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Since joining Ignite Sport UK in November 2017, General Manager Hannah Bladen has taken great pride in seeing young people reach their full potential via sport-based apprenticeships that provide industry qualifications, help to grow self-confidence and develop key life skills.
A former elite hockey player, Hannah has more than 25 years of experience working in the sports sector and can claim to have completed three London Marathons in addition to many dozens of long-distanced power walks.
It is her belief that sport has the power to change lives. As part of National Apprenticeship Week 2021, we caught up with Hannah to discuss how the public’s perception of apprenticeships has evolved during her career and why they are growing in popularity among young people.
Apprenticeships and their history
Apprenticeships can be traced back into the Middle Ages with the first national apprenticeship training system launched in 1563.
Through the 20th century, apprenticeships were accepted as the main pathway into a career in manufacturing, engineering and construction. Significantly, though, this period saw little Government intervention and young people were rewarded with no formal or transferable qualifications.
But since 1993, apprenticeships have undergone two major reforms that have changed the way they are provided to young people and the opportunities they generate.
In 2021, people aged 16 and upwards can become an apprentice across a range of sectors from marketing to the arts, engineering and education.
“Apprenticeships are a genuine alternative to full time education,” said Hannah. “While gaining industry recognised qualifications and working in a professional environment, you are also developing skills for life that are hard to teach in other environments.”
Why apprenticeships appeal
Apprenticeships have stemmed from an imbalanced background that associates them with training in several generalised sectors – plastering, bricklaying and building to name a
These days, that is far from the case with apprenticeships available to suit all people. So, what is the appeal?
Hannah added: “A lot of people join Ignite Sport UK’s apprenticeship programme because they want to learn – but they also want to earn money. An apprenticeship provides a beautiful blend of both elements.
“Apprenticeships are a fantastic opportunity for people to progress and develop skills that are required in the real world. But it is important to remember they provide an opportunity for someone to get their foot in the door of an employer when job opportunities are so hard to come by.
“They also help a person develop transferable skills that can be applied in roles across many varied sectors.”
On-the-job experience and its value
Since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, there has been a significant increase in unemployment and a large fall in employment for people aged 16 to 24.
But apprenticeships do not only pave the way for a paid job. As well as developing a person’s employability, apprenticeships are increasingly becoming more valued by universities.
“Competition for jobs is huge,” said Hannah. “And demand for continuing to gain an education and work experience will grow.
“But each year we are seeing more universities respect the value of an apprenticeship and many young people these days are using them as a steppingstone to higher education.
“The issue of youth unemployment is not going to get better for a while. Therefore, the appeal of getting your foot in the door from the age of 16 upwards is massive.
“Ignite Sport UK has many examples of former apprentices that continued to work for the company beyond their apprenticeship, and this applies to externally employed apprentices trained by Ignite Sport UK.”
Earn and learn
All apprenticeships require 20 per cent of the contracted hours to be attributed to education.
In normal times, Ignite Sport UK as a training provider mixes face-to-face learning with online training and distanced tasks to fulfil an apprentice’s’ education entitlement. Amid the pandemic, all education is delivered digitally.
Hannah Disbury has been an apprentice at Ignite Sport UK since September 2020. The 21-year-old currently works at Freeland Primary School near Witney, Oxfordshire, where she acts as a teaching assistant and physical education teacher in addition to running the school’s breakfast club.
“While gaining valuable experience in a real working environment, we are constantly in contact with Hannah to further develop her skills and work towards achieving a Level 3 as a Teaching Assistant,” said Hannah.
“The true value of an apprenticeship comes not only in the on-the-job learning, but also the education relevant to the sector that comes with it.”
Nurturing every person
Apprenticeships are available for year 11 leavers upwards, but leaving school aged 16 to become an employee of a company may sound a bit daunting to some.
Hannah has some crucial words of advice to those considering an apprenticeship in the future.
“It is important to understand we never throw anyone into the deep end without the appropriate support or training,” said Hannah. “We work with fantastic schools and other organisations nationally and have a supportive team that are there to answer any questions you may have during your apprenticeship.
“Every apprentice is different, but on general terms we make sure all apprentices are supported and mentored in the early months of their apprenticeship prior to embarking on independent delivery.
“It’s of paramount important that there is an excellent match between an apprentice and an employer so both parties have the best possible experience.”
See for yourself
In two weeks, Ignite Sport UK will host a virtual open event to help young people exploring the idea of a sport-based apprenticeship to better understand the opportunities we supply.
Hosted by Ignite Sport UK General Manager Hannah Bladen, the open event will take place on Wednesday, February 24, via Zoom to guarantee compliance with the Government’s current COVID restrictions.
The evening will provide year 11 leavers upwards and their parents or carers the opportunity to learn more about Ignite Sport UK’s sports-based apprenticeships and the career pathways they provide.
To attend the virtual open event and find out more about the exciting pathway Ignite Sport UK can provide, visit www.ignitesportuk.com and contact the team via our ‘contact us’ page.
Alternatively, you can call Ignite Sport UK on 0300 303 0809 or email email@example.com for