Why I’ve spent my career championing apprenticeships

Name: Liveryman Anne Ashworth

Employment:  Head of Employee Apprenticeships for Pearson Plc

Location: UK

Anne shares her apprenticeship journey and highlights the importance of supporting vocational learning

As a former apprentice, I know at first-hand how instrumental an apprenticeship can be in establishing the foundations for future success. I have no doubt that my choice to follow a vocational route to furthering my education has provided me with countless opportunities over the years. That’s why I’ve spent the vast majority of my career championing apprenticeships to encourage others to follow different routes to the workplace than just academia.

Over the years, I’ve supported many hundreds of apprentices who made the choice to build careers through vocational learning, drawing on my own experience to provide guidance for the generations of apprentices that followed me. I’m so proud of them all – from Toni, a mum of one who lost her confidence returning to the work force but thrived after undertaking an apprenticeship, to Alex, who joined Pearson just a few months ago after being made redundant in her previous apprentice role, yet has taken joining our team remotely in her stride.

Igniting a passion for vocational learning

My journey with vocational learning started at the age of 15 as I found myself looking at the entry requirements for my dream role with the Women’s Royal Naval Service (WRNS). I remember seeing a leaflet in my mother’s post office at a very young age and, by the time I visited my dad on a Navy submarine, my mind was well and truly set that it was the career for me.

I gained my basic secretarial and shorthand qualifications at school but then hit a stumbling block. How would I gain the occupational experience I needed so I could successfully apply for secretarial roles at the WRNS? That’s when I applied to become a secretarial apprentice with the UK Atomic Energy Authority in Dounreay, Scotland. 

While studying, my apprenticeship allowed me to gain invaluable on-the-job experience, which meant I was able to achieve the entry criteria for my dream role in the WRNS with the bonus of completing my training debt free while earning a salary.

My own positive apprenticeship experience ignited a passion for vocational learning that has defined my entire career. Fast-forward a few years and I studied in the evening to qualify as a teacher whilst working full-time for a printing company. I then got a position as a lecturer at a college and, by 1999, I had become a government inspector for further education and training, specialising in work-based learning.
For the next 17 years, I worked for the Training Standards Council, the Adult Learning Inspectorate and then Ofsted, while also advising employers, further education colleges, local authorities and other training organisations on how to deliver high-quality learning to apprentices and other students, including adults and the most disadvantaged through my own consultancy company.

The huge value of apprenticeships

Now, in my role at Pearson and as an Liveryman and Apprentice Ambassador for the Worshipful Company of Stationers and Newspaper Makers and as member of the National Apprenticeship Ambassador Network, I work closely with many employers, external third-sector organisations and schools to encourage a broader range of individuals to get into employment via an apprenticeship.  I want to particularly encourage those from less privileged backgrounds to seek and gain employment through an apprenticeship.

The pandemic has changed the landscape for apprentices. Apprenticeships are very competitive so it is more important than ever for anyone considering them as a career option to be as prepared as possible, to meet employers to find out what they are looking for and to have a clear idea on the sector they wish to be part of.

The country continues to face immense challenges but businesses must not lose sight of the huge value of apprenticeships in equipping our young people with the skills they need to flourish in their careers. My own experience of vocational learning has opened many doors and I will continue to advocate on behalf of apprentices so that future generations have the same opportunities open to them that I was fortunate enough to have.

We are very excited about our two days of employer presentations 30 June and 1 July.  We would like to introduce you to some of our Stationers that will be hosting each of the events.  They are keen to share with you their experiences working in this stimulating sector, what they have learnt, what they have enjoyed and why they became a stationer.  Each of them are passionate about apprenticeships and their importance to the future of the sector.