Apprenticeships are just for boys? Try telling that to Beth Sherbourne, Higher Apprentice of the Year 2013 - or indeed the many other girls and young women now benefitting from the route.
Beth was just 22 when she became senior procurement officers at MDBA missile system’s plant, having studied for her degree during a four-year apprenticeship supported both by Semta, the sector skills council for science, engineering and advanced manufacturing, and its training partner EAL.
“The apprenticeship at MBDA opened so many doors for me,” said Beth, of Lostock, Bolton. “I cannot praise apprenticeships enough.”
Beth studied English Literature, Psychology and Film Studies at college. She said: “I was working part-time in a supermarket and had intended to go to university.
“But a lot of my peers had done the same thing and found themselves still working there when they got their degrees. Then I saw the advert for an apprenticeship in engineering and business at MBDA.
“My first job was in the manufacturing area and I was moved around to get the experience of the supply chain, project management, and procurement – all parts of the business at different sites. I was able to see how everything fits together and how my role fits into the organisation.”
MBDA sponsored Beth though a HNC for two years. She then transferred to university where she studied the final two years of a part-time degree and graduated with a BA Hons in Business Management and the highest marks in her year.
Beth went on to be put in charge of a multi-million pound budget to buy batteries and equipment for MBDA’s missile systems.
“I would encourage anyone to think about becoming an apprentice,” she said. “I was able to earn while learning and still achieve a degree but it has given my career a head start.”
North Shields girl Shannon Asiamah, 16, gained 12 GCSE’s, six of them A*s, but has chosen to give sixth form a miss to join chartered accountants and registered auditors Blu Sky.
Through her apprenticeship there, she will have a full-time permanent post that will her see her become fully qualified before the age of 20.
Having previously done work experience at Blu Sky, Shannon had impressed bosses Jon Dudgeon and Dave Gibson so much that they offered her paid work experience over the summer break. When they heard she was going for interviews to gain herself an apprenticeship, they decided she was too good to let go.
Mr Dudgeon said: “If Shannon was going to start an apprenticeship rather than continue onto A Levels then we wanted to be the ones giving her the opportunity.
“She is very bright, and already an asset to the team. We are convinced she will fly through her AAT qualification levels two, three and four and by the time she turns 20, we will have a home grown fully fledged accountant in her.”
Shannon said: “I did get offered a place at a sixth form, but the more I thought about the more I knew I just wanted to get on and be doing my qualifications as an accountant.
“Everyone who is doing the job already was telling me the best way to become one is to learn on the job and do day release. A levels and a degree might have just held me up as I would still have to do my AAT’s.
“I love the atmosphere at Blu Sky. It’s hard work but it’s fun, everyone is lovely and the best thing is I get to earn while I learn.”
Sarah Sillars, chief executive of Semta said: “Women represent half the UK workforce but only account for 22% of science, engineering and manufacturing employees.
“They are a great untapped resource at a time when we need a wealth of new talent and higher level skills to improve competitiveness.
“We need to keep up the momentum on apprenticeship growth as these are high skilled, well-rewarded opportunities which should be attractive to all – regardless of gender.”