'Don't write apprenticeships off: look at the facts'

#InspiringApprentice Bradley Longford says he expected to be desk-bound doing boring jobs – the reality is very different

Apprenticeships: #InspiringApprentice Bradley Longford says he is delighted to be able to study an apprenticeship alongside going to university

My name is Bradley Longford, and I am 20 and from Sheffield. I work as a trainee business and marketing assistant at Henry Boot Construction and have just started my second year at Sheffield Hallam University, studying a level 6 BA (Honours) in professional practice in management.

I can first remember hearing about apprenticeships at college – they were mentioned at secondary school but not in great depth. At college, we were told about the different levels and the different routes: when I found out that I could complete one alongside going to university – and get paid for it –  it just made sense to me. To be honest, I’d say the college did well to encourage all pathways for students.


Background: Minister backs #InspiringApprentices campaign

Inspiring apprentices: 'After my apprenticeship, I now plan to do a degree'

News: One in four firms 'disappointed' by apprenticeship providers


'An apprenticeship is really fulfilling'

In my head, an apprenticeship in a marketing role meant being desk-based in an office environment, on low pay, living away from home and being given all the "boring bits" to do. 

The real experience has gone beyond my expectations. I am a 40-minute drive away from home and on good pay. During busy periods, I may only be in the office for one day a week because I’ll be out at career events, site visits, meetings or networking events. Henry Boot offers opportunities to take part in charity events and host an annual barbecue, Christmas dinner and party. Although there are some parts of my job that are more boring, we share these responsibilities out as a team. 

I spend my days writing news articles and managing the Henry Boot Construction website and social media pages, as well as assisting with any other marketing-related tasks. I also take part in many school engagement events with the employment and skills manager supporting and leading them with the organisation.

I find the work I do really fulfilling, I get to see my news article go from draft to published on our website and promoted on social media. When I am out at career fairs, I feel like I am making a difference, influencing young people to think about careers in construction and apprenticeships. During networking events, I find it fascinating talking to people at different stages of their careers, whether that be other young people or senior directors to see what their aspirations and challenges are.

I have the full support of both my line managers and directors to participate in events, networks and activities such as job shadowing. Many employees also comment on my activities when they see news articles about what I have been up to.

I get a lot of freedom in my role to meet others, to raise awareness of apprenticeships and gain vital communication skills. The people within the business are a significant factor in what makes me so happy in my job. Henry Boot has a fantastic working environment where I can approach anyone for advice, help or a general chat: everyone is happy to make time for you.

My friends at university do have a lot more "free time", but next year will be different when they approach their final year. Everyone talks about this fear of missing out, but there are still opportunities to go out and socialise at work or at college/ university.

My family were keen for me to land an apprenticeship: they loved the idea because they know I’m a kinaesthetic learner anyway. My friends understood my decision and agreed it was a logical choice for me. Some of my friends still weren’t sure what they wanted to do so made an impulsive decision to go to university.

The growing number of apprenticeships

Once I’ve completed university, I plan to become a business development manager – I really want to apply my skills and experiences learned from my apprenticeship. It is an exciting time at Henry Boot and it will be interesting to see what other opportunities open up.

Ten years from now, I’d like to be in a management position within the business. If it all goes to plan, I should be a few years into my role as a business development manager.

I’d encourage everyone to explore the option of an apprenticeship and learn the facts before you write it off. If you aren’t sure about what you want to do, use websites to find job roles that match your skills and see if you can find any apprenticeships in that job because there are an increasing number of new ones each year.

Bradley Longford is a trainee business and marketing assistant at Henry Boot Construction and is studying a level 6 BA (Honours) in professional practice in management at Sheffield Hallam University. He tells his story as part of Tes' #InspiringApprentices campaign

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