Apprenticeships are key to developing our future workforce. That's the message from the Government which at the beginning of October invested an extra £90m into backing businesses to take on apprentices.
Here we chat to two brand new apprentices at Seymour Civil Engineering, about their experiences.
Taking on apprentices can help drive forward businesses, says Andrea Cartwright, Training Manager at Seymour Civil Engineering.
She believes that apprentices finish their qualification work ready and gain real, on-the-job insight into their chosen field of study.
This is particularly relevant, says Andrea, given the skills shortage in the construction sector across the country.
Seymour has recently taken on two apprentices, and here we chat to them about their experiences so far.
Name: Nicole Gray
From: Manor Academy, Hartlepool
Role: Business Administration Apprentice
Qualification: Level 2 Business Administration, Hartlepool College of Further Education
"I've been looking for an apprenticeship since the beginning of Year 11 because I was really interested in going down that route instead of going to college full time.
"I've started in the accounts department and it's been eye-opening to see the process in a business the size of Seymour. There's a lot to it, a lot more than I expected.
"The role involves rotations around the different departments so I get a taste of every area, how the areas all fit together and a chance to see what area I like the most and may want to work in specifically.
"In the second year I get the chance to decide where I want to stay.
"I think this way of doing it is important because you get to understand the company and the different aspects of what each department does.
"I wasn't sure exactly what I wanted to do after school, and if I'd gone to college full time I would have ended up picking a subject because I liked it, not necessarily because there would be a career for me within it.
"The apprenticeship gives you the work experience whilst gaining the qualification. It gives you the chance to get stuck in to the proper world of working and develop your communications and people skills.
"The team that I've been working with has been great. They go through everything in lots of detail so I fully understand it.
"I think it's great to be able to go to college and to meet new people but I really like working full time and keeping busy. I'm in college on a Tuesday from 9am to 5pm.
"I expected the college side to be really difficult. Now after three weeks, I think I'd built it up to be harder than it is. I now have a practical understanding of what is being talked about.
"Apprenticeships are a good option for people who aren't sure what they want to do long term. You get paid while you're doing it as well.
"Business admin covers a lot of different aspects and having experience in all these areas will help me in the future.
"I feel it's going to open a lot of doors for me."
Name: Callum Downing
From: Northfield School and Sports College, Billingham
Role: Heavy Vehicle Fitter
Qualification: Level 3 Heavy Vehicle Repair and Maintenance, Hartlepool College of Further Education
"I've always been interested in cars and mechanics and for the past two years I've been doing Motor Vehicle Level 1 and 2 at Stockton Riverside College.
"I wanted to build on what I'd already learnt which is why I was interested in moving on to do the Level 3 through an apprenticeship.
"The apprenticeship is giving me the experience of working in a garage environment whilst learning at college.
"The team around me have been showing me how to do different roles. I like learning about mechanics on the bigger plant equipment they have at Seymour.
"I've started off working in one of the vehicle maintenance yards in Hartlepool, where plant equipment and vans come in and out every day and further into the apprenticeship I will get the opportunity to work from sites too.
"I spend one full day in college a week. On a Wednesday I'm in from 9am until 8pm which gives me plenty of time to get everything done that I need.
"My apprenticeship means I'm either at college or at work, always learning and getting used to the working environment.
"You learn a lot more when you get to stuck in to it practically.
"Taking the theory and putting it in to practice helps it sink it and helps you understand it a lot more."
On October 3 the Government announced a package of reforms to ensure the Apprenticeship Levy provides people with the skills they need to succeed.
The changes are aimed at providing flexibility for businesses so they can take full advantage of the benefits of employing apprentices, and to help as many people as possible find the right training to equip them for the new economy.
An extra £90 million of Government funding will enable employers to invest a quarter of their apprenticeship funds on people working for businesses in their supply chain - boosting the number able to benefit from high-quality apprenticeship training.
A further £5 million was announced for the Institute for Apprenticeships to introduce new standards and updating existing ones so that more courses can be offered - meaning more choice for those considering their training options.