Newham celebrates National Apprenticeship Week

Andrew Kingston is working at Theatre Royal Strtaford East.

Andrew Kingston is working at Theatre Royal Strtaford East. - Credit: Archant

What do Sir Alex Ferguson, Eric Clapton and Michael Caine all have in common?

Andrew Kingston is working at Theatre Royal Strtaford East.

Andrew Kingston is working at Theatre Royal Strtaford East. - Credit: Archant

Believe it or not, they all started out their careers as apprentices, learning a trade on the job.

The number of new apprentices starting across the borough each year has increased by 1,130 between 2009/10 and 2013/14 – despite a drop of 80 over the last financial year.

That drop corresponds with England-wide figures, with 70,000 fewer people across the country starting an apprenticeship over the same period.

In a bid to address the fall, the eighth National Apprenticeship Week runs until Friday, with hundreds of events across the country highlighting the importance of the apprentices to individuals, businesses and the wider economy.

Andrew Kingston is working at Theatre Royal Strtaford East.

Andrew Kingston is working at Theatre Royal Strtaford East. - Credit: Archant

One of the institutions championing the cause is Newham College. It has delivered more than 5,000 apprenticeships.

Jennifer Miah, 22, of Waterside Road, Plaistow, works four days a week at the college’s Business Lab in the Stratford Centre.

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Designed as an alternative office environment for SMEs (small and medium-sized enterprises) from across the borough, the centre offers free hotdesking and professional business advice.

After a brief stint working for an estate agent, Jennifer began volunteering at the college before enrolling on a business administration apprenticeship with the Lab when it opened earlier this year.

“It’s an amazing project to be a part of, because it’s ultimately all about helping people,” she said. “It’s been amazing to see this place go from nothing to the facility it is now as well.

“I’d recommend looking into apprenticeships 100 per cent – doing this has really opened my eyes.

“There’s no knowing where it might lead and it could open a lot of doors in the future.”

College principal and chief executive Di Gowland insists the apprenticeships are good for employers and youngsters alike.

“We are currently delivering more than 1,500 apprenticeships into and across a wide variety of industries – child and social care, bespoke tailoring and fashion designers, restaurants, bookshops to name but a few.

“We are helping employers meet their skills gaps and recruitment difficulties in a cost-effective way whilst meeting the employment aims of young people and adults.

“Employers appreciate that they can work closely with their apprentices and create bespoke personnel to meet their company needs.”

The past-faced environment of a professional kitchen is the only place to learn the tricks of the restaurant trade, according to apprentice chef Kyle Churchman.

Kyle, 17, of Keller Crescent, Manor Park, began working at Stratford’s Cafe Football five days a week from January.

Supplemented by a weekly half-day at Newham College, he said: “It’s a brilliant environment because you’re able to learn so much.

“You’re working with some of the best people in the business, which is really exciting.

“I really wouldn’t be given an opportunity like this outside of an apprenticeship.

“For me it’s a much better option than college full-time because I never feel like I’m moving that quick.

“Here you’re constantly improving on the job

A big Leyton Orient fan, the weekend work has decreased his Brisbane Road attendances of late, but the job has been supplying his dose of vitamin football.

“I don’t get to see as many Saturday afternoon games as I would like, but there is a great atmosphere here on matchdays,” he said. “You get to meet fans of teams from all over the country, which is cool.”

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