Jade has just started her new job as an apprentice with the West Midlands Combined Authority (WMCA), and has been talking about her role as part of National Apprenticeship Week.
Jade, 18, from Birmingham, joins the WMCA’s productivity and skills team as a business administration apprentice.
The teenager, who got nine GCSEs at grade A* to C, said she had tried college courses but found it hard to enjoy a classroom-based approach to learning.
New WMCA apprentice Jade (left) with WMCA chief executive Deborah Cadman OBE
“I tried college three times but I didn’t get on with it, I don’t feel particularly academic, I’m more of a hands-on person,” she said.
“I had heard about apprenticeships but the information was limited and I did have a pretty negative view of apprenticeships.
“But this apprenticeship is really good – I really like the mix of stuff I’ll be learning, I’m looking forward to getting stuck in and have already learned a lot.”
Most importantly, Jade’s new apprenticeship will afford her independence – with her own flat and no need for benefits.
“Some apprenticeships are only paid at the national apprenticeship wage – it wasn’t enough for me to afford to pay rent, but was too much for me to receive housing benefit, so I’d have been stuck in the middle,” Jade said.
“Because WMCA is paying normal wages, I’m earning enough to get my own flat, so I can live independently and don’t need housing benefit or anything like that.
“And I’m working towards a real qualification after 18 months – so I’ll still get a similar qualification that I’d get from college, but I’m getting real work experience and earning a wage at the same time. It’s the best of all worlds.”
Jade said she’d advise others who didn’t enjoy school or college to consider an apprenticeship – and to do their research.
“My main advice would be to go to jobs fairs, go to careers fairs and open days, and ask a lot of questions,” Jade said.
“And don’t just go for the first thing you like the look of – be sure to look at all the different types of apprenticeship you could get, and don’t be scared of negotiating with people, or else you’ll never know how much you could get out of an opportunity.”
Deborah Cadman OBE, chief executive of the WMCA, said: “We’re delighted to welcome Jade to the WMCA. She has huge potential – she got exemplary GCSE results, is young and enthusiastic and will help bring fresh viewpoints and a young voice to our productivity and skills team.
“We want the West Midlands to be the best place in the country to earn, learn and live, and we look forward to welcoming more and more apprentices to the region over the coming months.”
The WMCA is committed to increasing the proportion of employees which are apprentices (currently at 5%), and has pledged that where possible, all new entry and intermediate vacancies will be offered as an apprenticeship. The WMCA will also pay at least the national minimum wage for all apprenticeships, rather than the minimum apprenticeship wage.
The push on apprenticeships comes during National Apprenticeship Week. The Government launched its Fire It Up apprenticeship campaign earlier this year to highlight the opportunities and rewards of apprenticeships – which can offer qualifications up to degree level and provide valuable work experience, and a wage, for apprentices.
People considering starting an apprenticeship can find out more at www.apprenticeships.gov.uk