There are clearly some agendas and themes that will dominate 2014, and grassroot opportunities (i.e. apprenticeships) seems to be at the top of the league in terms of business, education and economic priorities for both government and business.
The digital and creative sector lead the way in supplying the next generation of geeks and technical geniuses through fantastic schemes such as Juice Academy, Arch and The Apprentice Academy to name just a few. Yet it worries me that this still seems too slow an uptake for non-tech industries such as healthcare and science.
I saw a quote recently on social media which caused me to write this piece. Entitled, “What if the cure for cancer is in the mind of someone who can’t afford education”, it was quite drastic in its headline. Yet it does provide food for thought.
I myself didn’t take the traditional pathway at the start of my career, mostly due to the cost implications. Stay with me as I can feel you drifting off… this is honestly not a sob story.
By my own choice, I didn’t embark on formal higher education. I was offered every bursary, student loan and support available at the time and was sat down at the age of 15 with Oxbridge representatives and told if I got the grades it could be where I ended up.
That didn’t become a reality as the lady I love with all my heart and who had helped me through each stage of my life then needed my help. I couldn’t leave my Mother Dearest in a lurch to ‘swan off’ to the shiny gates of Oxford while she struggled financially in north Manchester. I decide to help and be the grown up I just had to be at that time.
I moved from job to job, spraying perfume and applying make up in Selfridges May I add that I learnt such a fantastic work ethic here and how to be part of a team – the retail sector really doesn’t get enough credit for the part they play in developing individuals who work within it. I then moved on to undertake an apprenticeship with Manchester City Council as part of the Cultural Economy initiative of creative apprenticeships. It was the chance I needed and very much the first step onto the learning curve that landed me in the very desk I sit in today at my beloved home of Online Ventures.
The point is, I did have the talent. I had the abilities to blossom into a rose in the right environment. But what if I hadn’t stumbled across the kindness of those have helped me on my way? The universe led me to the door of the OVG office where I met my mentors, leaders and lovely bosses James Welch, Paul Yates and Justin Yates. They provided me with the crucial tools I needed to flourish and created an environment where I have learnt more lessons about digital, idea generation, marketing and, more importantly, how to be a more rounded person than I could have been from taking notes in a lecture hall.
The key learning method here at OVG is being given the space to grow. They don’t attempt to put a square human in a metaphorical round hole. It’s about trying and testing whilst under the nurturing care of experts. It is a place where rough diamonds such as Lauren Dale, whose brightness would normally dim under corporate and traditional constraints of hierarchy, can become industry leaders and have an opinion that counts. Lancaster University think she is very clever if others don’t – and I will take their word for it!
So as even the most traditional sectors such as legal change their ways and begin to notice talent growth from other streams and consider including apprenticeships in the very near future, I can only wish they are as nurturing as the digital sector has been. I hope to see a continuous increase in alternative routes to career success over the coming years as I believe had I not been given the opportunities in the right environments, I’d have wilted and died along with any potential that my hooped-earring-wearing 15 year old self had.
If you are looking at expanding your business and are currently on a recruitment drive, I strongly suggest you talk to businesses that have participated in apprenticeship schemes. More importantly, speak to the incredibly talented graduates who have provided fantastic return and value within their positions. There are many around Manchester.
Our own future Prime Minister, Grace Nolan, and the next editor of the Guardian Data section, Olivia Davies, would be good places to start. There are many other businesses across the city too that have shining examples of success stories such as Adam Recruitment and their lovely Liam Weaver.
I will end on the note of asking you, as a potential employer of apprentices, to be brave. My employers were.
Rionne is the Relationship Director of Online Ventures Group who are a creative digital agency creating online success for their clients using data-led marketing techniques and social media outreach. To find out more about Online Ventures Group, visit the blog or contact the business on 0844 871 7291.