A 51-year-old apprentice has praised an apprenticeship scheme for giving him the opportunity to retrain and achieve a “work life balance”.

Since 2017, 56,492 people aged 19+ have started an apprenticeship in Greater Manchester and there are currently 29,784 adults in apprenticeship roles in the city-region. The results show apprenticeships are not just for school leavers, but open to anybody of any age.

Adult apprentices across the city-region have praised apprenticeships for allowing them to retrain without fees, start a new career without the risk and also giving them the chance to get paid while learning. Employers have also reported positive experiences with hiring adult apprentices, who have helped to increase productivity in the workplace while acting as mentors for the younger apprentices.

David Bunce, who trained as a Plumbing Apprentice with Seddon, said he decided to make a career change after working in the army and for the police.

He said: “The challenges before starting my apprenticeship that I had to overcome were very much a perception of my age at 51 that the commitment and ability to do a physical trade might not have been the same as somebody young.

“Since starting my apprenticeship with Seddon I’ve gained a vast amount of work-based experience, I’ve also gained knowledge that is applicable to that work-based experience from college. So it’s a perfect blend of work experience, knowledge-based work experience and learning a trade.

“The apprenticeship is preparing me in lots of ways with the knowledge, with the skills, with being able to translate those into the workplace. With the support of the company it means the day release aspect of it that it gives me a better work-life balance, all in all it’s a much better option.”

Steven Cullen, Head of Operations for Engineering Services at Seddon, said: “Since David started at Seddon all I’ve had is good reports about what he has brought to the table due to his experience, his age and also he is a mentor to the younger apprentices.

“I’ve never had perceptions about taking on any older apprentices, because what we do is look at the person individually and see who that person is to develop in their own means and own right.”

Greater Manchester leaders are calling on adults who are currently out of work or looking to refresh their careers to apply for an apprenticeship as a way to learn new skills and retrain.

 Councillor Andrew Western, GMCA lead for Digital, Work, Skills and Clean Air, said: “It’s a common misconception that apprenticeships are just for school leavers, when in fact they are open to anybody of any age who may want to undergo a career change or learn new skills. We have also been hearing from employers who tell us adult apprentices have had a positive impact on their businesses, due to their experience and passion to learn new skills.

“I urge those who are currently out of work or having a career break to apply for the fantastic apprenticeship opportunities we have here in Greater Manchester and progress your career.”

GMCA continues to improve the quality and grow the numbers of apprenticeships in Greater Manchester. A total of 17,000 apprenticeships started in the academic year from 2019-2020 in every sector, including growth industries of Manufacturing, Finance, Digital as well as Health and Social Care as set out in the Local Industrial Strategy. It is hoped around 3,000 apprenticeship roles will start this September.

Greater Manchester’s Levy Matchmaking Service enables large employers with apprenticeship levy underspend to match with smaller businesses looking to hire apprentices. A total of 354 apprenticeships have started so far through the Levy Matchmaking Service, with more businesses being urged to take advantage of the opportunity.

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