From education to employment

National Apprenticeship Week – Meet Birmingham’s 60-year-old apprentice (who’s studying with a former student!)

National Apprenticeship Week - Meet Birmingham's 60-year-old apprentice (who's studying with a former student!)

A Skills and Training Manager at Birmingham City FC’s charitable trust has enrolled onto an apprenticeship in his 60s – and is studying the programme with one of his former students.

Paul Virgo is working towards a Level 5 Teaching and Learning apprenticeship standard as part of his professional development with BCFC’s Community Trust where he is the charity’s Skills, Training and Employability Manager.

Delivered by Oxford-based Ignite Training, the qualification is equivalent to a foundation degree and equips learners with the necessary skills, knowledge and behaviours to fulfil curriculum and training leadership roles.

Despite turning 60 this year and having more than 30 years’ experience in the education sector, Paul has no sights on retirement and believes age should be no barrier to learning new skills.

“Six of my colleagues enrolled onto the apprenticeship and I saw no reason why I shouldn’t join them,” said Paul. “Even after all these years working in education, you can still add to your skillset to benefit the experiences of those you engage with.

“What’s often misunderstood is that apprenticeships are for everyone, not just school leavers. It doesn’t matter how old you are, how experienced you are in your profession or your job title – I can guarantee there is an apprenticeship out there for everyone.

“They allow learners to combine full-time work with real life on-the-job development while gaining an industry recognised qualification. I only see this as a positive and hope more people my age consider finding a programme in 2023.”

Unusually, Paul is studying the Level 5 qualification with one of his former students.

Matt Jackson was taught by Paul when he completed a Level 3 BTEC Extended Diploma in Sport course after leaving school. The pair’s paths crossed again when Matt accepted a role at BCFC’s Community Trust after he graduated from university. 

They now work together to gather evidence which will be used to complete the programme’s syllabus before an end-point assessment which will assess if they have developed the necessary skills, knowledge and behaviours to pass.

Paul added: “I’m not aware of a teacher working towards a qualification with one of their previous pupils, but there is a first for everything!

“It only enhances my belief that whether you’re a teenager fresh out of school, a university graduate, a working professional or closing in on retirement there is a qualification for you.

“Matt was one of my students in 2017 and now we’re working towards the same goal as part of our professional development. He has a bright future ahead of him and part of that is down to his work ethic and being able to access meaningful apprenticeships.”

Justin Merritt, Ignite Training CEO, said:

“Since partnering with BCFC Community Trust this year, Paul and his colleagues have really bought into apprenticeships and their power to enhance the skills and knowledge of learners.

“We believe Paul’s story can be replicated in many more organisations and charities across the UK in the coming years, particularly as employers prioritise the job satisfaction, health and wellbeing of their staff.

“Last year, over 70% of apprentices were aged 19 or older proving vocational qualifications are suitable for people of all ages. We’d like to wish Paul and Matt every success with the rest of their studies.”

Based in Oxford, Ignite Training is a registered apprenticeship training provider delivering sport, marketing, content production, coaching teaching and management apprenticeships.

Customers include schools, councils, charities, professional sports clubs, the NHS and apprenticeship training agencies. Further information about its apprenticeship provisions is available online via Adult Education & Sport Apprenticeships | Ignite Training (

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