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Jamie Lawrence

Wagestream

Insights Director

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Interview: Jenny Westworth, 2013 Apprentice Champion of the Year

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BAE Systems apprentice Jenny Westworth, 23, was recently announced as the first Apprentice Champion of the Year, an award which recognises inspirational role models that champion the benefits of apprenticeships in the UK. She talks to HRZone about her journey so far and the ways in which HR functions can better attract and nurture apprentices.

You mentioned you received a great deal of support during your apprenticeship. Can you tell us what you received and what was most valuable?
Throughout my whole apprenticeship, totalling 3.5 years, I had continuous support, from not just apprentice training staff, but by the company as well as the numerous employees I ended up working with. It was this type of support that was really beneficial. Additionally, we had an apprentice training assessor, that followed us throughout our training, ensuring all our needs were met and that we were happy in our place of work. Knowing that we had various people to ask questions to if we were in doubt was a great comfort.

Businesses are increasingly looking to employ apprentices but are concerned because it’s something ‘new.’ What would you say to these businesses?
Definitely go for it. Although it may seem like the “new” thing to do, you have to remember that apprenticeships in whatever form, have actually been around years. My apprenticeship was definitely the best career choice for me, and I can also say the company benefitted from apprentices. It is really important for businesses to continuously have new ideas coming through, and this is something that is promoted by apprentices, they are generally young and eager and willing to learn. Many directors at BAE Systems started off as apprentices and I think it has helped them remain grounded.

What is the most important thing HR can do to support apprentices in the workplace?
I would say that what really benefitted me, was having a strong support network. Knowing that there were people to talk to and reassure me was of great support to me. Communicating, including phone calls, emails and most importantly, 1-2-1 meetings, really help apprentices. So wherever possible, ensure you keep talking.

What can businesses do to appeal to young people looking to take on apprentices?
Show variety and showcase what opportunities are on offer. Make it clear in the outset that apprentices will get plenty of time to actually work out what they want to do – this involves offering them placements in different business areas. At the age of 16 or 18 when young people are being pushed to make a career choice, it is very reassuring to know that businesses are willing to support you in finding out precisely what you actually want to do and that there isn’t any major rush. That is what really appeals!

Can you tell us a few of the major concerns that apprentices tend to have going into the workplace?
I think for some apprentices, they could be concerned there might not be a permanent job at the end of their training. Additionally, I think not knowing the amount of support they will receive can also be a concern, especially with some young people just coming out of school. It can be quite daunting.

Engagement is very topical at the moment – businesses want engaged workforces, but there are many different techniques and processes. When you were doing your apprenticeship, what kept you engaged?
Again, I think engagement comes with variety. When there’s so much to learn, although you can’t learn it all, it makes each day interesting. This kept me engaged, and wanting to know more, during my apprenticeship.

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Jamie Lawrence

Insights Director

Read more from Jamie Lawrence
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