Why I did an apprenticeship at forty

First day of NCTJ training apprenticeship. Picture: Press Association

First day of NCTJ training apprenticeship. Picture: Press Association - Credit: Archant

Sweeping up hair, boiler suits and menial tasks for months on minimum wage. The things that sprang to mind when I heard the word apprenticeship.

In the podcast studio doing the news round-up for St Albans Podcast. Picture: Archant

In the podcast studio doing the news round-up for St Albans Podcast. Picture: Archant - Credit: Archant

A route for those my school careers advisor called “the slightly less academic” where you work your way up from pot washer to winning a Michelin Star.

However, despite having received a 2:1 from a good university and completing a PGCE – with masters credits – I was still left me needing to learn more about the career I transitioned to after being a teacher.

So I found myself at 40 in a brightly lit room full of 20-somethings, training to become a journalist.

One thing I hadn’t prepared for was the lack of diversity in the industry, evident in the way the training was delivered. Used to being around people from different countries, backgrounds, religions and economic groupings, there was a clear divide here. It was almost obvious just by looking around the room who was an apprentice and who was funding their course through the Bank of Mum and Dad.

The ‘unofficial’ ice-breaker on our table seemed to be in the form of an uneasy – for me – discussion of which famous person used to live in their parents’ houses before they moved in. I instantly felt like a homeless person in a room full of Etonians until I happily remembered Janet Street-Porter bought a Mars bar in a shop where my dad lived temporarily in the Barbican. She’s not Hugh Grant but she’ll do for now.

Aside from that, my dad was a national newspaper journalist and my godfather is a bit of a breakfast television household face.

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I also used to teach with Jonathan Ross’ sister, Liza, and ‘friends’ might be a stretch but acquaintances would definitely qualify. We are even Facebook friends and you don’t get more acquainted than that.

Both of these give me credibility in the name-dropping club.

Anyway, the best bit for me about my apprenticeship was sadly not the endless college Tuesdays alongside millennials and the requirement to ask permission to go to the loo.

It was the on-the-job training.

And that phrase totally doesn’t paint a picture of what that actually looked like, nor how absolutely life-changing it was. And critical to my success overall.

Hours and hours of colleagues tirelessly supporting me to write an intro, come up with a decent headline, work the very-easy-to-use-if-you-are-of-the-web-programming-in-Year-2 era content management system.

They took me under their wing to tell me important journalist things like “don’t make up quotes” and “Never work for Mail Online”...all the essentials.

Interviewing was something I loved and realised I was good at but I had never used an iPhone to produce video before and it was something I was slightly afraid of.

Withing a few weeks, I got to interview the St Albans pantomime stars and gained so much confidence thanks to support from our amazing video content team in Norwich that I created a children’s news round-up - Newshound that is still growing in popularity and is being rolled out elsewhere across the company.

The Tuesdays were useful for some things. ‘Shorthand Tracey’, as she is saved in my phone, patiently getting me from the alphabet in shorthand to a solid sixty words a minute was nothing short of miraculous, for example. An amazing visit from Naga Munchetty, who fearlessly broached the subject of diversity and classism in the industry also being a highlight.

I also had a sort of love-hate relationship with Andrew, the law and politics lecturer. When I saw those two Bs on my exam results page it made all the backbencher powerpoints and highlighting in fifty shades of pink and yellow all worthwhile.

And never in my life have I met anyone anywhere who responds to emails so efficiently. Andrew, like my old deputy head Linda Russell, is the sort of person that sends a reply to your 03.24 email at 03.29 with a ‘sorry for the delay in responding’.

It took a bit of open-mindedness to even consider the prospect of an apprenticeship alongside the financial support of my husband.

I understand many grown-ups cannot live on a salary of £14,000 but it would be even more costly to pay for a course and not be working. Every teaching day, revision session, shorthand practice and travelcard and book was funded for me.

You can find out more about apprenticeship schemes by visiting https://www.apprenticeships.gov.uk/

Careers offering apprenticeships include agriculture, animal care, publishing, business, law, construction, engineering, public services, health and social care retail and tourism.