“Stop the apprenticeships snobbery” says Harlow MP’s Apprentice

“Stop the apprenticeships snobbery” says Harlow MP’s Apprentice

DAN Swords, Robert Halfon MP’s 6th Parliamentary Apprentice has spoken out about the importance of changing the perception of apprenticeships.

Published in an article for The Times, Dan writes how he had “fallen victim to his own ignorance and to the stigma that has for too long surrounded apprenticeships”, before deciding to pursue his “dream career”, working on the frontline of Westminster politics as an apprentice for Robert Halfon, MP for Harlow.

He writes: “As an apprentice to an MP, I am working in parliament at the age of 18 — a working-class, non-university educated boy, earning and learning as I pursue my dream career. Yet I would never have considered this route until recently. I had fallen victim to my own ignorance and to the stigma that has for too long surrounded apprenticeships.

“My father completed an apprenticeship as a bricklayer in the 1980s. It allowed him to travel the world and emigrate, which for a young, working-class man from a deprived part of London was life-changing. Apprenticeships warranted respect, but much of that respect seems to have been lost since then.

“That perception is slowly changing but the real turning point will be when they pass the dinner-party test, so that when you say you did an apprenticeship, people say “Wow! What’s your trade?”

“Yet changing the widespread view of apprenticeships is just the start. When we look at the economy it becomes obvious that we must fill the large and widening skills shortages: this is urgent given that 69 per cent of businesses do not think students are prepared for the world of work.

“Apprenticeships can also help to fix other challenges that young people face. There are growing mental health problems among young people, something I have overcome myself. Being unemployed or loathing the work one does cannot in any way enhance one’s quality of life. With a confused mish-mash of careers guidance, it is not difficult to see why many get lost. We need to give more information to school leavers, teachers and young people about the brilliant experiences apprenticeships can offer and this is something my apprenticeship provider, WhiteHat, has been supporting me with.

“Apprenticeships can not only help solve the economic crisis we face but the social crisis too. The government has taken some great steps in this field in the past few years, but still we must go much further. No one can pretend that apprenticeships are held in the same regard as an Oxbridge degree. At the same time no one can ignore, when shown the evidence, the impact they can have.

“For me, being on this apprenticeship — working in a team, dealing with correspondence, doing social media and digital marketing — has been life-changing. In the education system I was seen as someone “not reaching their potential”. Now, working in the House of Commons for one of the most active MPs in the country and seeing at first hand the impact politicians can have on our nation, I want to be the first ever MP to have started as the apprentice of an MP.”

Dan Swords carries out his training with White Hat, an apprenticeship training provider run by Tony Blair’s son, Euan Blair.

Commenting on the publication, Dan Swords said: “Apprenticeships can change the nation. Not only are they a genuine alternative to university because they can address the skills shortage, but also because they can address this country’s social issues.

“That’s why, I’m really pleased to be published in The Times today, drawing national attention to why we must stop the apprenticeships snobbery.”

Robert Halfon said: “I am really proud of Dan – my 6th Apprentice in Parliament. He is a brilliant spokesperson for apprentices across the country and shows exactly what you can achieve when you get on the ladder of opportunity and earn while you learn.”

On Twitter, Dan’s article has also been picked up by Education Secretary, Damian Hinds, describing it as “a brilliant piece”.

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