Apprenticeship schemes: how I made a difference

I was a teacher before moving to Cornwall, and looked after the school’s careers department. We moved here because my husband was hired by yacht builder Pendennis, becoming joint managing director following a management buyout. On one of many long evenings over a bottle of wine, I suggested an apprenticeship scheme, and he said: ‘OK, you do it.’

So in 1997 we started looking into how we could set up an apprenticeship scheme. We visited other apprenticeship programmes and asked the workforce what they felt such a scheme should entail. We contacted Cornwall College with our requirements, and it adapted its advanced apprenticeship model to meet our needs.

We created a four-year programme, which launched in 1998. We take between 10 and 12 apprenticeships every other year. Candidates spend their first year in college, and their summer holiday on a 15-week work experience placement with us, working across all departments and functions.

By year two, they should know what trade they are best suited to, and will spend the following three years studying and working with us on day release from college.

It’s a comprehensive course and includes working towards sailing qualifications and the Duke of Edinburgh gold award, which is aimed at helping apprentices develop as a whole.

In 2005, we identified a gap in the training market and launched an apprenticeship in yacht surface finishing. There’s a demand for these skills, and we’ve invested heavily in improving our facilities so that we can refit yachts rather than just building them.

The one thing I would change is the end of the apprenticeships. By that stage we will have invested heavily in the apprentices, and we need to balance the desire to keep them at Pendennis with the realisation that if they go off and work elsewhere for a couple of years, they will gain all sorts of skills and experience. We just need to ensure they come back to us.

I’m the link between the college and the shipyard. I’m also the mother hen of the scheme. I cluck over the apprentices and nag them when they need some encouragement – four years can be a long time for a 16-year-old.

Why it worked

  • We were clear about what we needed
  • We picked our partners carefully
  • We consulted our staff.

Jill Carr, training manager, Pendennis

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