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PUBLISHED: 05:42 09 February 2015

Curtis Chipperfield, John Rodwell, Mark Lusher

Curtis Chipperfield, John Rodwell, Mark Lusher

Archant

Never mind the wannabe apprentices of the hit television series - some of Britain's best business brains are backing real apprentices.

Apprentice electrical engineer, Chantelle BrowneApprentice electrical engineer, Chantelle Browne

Apprenticeships are back. More and more young people are choosing to take a traditional route into skilled work, bypassing university to get on with a career.

Modern apprenticeships are now a real alternative to higher education for many youngsters.

From accountancy to building and customer service to catering a structured mix of education and training is bridging the gap between school and work.

Norwich family building business WS Lusher and Son has been hiring apprentices throughout its 90 year history.

Catering manager, Bob Bales, and apprentice, Luke MorganCatering manager, Bob Bales, and apprentice, Luke Morgan

The building contractor, with a Royal Warrant for its work at Sandringham, has always taken on apprentices – and has always valued them so highly that every name is hand-written in a leather-bound book.

Managing director Mark Lusher, the third generation of his family to run the company and hire and train apprentices, was recently invited to Buckingham Palace to talk about apprenticeships. He was part of a discussion group, hosted by Prince Andrew.

Half of the Lushers’ workforce began as apprentices and many go on to work for the company for decades.

Two apprentice carpenters are currently training with Lushers, spending four days a week on site, learning as they work alongside skilled craftsmen, and one day a week at college.

Assistant cook Luke Morgan is nearing the end of a three-year apprenticeship in catering and hospitality at Wymondham College.

“The day I arrived in the kitchen at Wymondham College I knew it was for me,” he says. “I’ve learnt something new every day.”

Luke has completed Levels two and three of an NVQ in hospitality and says he has also been fortunate to work alongside some very experienced and talented chefs.

“I’m looking forward to more qualifications and challenges throughout my time at Wymondham College as they have been so helpful to me. It’s a great opportunity for young adults to success in life,” says Luke.

Wymondham College is embracing apprenticeships – helping pupils find placements as well as taking on its own apprentices.

Pupils are given guidance and advice and find work in sectors including engineering, power, catering and plumbing.

Justin Smith, director of marketing and development at the school, says: “For many young people further education is not right for them and the apprenticeship route, where they can learn a trade, gain a recognised and accredited qualification whilst earning a wage is absolutely ideal.”

The school has recently begun working with Saffron Housing Trust, which helps find placements and fund training for apprentices.

Wymondham College is also working with Swarm Apprenticeships – set up by Norfolk businessman and author Robert Ashton to help match small businesses with energetic and enterprising young people, and has signed up to the new Apprenticeships Norfolk Network.

This is a newly formed partnership of employers, training providers, colleges, schools and other organisations that support young people and employers with apprenticeships.

It aims to increase the number of employers offering apprenticeships in Norfolk, make recruitment easier, and encourage more apprentices to study at higher levels.

Apprenticeships in Norfolk are available in sectors ranging from agriculture to social care and James Joyce, chairman of the children’s services committee for Norfolk County Council, says: “It’s great that it’s now possible for young people choosing an apprenticeship either at 16, or over, to study up to degree level and beyond - allowing them to get first-hand experience of work while still continuing to learn.”

Chantelle Browne is an apprentice electrical engineer – and hugely enthusiastic advocate of the apprenticeship system.

The 23-year-old, from Thetford, has just been chosen by the country’s leading apprentice-provider in the electrical sector to become an official ambassador, inspiring other women to consider a career in electrical engineering.

Chantelle explains: “After leaving high school I had no idea what I wanted to do career wise. I tried sixth form several times with different courses but none appealed to me. I realised that conventional academic education just wasn’t for me. So I went into a number of jobs working full time, in offices, fast food chains – but nothing seemed to last very long! One day I was sitting in an office thinking ‘I have to do something to get me out of being stuck in a dead end job’ when I saw an advertisement in a paper for an electrical apprentice. I applied thinking I would have zero chance to get it – I was 22, a girl, with no college qualifications – but here I am doing it!”

Chantelle found she loved the hands-on nature of the work. “I genuinely look forward every day to going to work!” says Chantelle. “For me the chance to earn while I learned made huge sense.”

She is in the second year of an apprenticeship with Landmarc Solutions, supported by training provider JTL.

Eventually she would love to own her own business – and employ as many female apprentices as possible.

JTL equality and diversity officer Yasmin Damree-Ralph says: “A failure to raise the understanding and appeal of working in building services engineering among more women could be depriving the industries of half the young talent coming from education into work.”

For more information about the Apprenticeships Norfolk Network visit www.apprenticeshipsnorfolk.org

For more information about WS Lusher and Son Ltd visit www.wslusherandson.co.uk

For more information about Wymondwww.wymondhamcollege.org

For more information on apprenticeships in the building services sector visit www.jtltraining.com

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