Eilis Bond tells why Plymouth’s finalists in the recent Brathay Challenge were determined to banish stereotypes surrounding apprenticeships 

Work has gone back to normal after a hectic and crazy six months leading up to the recent Brathay Challenge final, a national competition aimed at boosting the profile of apprenticeships.

As part of the challenge, our team felt that it was time we banished the stereotype of apprenticeships as long hours of making tea and doing all the jobs that no one else wants to, for very little pay or recognition. We took the opportunity to shout about the great opportunities that apprenticeships can offer and how they can really be used as a stepping stone to start a career.

To get our message out to as many young people as we could, we hosted a Young Person’s Day in Plymouth’s Guildhall. We had a month to organise this huge event — nowhere near enough time  — and had to put 110 per cent into getting it ready.

Forty-nine training providers, employers and colleges wanted stalls so the team had to organise a floor plan, complete a risk assessment, ensure that all stalls who needed power had access to it, and ensure that every stallholder received the same level of customer service. This customer service was vital as we want to run a Young Person’s day every year — the stallholders wouldn’t come again if they felt it wasn’t worth their time or that they didn’t receive the level of care that they expected.

In the month leading up to the day, every member of the team learnt a lot about event planning and about their own organisational skills. That is the best thing about Brathay in my eyes — every one of us has gained a lot from the competition, from confidence, to a huge range of skills that are transferable to our workplaces, to really great friends.

We got fantastic feedback from the more than 2,000 young people who came through the doors. Most had heard of apprenticeships at some point, either in school, at the job centre or through careers advice, but none really seemed to understand what they were and what they could mean to them, let alone grasp the idea that you can achieve the equivalent of a university degree while you are in the work-place, earning money and gaining skills.

We felt that it was time to banish the stereotype of apprenticeships as long hours of making tea and doing all the jobs no one else wants to”

Plymouth has a large number of unemployed young people, which is why events such as our Young Person’s Day are so important. Everyone who came left the Guildhall with genuine job opportunities, apprenticeship offers and opportunities to return to education. We had asked each of the stallholders to promote their current vacancies, opening up so many opportunities to the young people that they may not of thought of before.

For instance, I had never thought of business administration. It was only after a year of doing door-to-door sales in typical Plymouth weather that I realised office work would better suit me as I don’t enjoy working outside!

With the help of so many fantastic taster sessions and work experience opportunities, the young people in Plymouth have great options to ‘try before you buy’ and really work out what they want to do with their lives. We spend most of our lives at work, so why not enjoy it? I do.

Eilis Bond, 20, is a business administration apprentice in Plymouth City Council. She is also a Brathay Challenge team leader. The challenge is organised by the Brathay Trust charity and supported by the
National Apprenticeship Service