1 November 2018

Lawrence Jones MBE with HRH The Princess RoyalEvery once in a while I receive a piece of news that stops me in my tracks. For more than a decade we’ve been working with education providers and striving to transform apprenticeships in the UK.

It’s been a tough road at times. It’s frustrating to see just how many in-need young people there are, especially in Greater Manchester and right on our doorstep. Teachers are doing their utmost to create extraordinary educational environments with the smallest pools of resource. That’s why we do what we can to provide opportunities and create aspiration for these young kids.

Ultimately it’s all about belief. If these children believe that they can achieve whatever they want to in life, they will.

In 2013 we hired Aaron, a former school teacher who we’d worked with for many years. With Aaron we launched our first real apprenticeship scheme and with it a drive to improve the quality of apprenticeships. Apprentices aren’t cheap labour, they’re an opportunity to help shape amazing young people into incredible adults.

Our programme combines technical skills with the softer skills of communication that are so intrinsic to being a successful adult, yet are often overlooked in schools. We also combine the apprenticeship training with industry accreditations and beyond.

We’ve learned that in taking this approach, our apprentices quickly become invaluable members of the team. Because of this, we pay them far above the national average apprenticeship wage of just £6,800.

Just the beginning

Since launching the apprenticeship scheme in 2013, our numbers have grown by more than 750%. We now offer apprenticeships in various tech disciplines, customer service, and hospitality. Apprentices make up 18% of our total team. It’s been a huge commitment and one we are very proud of.

So, you can imagine how we felt to hear that we were invited to St James’s Palace to meet HRH Princess Royal and collect an award recognising the work that we do with apprenticeships.

Yesterday, UKFast MD Gail, apprentice Dan and myself headed down to London, to the Palace to receive the award. It was a unique experience to be in the palace, never mind to be there to receive the award. UKFast is one of just 48 businesses in the UK to receive the commendation.

Whilst now would be a great time to celebrate and congratulate ourselves, in fact, now is the time to up our game. The award has fuelled our passion to improve education and opportunities for young people. We’ve already committed to supporting the High Sheriff’s 500 event which aims to offer apprenticeship opportunities to hundreds of young people in the region, and I’ve no doubt that this is just the start.

Lawrence Jones MBE and apprentice Dan at St James Palace collecting a Princess Royal Training Award

At the palace with superstar apprentice Dan.

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