It’s National Apprenticeship Week again and we thought you’d like to hear some of the stories of a handful of the people we’ve been championing to give them the skills to get working. We went out and about to meet seven apprentices who, through training organisation Joe Brennan Training, are working with construction company, United Living, to renovate and rebuild properties on the South Kilburn estate.
The site in South Kilburn is just one place where we’ve teamed up with leading contractors to provide apprenticeships, on the job training and several permanent jobs over the last two years. And it’s not just younger people we’ve been giving opportunities to - we found a surprising range of people of all ages working at South Kilburn and all of them were passionate about the benefits their apprenticeships have brought them.
National Apprenticeship Week is co-ordinated by the National Apprenticeship Service and is designed to celebrate apprenticeships and the positive impact they have on individuals, businesses and the wider economy.
Age and gender is no barrier
At 63 and in a male dominated work environment, Beverley Wilson could be regarded as a trailblazer, but doesn’t see it that way. ‘I’m just getting on with learning a job I really love.’
Beverley admits that before she started on her training, she wondered who was going to employ her at her age, but she attended a two week Boot Camp and her mentor told her to “Just go out and do it.” She was the only woman on the course with 12 men and was a bit apprehensive, but soon forgot about any differences as they got into the training. Now she is studying for a National Vocational Qualification in painting and decorating and says she has rarely encountered either ageism or sexism. ‘I’m working really hard and everyone seems to be respecting that, treating me fairly and equally. We’re all like a family and mentoring one of the other apprentices has also added another dimension to my work here.”
Before taking up the apprenticeship Beverley helped her husband, on a whole range of painting and decorating jobs. She had also accompanied him on jobs that called for a woman to be present including at women’s refuges and at places where women prefer not to be alone with a tradesman. Beverley enjoyed being a comforting presence for female customers and residents and would like to do more in this quite specific area of the trade. ‘Thanks to my husband's quite tough training I’m confident in the work I do and am now looking forward to developing a career I finally care about. It’s one I would recommend to anyone – male, female, young or old.’
From university to bright spark
Going from being an epidemiologist to an electrician might seem to be an unlikely leap but 25 year old Bilal Bepo seems to have pulled it off. Bilal was well into his studies at University to become an epidemiologist but felt he wasn’t in the right niche. ‘It just didn’t suit me. I’m not the sort of person who can show what they know in an hour-long exam.’ He felt he was drifting and was unhappy with his lack of direction and his family worried that he had thrown away a bright future by leaving University early before qualifying. Luckily, the opportunity to combine his strong mathematical ability and a need for hands-on activity presented itself in an apprenticeship.
Bilal is now several months into his City and Guilds and National Vocational Qualification training to be an electrician. ‘I’m a practical guy who likes working with his hands. The best thing about the apprenticeship is that I will qualify to be an electrician and get paid for it so I won’t be left with a massive debt.
He says the apprenticeship has given him the discipline he needed (being punctual and wanting to make the effort) and he feels as though it has helped him take control of his own destiny. ‘I am so much happier and it’s opened up a whole world of possibilities for me - the future is bright again.’