From education to employment

Five young women set out their stall for improving apprenticeship take-up with Skills Minister Gillian Keegan

NAW Gillian Keegan with Apprentices - virtual meeting

Five young women Apprentices set out their stall for improving apprenticeship take-up with Skills Minister @GillianKeegan during #NAW21 @CareerEnt


Skills Minister Gillian Keegan has hosted a meeting with young women apprentices to discuss how government can encourage more youngsters to combine learning with earning through apprenticeships.


At a time when the impact pandemic is causing youth unemployment to spiral to the highest level since 2016 – climbing to 14.2 per cent – apprenticeships are critical in providing the vital support young people leaving school will need.


Gillian Keegan, Minister for Apprenticeship and Skills, said to our Work It stars: “Apprenticeships are a great way into the workplace. I did a degree apprenticeship, which allowed me to travel abroad for the business, manage my own team and cut my own deals. This put me way ahead of the vast majority of people who were the same age.

“Now I am the first apprentice to be the Apprenticeship and Skills Minister – which is such a cool thing. So believe me when I say the learning experience you are getting now is going accelerate your career – I guarantee it.”

The five apprentices, representing key sectors across, engineering, manufacturing and public services, were keen to impress upon the minister how their apprenticeships are enabling them to gain key industry skills while boosting their earnings and career prospects in a job.  And how they have managed to break into traditionally male-dominated industries including STEM sectors.


The meeting comes following the publication of the Government’s ‘Skills for Jobs’ White Paper, which places renewed emphasis on the need to improve young people’s exposure to technical learning and apprenticeships. The White Paper aims to boost parity of esteem between academic and technical learning and qualifications.


The five women, who are ambassadors for apprenticeships through The Careers & Enterprise Company, are committed to showcasing the diversity of roles and careers available through apprenticeships.


The apprentices set out the key points they raised with the Minister.


Alysia Moore, a degree apprentice with Anglian Water in Huntingdon said:


“My apprenticeship means I combine study for my qualification with a job where I genuinely feel what I do really matters and is having an impact.


“Being an apprentice in STEM and sharing my story to inspire other young women is what I love the most. When I went into a school and asked the girls to draw a software engineer, they all drew men. Then I could tell them, ‘no, I am a software engineer and you can be one too’. And that’s the key to tackling stereotypes – knowledge is power.”


Zara Khan, an apprentice with Walsall Council said:


“I am the first one in my family to do an apprenticeship, everyone else went to university to do a degree.


“Choosing an apprenticeship means you get to experience the culture of the workplace, which is so different. You get one-to-one support and a lot of responsibility straight away. People let you get on with the job and I find that flexibility liberating and empowering. You’re given hands on responsibility for contributing to projects that make a positive impact. 


“I wish I’d had someone to tell me about Apprenticeships when I was at school and I want to make sure that support and information is there for others.”


Bintou Keita, an apprentice with HS2 in Birmingham said:


“I have been given so many opportunities and responsibilities which I could never imagine I would be given.


“I was interested in doing project management because you can gain so many transitional skills. On top this, I’ve also learned about areas like planning and commercial which I found really interesting and would never would have experienced had it not been for my apprenticeship.


“Being at HS2 is like joining a big family, you’ve got this apprenticeship net where people are always on hand to support you if you need it. That’s why an apprenticeship is such a great way to get on the career ladder.”


Serena Variah, an apprentice with Severn Trent in Derby, said:


“Apprenticeships can provide you with the qualifications you want and put you one step ahead. You get real support to learn and develop, so don’t be put off if you don’t feel experienced enough when you apply, you will learn lots once you start.


“I’ve found my apprenticeship much less stressful than A levels, because colleagues at work are so willing to support you, the level of support is great and you’re putting what you learn directly into practice.


“It’s important to spread the word. I’ve been back to my school to talk about my experience and a group of girls came up to me afterwards to ask what apprenticeships they could do and how to apply. It was really good to be able to explain it all to them from the point of view of someone who has done it and encourage them to do it.”


Katie Rotherham, an engineering apprentice with Jacobs in Stockton-on-Tees said:


“An apprenticeship is the best way to learn and work, I can get my qualifications whilst getting hands on experience.


“I’d say to all young people they should consider apprenticeships. You get a lot of interesting work and responsibility straight away – together with great support. I get to work on big projects and with loads of different people. I want to help inspire young people, particularly young women like me, that there is a great career in engineering.


“We can be role models for apprenticeships. I’ve been to my school to talk about my experience and it makes a difference because they know me and can see what I’m now doing. I’m now a mentor to young people thinking of choosing an apprenticeship.”


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