'My life had no purpose before I became an apprentice'

An apprentice caretaker tells an MPs' inquiry how his life has been transformed but he still needs food parcels to get by on an apprentice wage

Jonathan Owen

apprenticeship levy government business funding

A young apprentice caretaker at Hull City Council has told members of the Commons Education Select Committee how his life used to have “no purpose” but has been given meaning thanks to being on an apprenticeship.

Giving evidence this morning to the committee’s inquiry on the quality of apprenticeships and skills training, Gavin Garner said: “I had no fixed abode and I was looking after my mum full-time and I had no real quality [of life], I didn’t have any purpose, I felt I had no purpose."

He added: “I was really depressed. I really didn’t have much motivation to do anything, to even go out."

'Promote apprenticeships'

The apprentice is now studying for a level 2 in building maintenance multi-trade repair and refurbishment operations, after being helped by his local authority and Hull Training and Adult Education to find an apprenticeship.

At his school, pupils were given “a choice of three colleges and that was it”, he told MPs. “There was no mention really of apprenticeships."

There needs to be more awareness about apprenticeships and the benefits they can offer, according to Mr Garner.

“I think schools just seem to think that everyone’s going to carry on with education and it doesn’t work like that because everybody wants something different, everybody has a different idea of what route they want to go down," he said.

The apprentice recalled how he was “forced to go into college for a year to do land-based engineering and I hated it. I did not want to be there and I rebelled against it, I couldn’t stand it”.

Being on an apprenticeship has transformed his life, he said. “I really thoroughly enjoy it, it gives me a reason to get out of bed in the morning – it’s really good, I couldn’t think of anything else that I’d rather do with my time."

'Food parcels'

Mr Garner told MPs that it’s hard to live on what he is paid as an apprentice. He gets help, which includes “food parcels to help me out, because the wage I’m on is an apprentice wage so it’s difficult to live independently”. He gets £600 a month, and said: “The wage is quite low itself which makes it really difficult."

Yet for all the challenges of managing on very little, he said: “I’m really happy now. I’m in a lot better place now than I was before I started my apprenticeship. It’s the ideal job, I love it, I really do."

He added: “You learn a lot of skills that you wouldn’t in the classroom, on an apprenticeship, because it’s practical based. I’ve never done tiling before in my life and I did it last week and I’m brilliant at it but I wouldn’t have known that if I hadn’t have been on this apprenticeship and I think that it’s learning those skills that’s important if you want to succeed and achieve."

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Jonathan Owen

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