Comment: Apprenticeships are a wonderful way into work

Comment: Apprenticeships are a wonderful way into work

Hands on experience can launch a school-leaver’s career, says Sharon Munro, chief executive of Barrhead Travel

Can you remember how you felt as you waited to receive your school exam results? Were you anxious in case you didn’t get the grades required for further education? Or were you excited to find out what path you could take next?

For too long, the pressure to secure a place at university or college has been a heavy weight carried by many young people. Society has historically dictated that to pursue a successful, non‑vocational career, further education is the only viable option.

So I am pleased to see that there is now a noticeable shift in the workplace towards offering skilled apprenticeships, with businesses acknowledging the benefits of training young people from the grass-roots up – something Barrhead Travel has been championing for over 40 years.

Of course, much of the shift is linked to the introduction of the new Apprenticeship Levy, with businesses rethinking their training structure and trying to fill the much‑needed skills gaps. Businesses are starting to adapt their training programmes into apprenticeships, with over 58% of businesses planning to increase their apprenticeship offering this year alone.

Grass-roots grounding

I started off as a trainee at Barrhead Travel, working my way through the business and subsequently moving up the career ladder. This was the best move I could have made; I wasn’t quite sure what I wanted to do – a dilemma faced by the majority of school-leavers. Working as a trainee provided me with grass-roots knowledge of the business, and I truly believe there is no better way to learn and progress your career.

Barrhead Travel has been welcoming apprentices into the business since 1975. Our intake has reached more than 75 a year, in all areas of the business. Disciplines which have traditionally demanded degrees, such as marketing, web design, IT and accounts, can all now be taught from apprentice level. The hands-on experience is the greatest benefit, but our apprentices are also credited with official qualifications and guaranteed jobs and career progression on completion of their course.

Perhaps I am biased, but starting a career in the travel industry is one of the most exciting of times, especially for young people. The creativity and dynamism that a career in travel offers are compelling and make it easy to be passionate about. Many of the most successful figures in this industry started their careers as school-leavers. As an industry we should continue to pioneer the training and development of apprentices and set a benchmark for UK industry as a whole.

Change perceptions

With only 1% of the UK workforce representing apprentices, there is a challenge to change the perceptions of what an apprenticeship can offer. Our message to young people who have just opened their results, or are waiting in anticipation for the dreaded envelope-drop, is that there is no wrong path. Further education is not for everyone, and it’s vital that we work with schools and colleges to cascade that message.

And, of course, we’ll be flying the flag for careers in the travel industry – the unsung hero in the world of work.

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