From Factory Floor To Boardroom

In Adults, Apprenticeships, In the Press, News, School Leavers, on the 17th, March 2016

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Ahead of National Apprenticeship Week 2016, Gary Potts, Darlington College’s Senior Curriculum Manager, shares his route to success and shows the importance of apprenticeships in the modern world.

Written by Abi Leighton, Level 3 Star Academy Student.

After leaving school at 16, Gary Potts signed straight up to an apprenticeship

“I wanted to start earning money and I didn’t want to continue studying full time. I didn’t want to stop learning though” said the 38-year-old.

“On balance, an apprenticeship was absolutely perfect”

As an apprentice toolmaker at a local manufacturing company, he received training as well as experiencing a wide range of roles.

“I got to spend time in the majority of departments,” said Gary. “Whilst I was there, I was able to specialise as a design engineer.

“A lot of people when they leave school want to start work because they feel ready for that. But an apprenticeship doesn’t stop you studying.”

“I achieved NVQ’s and gained a HND in Engineering whilst also working full-time.”

However, that was not the end of learning for Gary. More doors opened and he had the drive and commitment to study for a BA (Hons) Degree in Education and Training, part-time and on weekends, funded by his employer.  He has also recently gained a Level 7 Management qualification, so the learning hasn’t stopped.

“It’s all about having the right work ethic and drive to get to where you want to be”

Gary is a firm believer in apprenticeships and the opportunities they provide: “I’m extremely proud of what I’ve achieved but I’m not the only one who’s become successful after taking an apprenticeship.”

The Senior Curriculum Manager believes skills gained whilst studying help give apprentices the edge.

Apprentices are able to gain contacts in the industry and also information on how companies work, putting them in the best position possible for the working world and their future career

“I got to the place I’m in now because of the contacts and skills I gained during my apprenticeship.”

There is a perception sometimes that apprenticeships can be seen as ‘less academic’ than other qualifications.

But Gary insists, “You do the same qualifications as you would if you were at college full-time. Apprenticeships give you a great work ethic, to want to continue to study whilst working, and a great first step in your career journey.”

“Nothing has held me back. I was studying part-time, as well as working. Following on from that, I did a degree.”

According to Gary, contrary to beliefs over which route of qualifications is better than the other, it all comes down to what suits you best.

For those who want to go out there and get the “real world experience” and build up employability skills, an apprenticeship is the right pathway, according to the father-of-two.

“Apprenticeships are just as important a route for young people as the academic route to University.”

“The best people suited to an apprenticeship are those who leave school

and are ready to go into the working environment. Someone who is punctual, will attend and is willing to listen to the experts.”

There are no barriers to doing an apprenticeship, including gender or age, despite some apprenticeships being labelled as male-orientated. It’s an option that is available to everyone.

Gary’s advice to those facing the decision about the next steps after school would be to speak to experts at the college. Subject specialist tutors can help you to determine what the best route is and help you achieve what you want in your career.

Apprenticeships enable you to achieve qualifications, mixing the part-time study and a work placement into a Framework certificate, to prove the breadth of skills that have been achieved. “You’re working so you pick up the workplace skills,” said Gary.  “As you do the job, you’re signed off by a mentor in the workplace, who has experience and knowledge which they pass onto you and also supported and signed off as competent by the college assessor.”

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