‘Apprentices to MPs go on to great things’

Apprenticeships and skills minister Robert Halfon tells TES he is confident that more politicians will follow his example by hiring an apprentice to help with their Westminster duties

Will Martin & Stephen Exley

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Turning 18 is a significant milestone in any young man’s life. But for Owen Warwick, something even more life-changing happened in the same week as his birthday: he got his first job. And that was the start of a remarkable journey from school sixth form to the Palace of Westminster.

Last summer, Warwick became a parliamentary apprentice. Thanks to the government’s flagship target of creating 3 million apprenticeships by 2020, not to mention the levy being introduced to fund the ambitious expansion of the programme, Warwick has found himself at the centre of government at a time when the profile of apprenticeships has never been higher. And, working in the office of apprenticeships and skills minister Robert Halfon, he could well be the most influential apprentice of all.

“He’s a tough boss,” Warwick jokes, looking at Halfon. “But it’s been a really good experience so far.” As TES speaks with the pair in Halfon’s cramped office in Parliament, which is full of memorabilia from his Harlow constituency, the minister is keen to ensure that the focus stays on his apprentice: “He’s the big man, he’s the big cheese. Not me.”

Since Warwick started his job back in July, he has developed into a “brilliant” employee, Halfon says, explaining that the apprentice has seized his chance to work at the heart of British politics with both hands.

'Quite an experience'

Warwick spends one day a week at Halfon’s local college, Harlow, working towards a level 3 apprenticeship in business administration. He also spends a day with employer Superior Roofing and Building Services to gain vital experience of the world of business.

The rest of the week he works in Parliament, tackling a range of tasks, from taking Harlow constituents on tours to replying to the hundreds of emails the office receives on a daily basis.

Although Warwick admits that keeping up with the correspondence can be “tedious”, there have been moments that have taken his breath away. “I remember when it was questions to the secretary of defence, Michael Fallon [in the House of Commons],” Warwick recalls. “As he was going up to the chamber, I actually opened the door for him, which was quite an experience. It’s weird how we see them as celebrities and [now I see them] just walking about."

This is an edited version of an article in the 3 March edition of TES. Subscribers can read the full story here. To subscribe, click here. To download the digital edition, Android users can click here and iOS users can click here. TES magazine is available at all good newsagents.

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Will Martin & Stephen Exley

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