YOUNG and not-so-young people have been urged to consider the value of doing an apprenticeship.

The 13th National Apprenticeship Week, which ends on Sunday, has been seeking to celebrate diversity in apprenticeships.

The number of people doing apprentices rose last year but is still lower than it was when the government introduced an apprenticeship levy.

Since 2017, the levy has required organisations with a wage bill of £3million or more to pay 0.5 per cent of that figure into a fund which can be drawn on to support apprenticeships.

Ali Franklin, business development manager for the Hampshire-based training charity PETA Ltd, said: “There are some big companies in Dorset that are choosing not to use their levy and seeing it as a tax bill. I have tried to engage to upskill existing employees and they say not interested. Very sad.”

Maddie Crawford joined Bournemouth digital agency Adido after starting an apprenticeship with another company.

“Apprentices aren’t in your business to make you coffee, clean your bins, load your dishwasher or fill your biscuit tins – yes, these are tasks that if asked to do every now and then, anyone would happily oblige but this is not a job role of a digital marketing apprentice and is the reason I had to leave my initial apprenticeship placement after only six months – which you can imagine is a shock to the system,” she said.

She was recently promoted to senior paid search executive, although she is still submitting work in her spare time after failing her apprenticeship the first time around.

“My parents were mega supportive of my apprenticeship, my teachers not so much. But all I can say is that I’ve had students coming up to me, just finishing four years of uni, asking how I got my job as they struggle. They simply don’t have the experience that agencies want to see,” she added.

She has featured in the BIMA 100 list of influential figures in the industry, recognising her work promoting mental health.

“I was quite shy before my apprenticeship – like the level of shy where I couldn’t make a phone call for myself. I quickly realised that that wasn’t going to work so I simply had to stop – which is a challenge," she added.

"But I knew the digital scene was looking for a quirky, outgoing, interesting character and if I didn’t fulfil the need of what an agency was looking for, someone else would and they’d get chosen over me.”

Will Green, 32, from Bournemouth, had careers in finance and marketing before retraining as an apprentice carpenter with housing association Aster Group.

He said: “For me, the path to my apprenticeship was sparked when I bought my home. The whole place needed a complete refurbishment, and I decided to have a go and do the majority myself.

“By the time I’d installed my new kitchen, I knew this was the area I wanted to make a living, and in the process reignited that passion for work that I’d lost in my previous jobs.

“I can’t recommend it enough to anyone thinking of starting a trade apprenticeship.”

The group is offering four apprenticeship places.

Bournemouth and Poole College held an event for more than 500 people at AFC Bournemouth’s Vitality Stadium this week, while Dorset Chamber spent a day at Queen Elizabeth’s School, with 400 year nine students learning about apprenticeships and university.

Rohim Ali, from Bournemouth, is an apprentice with Wessex Water, which says it has received fewer applications from the south than from other areas.

He said: “Joining Wessex Water as an apprentice was a great choice for me, I’ve been adopted into the distribution team which has given me the independence and responsibility to develop.

“After winning Apprentice of the Year at the Wessex Water staff awards, it has reassured me that my efforts don’t go unrecognised; I look forward to what the future holds.”

Tim Pearce, 23, marine engineer for Poole’s luxury boat builder Sunseeker, is among more than 500 apprentices in the industry.

He said: “I was the first person in my family to not go to university, instead I started my career as an apprentice. I knew my learning style was better suited to learning on the job, so I pursed an apprenticeship in the marine industry.

“During my four-year apprenticeship at Sunseeker I learnt a high level of discipline, built contacts for the future and learnt from an amazing group in the field. I really enjoyed being able to just get stuck into a project, working with a huge depth of people and learning from them.”

Ferndown-based Superior, which makes seals and O-rings, is marking 10 years of backing apprenticeships. The first of its 55 apprentices, Bradley Hicks, is now maintenance manager, and the business opened an in-house academy in 2012.

Quality manager Ben Clarke chairs the South East Young Apprentice Ambassador Network.

“I started my career journey with an apprenticeship and the support I received was invaluable in helping me to ensure I had the skills I needed to progress within the business,” he said.

“As a company, Superior is really keen to support the next generation of engineers and scientists.”

Mature learner Nicola Macfarlane, of Bournemouth, began an apprenticeship in 2018, having not written an essay since she was at school more than 35 years ago. She works for the education, training and care business Prospect Services, and qualified after her apprenticeship as an operational departmental manager last year.

“I am fortunate to have seen a different version of me come to the surface. I saw my confidence in my abilities and belief in what I was doing shine on the apprenticeship. Though times were difficult at points, I refused to give up and found a way of balancing all my work and studying tasks and can now proudly say I have a distinction,” she said.

Mark Kiteley, director at Rawlins Davey Solicitors and president of Bournemouth and District Law Society, said: “We recruited two solicitor apprentices last year. I believe we were the first law firm in Bournemouth to do so. Over six years they will train and qualify as solicitors – the same timescale as the traditional route, but they receive a salary throughout, and graduate without any student debt. It is very difficult to argue the case for the traditional route in those circumstances.

“In fact the only problem I see with the scheme is the current lack of opportunities, but that will change as word gets out. A lot of parents and students are asking about apprenticeships now at school career fairs.”

Sarah Martyn, group people director for Hendy – which took over the former Westover group of car dealerships in Dorset last year – said: “The aim of our apprentice programme is to build skills and capability for the future across key technical disciplines, such as our vehicle technicians. We also now support apprentices to develop careers in our group functions including marketing based in Dorset and purchasing based in Hampshire.”

Forty-three people have completed apprenticeships at Dorset Council since 2019, mostly existing employees developing new skills. The council has 117 apprentices.

Cllr Andrew Parry, Dorset Council’s cabinet member for education, said: “Employing an apprentice is easy and makes good business sense.

“Financial help is available for businesses and around 90 per cent of apprentices stay in that employment after the scheme ends, which shows what a great contribution they make.”