With the start of the academic year looming, many may come to consider an apprenticeship as an alternative to the more conventional university route.
Apprenticeships give real life and professional experience, the opportunity to learn ‘on the job’ and earn real money whilst acquiring no student debt.
Featured regularly by the Sunday Times as a perennial Best Place to Live and winner of the best Coastal Community at the Great British High Street Awards, Falmouth boasts over 200 independent outlets within three square miles and is buoyed by around 750,000 visitors each year.
In addition, this ‘port with a purpose’ has the world’s third deepest natural harbour and supports a number of major businesses which operate on an international level.
Cornwall may not immediately spring to mind as a hub of technology; yet Falmouth (defying stereotypes) is experiencing an explosion of creative and technological energy, epitomised by its thriving marine and higher educational hubs (an innovative shared campus houses Falmouth University and the University of Exeter in Cornwall).
This vibrant, entrepreneurial town is awash with opportunity; a fantastic location for doing business. Many Falmouth-based companies offer inspirational apprenticeship schemes, including the following:
Leading engineering services and fabrication group, A&P works in the global marine and energy sectors and has taken on 28 apprentices across a mixture of trade disciplines over the last five years, 16 of which were in Falmouth, many of whom are still employed by the company today.
These lucky apprentices are offered the opportunity to develop a career in a company buoyant in defence and commercial, renewables and the cruise ship market.
The business is currently mid-way through a recruitment drive to find a further ten apprentices to join A&P Falmouth this September, which will provide an opportunity for young people to undertake an engineering, commercial, procurement or health, safety and environmental technician apprenticeship.
Successful candidates will have the potential to move into full time employment within A&P once their studies are complete. The company currently has six apprentices on site.
An apprenticeship with A&P is often a guarantee of a future top job! 72% of all of A&P Falmouth’s management, supervisors and technical staff started out on apprenticeship programmes and A&P Defence’s Managing Director, Gerald Pitts, is one of them. He began his career at A&P Group as an engineering apprentice in 1976.
World class and award-winning custom build and refit superyacht yard, Pendennis Shipyard was awarded ‘Best Company to work for’ by the British Marine Federation in 2016 and for the past three years has been awarded the Gold Cornwall & Isles of Scilly Workplace Health Award amongst other numerous training accolades.
Pendennis is proud of its award-winning apprenticeship programme which has trained over 200 young men and women in key industry trades over the past 20 years.
These schemes focus on continual development of the company’s workforce, maintaining the world-class standards which it adheres to in all aspects of a custom build or refit.
This four year course consists of a first year at Cornwall College gaining grounding in all aspects of yacht manufacture and maintenance.
The apprentices then spend the next three years at the yard in their chosen trade gaining qualifications and experience. On successful completion of their course, the apprentices often choose to take up positions within the yard and become valued and permanent members of the team.
The University of Exeter
The University of Exeter has a campus in Penryn and as an institution currently employs an impressive 116 Apprentices. It is actively recruiting more wherever possible, with over 17 new starts scheduled between now and March 2020.
It is also even encouraging its existing staff to complete apprenticeships to upskill. Of the above figures, there are currently ten apprentices in Cornwall on the Penryn Campus, including one lab technician, seven academic professionals, and two senior leaders.
Case studies & quotes
Tiegan Jewel, aged 20 – finance apprentice
Tiegan Jewell is A&P Falmouth’s only current female apprentice and is about to sit her level three AAT examination before embarking on the next stage of her training.
Tiegan, aged 20, joined A&P in April 2018 as a finance apprentice after studying for a business diploma at Cornwall College. She is now studying to be an accounting technician and will start her level four module in September. Her regular duties include updating sales and purchase ledgers, the daily banking, raising invoices, payroll coding, credit control and handling petty cash.
She said, “I’m really enjoying my time as an apprentice at A&P Falmouth. I’m learning a lot. A&P is a great company to work for and I’m part of a really great team. They have supported me all along the way.”
Tiegan has also seen off competition from the yard’s other apprentices to win a place as a crew member on a tall ship this summer as part of the Merseyside Adventure Sailing Trust (MAST) Apprentice Ship Cup (ASC) 2019.
Jamie Eddy, aged 19 – engineering apprentice
19-year-old engineering apprentice Jamie Eddy said, "I had always been interested in going down the route of engineering and have always liked the marine side of things, so when I saw the advert to join A&P’s apprentice programme I just had to apply. The apprenticeship is letting me see how the yard works first-hand while getting taught by very skilled tradespeople and getting paid at the same time. The thing I’m enjoying most about my apprenticeship is being on the tools, seeing how things function and learning new things every day.”
Frankie Thomas, aged 29 – pipework apprentice
Frankie Thomas is 29 and a pipework apprentice at A&P Falmouth. Ten months into his three-year apprenticeship, he has no regrets about leaving his career as a chef to learn new skills and pursue a new trade.
Frankie has been learning his trade as part of A&P’s specialist pipework team and over the last few months he’s had the chance to make and install pipework for one of the Falmouth facility’s most high-profile vessels - the RFA Argus, as well as a series of commercial vessels including dredgers and tugs.
Frankie has some advice to others considering apprenticeships. He said: “Apprenticeships are an opportunity that you just have to take. I’d been working in other jobs for ten years and I know that opportunities to learn new skills and develop your career potential can be few and far between. Starting an apprenticeship is a fantastic opportunity to learn and even though there have been a few financial challenges along the way, it’s been more than worth it so far. I can definitely see a future as a pipefitter ahead of me.”
Steve Jones, Managing Director of Operations and Site Director at A&P Falmouth also started out as a shipwright apprentice, at another UK shipyard in 1974. He said, “Apprentices can achieve whatever they want to if they have the drive, enthusiasm, application and the platform to rise within the companies they work for. Modern day apprenticeships need be hands on, involved in technology and exposed to innovation and progression. At A&P we want our apprentices to grow in stature by learning from our current employees and building their lives upon a work ethic that promotes a good team ethos. That’s what this industry is all about.”
Georgie Rand - plumbing and heating apprentice
"The University apprenticeship for commercial gas is probably one of the most unique in the country, just with the sheer scope of applications, the fact that we’ve ran our own £10 million gas network, we support and manage fixed gas systems for research buildings, gas safety systems, pneumatics, etc. I’m confident that there’s not another job in the country that can offer such a broad scope as Exeter does. I mostly enjoy working with such friendly and experienced people that are always happy to share their knowledge with me."
Alannah Hall – IT apprentice
"In comparison to other employers, the University offers the chance of a long term career and they have continuously supported me in developing my skills over the course of the apprenticeship and helped me to achieve above and beyond my potential."