More than 80 apprentices from across Staffordshire and Stoke-on-Trent have been recognised at a special graduation event.
The apprentices, representing sectors from health and care to education and accounting to engineering were joined by their families, friends, employers and training providers for the seventh Staffordshire Apprenticeship Graduation ceremony.
The stars of the day included Staffordshire County Council apprentices Libby Wordley-Smith, Megan Millard, Mark Wilson and Hilton Vasey all completing their apprenticeships this year.
The event, sponsored by KMF, Newcastle and Stafford College Group (NSCG) and Acacia Training helps highlight the contributions that thousands of apprentices make to the Staffordshire economy each year and to promote the importance of skills and lifelong learning.
Staffordshire’s economy continues to grow, helped by the £3.4m Staffordshire Back to Business Scheme. The programme helped fund over 400 apprentices in businesses across Staffordshire through grants of up to £5,000. Having a skilled workforce has never been more important, evidenced by over a quarter of businesses receiving funding towards taking on their first ever apprentice through the scheme.
Libby Wordley-Smith, 19, from Cannock is a Database Assistant with the county council and was fundamental in helping businesses get the funding they need to take on their apprentice. Libby has just completed her level 3 digital support technician apprenticeship.
Talking at the graduation, Libby said: “I am really happy I chose to do an apprenticeship because it has really helped me to achieve my goals and grow my confidence. I have had so much support throughout my apprenticeship from the team and tutors and I can’t thank them enough. It’s funny. I’m part of the skills team and spent some time as part of the Staffordshire Means Back to Business team. This was easy for me. As an apprentice myself, I was well aware of the opportunities it gives to both employers and to people doing them. It has been amazing to be able to help Staffordshire businesses get back up and running after COVID-19.
“I would definitely recommend the apprenticeship route to anyone as it is an amazing way to learn and develop new skills whilst working in an organisation. I can’t wait to progress here at the council and see where I go next!”
Philip White, Deputy Leader and Cabinet member for Learning and Employability at Staffordshire County Council explained that Apprenticeships remain key to increasing skills levels across all sectors and jobs, including higher skills at degree level.
Philip said: “We have a booming economy here in Staffordshire and apprenticeships continue to play a major role in this success. Key to this is having a good supply of talented people with the skills that employers need. Having a highly skilled workforce and the concept of lifelong learning remain vital for not only employers and individuals but to the successful growth of economies like ours. We want to see even more young people opting for an apprenticeship and more employers taking on apprentices and realising the many benefits. I would like to congratulate everyone who graduated and wish them well in their future careers.”
Hilton Vasey, a Trading Standards Support Officer said: “The Higher diploma in Intelligence Operations was a great opportunity to improve the way we do things and to discover how to use modern intelligence systems more effectively. By doing the apprenticeship, I got the chance to study alongside numerous professionals in the field which really helped broaden my experience and knowledge. An apprenticeship allows you to learn the theory and then put it into practice during your working day. It’s a great way of developing your career.”
Apprentice graduates, Oliver Simmonds and Liam Davies , from Housing Plus Group, spoke about their apprenticeships.
Oliver said: “The apprenticeship is a really intensive programme and it is hugely respected in the industry. Our qualification will say ‘apprentice-trained’ and we can definitely be proud of that.”
Liam added: “Apprenticeships are 100% the way forward. You get fantastic training and when you qualify you have already gained years of experience.”
Mark Wilson, Trading Standards Manager at Staffordshire County Council completed his apprenticeship in September 2021. Mark said: “The opportunity to undertake an apprenticeship with the full support of my employer was a key factor that ensured this was a positive learning experience. As a professional, being able to gain new skills, knowledge and experiences through the apprenticeship scheme, whilst also working, is one that I would encourage everyone to think about in terms of career development.”
Higher apprenticeships are available at a range of levels, from the equivalent of a foundation degree to a bachelor’s degree and even master’s degree level in some sectors. More of these specialised and highly-skilled apprenticeships are being offered each year, giving individuals the chance to continue their professional development and fully realise their potential.
The graduation ceremony was held on Tuesday 28 June at the Staffordshire County Showground.
A small number of grants of up to £5,000 are still available to businesses interested in taking on an apprentice. Details are available at: Funding – Now’s your time to get a grant to recruit an apprentice for less – Staffordshire County Council
Further information on apprenticeships is available at: Apprenticeships | National Careers Service