Centre. This was my first job, and I was thrilled to complete a Business Administration Level 2 Apprenticeship - one of the best decisions I have ever made! Before completing the apprenticeship, like many young people, I did not have a specific career path in mind. However, I knew I was passionate about helping people and working in a business environment which is why this apprenticeship was an amazing foundation for my career. 

 I have developed so much over the past three years - both on a professional and personal level. I began as a not-so-confident teenager and have transformed into a confident, ambitious, and motivated individual. The apprenticeship experience really pushed me out of my comfort zone to gain new skills and life lessons which I shall always hold on to. I gained a true sense of independence as I was getting a regular income alongside my qualification.

 The team here have been so incredibly supportive. Together, we have worked on improving my confidence levels as this was really holding me back and overshadowing my abilities. My manager worked with me and we had regular 1 to 1 meeting to help dissect my worries and create an action plan, this allowed me to really flourish. Eventually, excellent customer service became second nature. I was also slightly worried about being the youngest in the team however, everyone was so welcoming and I realised there was nothing to be worried about! Working with colleagues from different age ranges allowed me to develop many interpersonal skills and the ability to communicate well with people from a range of backgrounds. My whole team has really cheered me on to become a far more refined version of myself and have always been so friendly too. I am so grateful for having such a supportive work family.

 I am so very thankful for all my professional and personal development and the growth gained from all the challenges I have faced.

 Thanks to my apprenticeship, I was offered a permanent full-time role and additional responsibilities which allowed me to develop my skills - demonstrating my capabilities. Although I cannot be completely certain of the future, I know I want to strive to make the most of my career and hopefully go into a management role where I could train and help younger people like I once was when I started out.

 Some advice I would give to my younger self would be follow your dreams no matter what and not to be afraid to take chances even if they don't work out; always be your own biggest cheerleader!”

If you got to the end of this, I am sure Ameena would appreciate some feedback on this and her podcast. You can tune in here: https://bit.ly/3ryc9gU

Let us do all we can to encourage young people more now than ever.