Apprentices making success of careers

A SINGLE job advert for an apprentice midwife at the James Paget University Hospital received 97 applications, and at Great Yarmouth College the number of apprentices has more than doubled in a year.

With the jobs market as tough as it ever has been, teenagers across the country are beginning to view apprenticeships as a better way into a career than studying for a university degree. And while it is predominantly a way into work for younger people, even those in their 50s are taking advantage of apprenticeships to retrain and take their careers in a new direction.

The virtues of apprenticeships are being brought to light this week as part of the National Apprenticeship Week, and demand for places is at an all time high in the borough.

A job advert for an apprentice midwife at the JPH had received 97 applications by the time of the application deadline last Friday.

In January 2011 there were 150 apprentices at Yarmouth College and now there are more than 330 - and this number is rising all the time.

Employers say there are many advantages of employing apprentices, and jobseekers in the borough are being encouraged to consider this path into work.

Jill Elsworthy, apprenticeship co-ordinator at the James Paget, said: 'We can be confident our apprentices are being well trained. Their motivation and loyalty is excellent and we give them as much help as we possibly can give them.

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'It's also changed perceptions among staff as there was a feeling that young people couldn't do it as it's a really tough place to work - but they all cope magnificently.'

The apprenticeship scheme at the JPH has been running since 2009, and it has already proved a success.Lily Middleton, 17, of Hampton Close, Caister, completed a therapy apprenticeship. She was employed as a therapy assistant three weeks ago, and says she would never have been this far ahead in her career if she had gone to university.

'The job's going really well and I never thought I would have this so soon,' she said. 'I started college but didn't really enjoy it so I started looking at what things I could do. When I was at college I was thinking I would go to university and do physiotherapy, but I'm glad I went this way as I've got more experience.'

There are currently 20 apprentices at the JPH, and since 2009 there have been more than 850 apprentices across NHS trusts in Norfolk and Waveney. Apprentices are also being head-hunted at Yarmouth College - just this week eight employers and each recruited an apprentice.

Jessica Ward, 23, of Caister, is the college's current Apprentice of the Year and is an apprentice at Wherry Housing Association in Norwich. But while many people setting out in their careers have been given a foot up by apprenticeships, they have also helped those further on in their career paths.

Neville Blyth, 50, took redundancy from his tax officer job and never dreamed he would become an apprentice to start a new career.

But after successfully completing training at Yarmouth College and an apprenticeship at a school, he spends his days working in a primary school classroom as a one-to-one support worker for a five-year-old boy.

'It was a bit strange being called an apprentice but it is just a term for training,' said Neville. 'It has given me the skills and the knowledge to do what I want to and achieve what I want.'

Gary Jefferson - who took over as director of construction and engineering last week after a career in industry - started out as a 16-year-old apprentice at a Norfolk engineering company.

For details on grant schemes for employers who want to take on apprentices, call Alison Ward at the college on 01493 419242 or visit