Learning providers know full well the value of their provision and so too does 19-year-old apprentice James Davies

As an apprentice currently working with HIT Training, I’m lucky to have first-hand experience of working with a provider and would absolutely recommend the apprenticeship route as a credible, viable alternative to anyone who may feel that going to university or college, or settling for any old job, is not for them.

Although HIT is a leading specialist provider of work-based learning and apprenticeships in the hospitality sector, I’m working as a technical support apprentice at the company’s headquarters, in West Sussex. This means that although I have day-to-day direct links with the hospitality industry, my specific role is help maintain, support and track all of HIT’s IT equipment, and to give advice and support to any of the 400-plus staff who may be experiencing technical issues with their equipment or systems.

But when I left school my plan wasn’t to be an apprentice at all. I spent two years at art college and then went on to do a further six months at university before deciding that classroom-based learning wasn’t for me. I started to look at alternative ways into an industry that I felt I would enjoy and would enable me to develop a career.

Perhaps one of the most important qualities to demonstrate when applying for an apprenticeship is enthusiasm — it’s vital to show you have a passion for whatever industry you are trying to enter.

The value of a good apprentice can be under-rated in some industries — it would be good to see more employers from different sectors taking part in apprenticeship programmes. School pupils, too, should be given more opportunities to learn more about the apprenticeship route, so that ultimately they have a greater understanding of the options available to them and that learning and training are not necessarily only available through university or college.

Working as an apprentice really does give you the best of both worlds — I earn while I learn and all the while I can see a direct link between the skills I am learning and the way in which they contribute to the business.
Practical experience and work-based learning enables you to see straight away how certain skills can be used in the workplace and, personally, I felt that this combination of practical learning in a business environment was much more valuable to me than time spent in a classroom.

For the learner, an apprenticeship is a valuable experience as you really feel that you are contributing to the day-to-day business of your employer. For employers, investment in apprentices can really pay dividends as they develop a loyal member of staff who is totally immersed in the company culture — yet that person is also properly trained and qualified to help develop the business in the longer term.

Even though I am still a junior member of staff, HIT always welcomes my opinions and encourages me to explore new avenues for business development. I love keeping up to date with technical issues and always enjoy offering technological solutions which I feel could improve either ease of use or company productivity.

Right now I’m totally immersed in working towards my diploma in IT user skills, but once that is complete I’m planning to start a computer programming course.

And for the future? Hopefully, I’ll continue to work for HIT, but I’d also like to be able to plan my diary more efficiently to make room for my four nights a-week training in mixed martial arts and Brazilian jiu jitsu.

James Davies, technical support apprentice at HIT Training

Read the Employer’s point of view from Greggs resourcing manager, Karen walker here