February 12, 2020
This year, National Apprenticeship Week fell in the same week as “Time to Talk Day 2020.”
In recognition of these two occasions, we attended a talk by Keith Longman at the Construction & Marine Technologies centre of Brockenhurst College on the 5th February. Keith is in charge of the apprenticeship programme at Berthon Boat Co Ltd, responsible for ensuring his candidates are happy, healthy and learning well – he holds an NCFE CACHE Mental Health Awareness qualification and is also the apprentices’ boss.
The talk was delivered to students halfway through their first year of training. As well as a chance to recognise National Apprenticeship Week and Time to Talk, it was an opportunity for these apprentices to catch up and have a chat with their employer.
Time to Talk encourages young individuals to avoid becoming isolated if they feel like their mental health is suffering; be it for personal, professional, financial or other reasons. It is a hot topic, yet is well-known to the apprentices learning with Berthon who receive support from day one of their studies.
It is a testament to the personal development values taught within Berthon that every trainee turned up early with a clear work ethic and willingness to participate, despite the talk being scheduled at the end of an already busy day of college. Not an eyelid was batted when Keith mentioned he expected each of them to speak in front of the room or converse directly with him in front of peers. There was evidently a culture of good communication: if an apprentice finds themselves concerned by either a professional or personal issue, they are encouraged to approach a tutor or Keith, rather than let it affect their learning or the project they are working on.
To assess how much of this supplementary learning had been absorbed, students were asked to complete a short quiz to see how much they knew about their apprenticeships including remuneration and other benefits; additional questions asked where Berthon and its subsidiaries are placed in the marine industry and a little bit of history about Berthon. After a brief discussion about answers, Keith moved onto the topic of the day: mental health. Warning of the snowball effect falling behind can have, and the potential to bottle concerns until they become unmanageable, he encouraged his apprentices to use the support system built into the four year programme.
Fostering the next generation of skilled marine workers is of vital importance to Berthon. In addition to their technical capability, the future work force also need to be well-rounded, confident individuals. Berthon has built into their training programme an ethos of responsibility and accountability, of financial awareness and the ability to work to a deadline and budget. This is to encourage apprentices to absorb as many additional skills as possible, to complement their practical learning.
A network of college tutors, an approachable employer and a team of mentors work together to safeguard against failure. Apprentices are expected to do well in their examinations. If they succeed (and in direct comparison to other apprenticeships, they do) they are congratulated, before being nudged gently to target further excellence: to keep aiming high and to be proud of their achievements. However, it is evident that alongside these high expectations, there is a clear understanding from Berthon that a network of support must always be firmly in place, to ensure students are looked after throughout their developing career and beyond.
A more light-hearted tone was taken when the room divided into pairs to ask a series of questions to each other, before presenting their findings to the room. Alongside the social ‘favourite film’ or ‘chosen superpower’, there were a few telling answers to more serious questions. The five-year aim of nearly all apprentices is to be fully qualified and permanently employed, with others citing their ambition to be on the property ladder – or to be in a specialism that sees them enjoying their work every day. It is a surprisingly driven room, with each trainee understanding just where their apprenticeship can take them with the application of hard work and commitment. For a group of young adults, all under 22 years old and some as young as 16, there is a commendable atmosphere of determination and a refreshing sense of direction.
Expertly guided by Keith, who has seen dozens succeed through the Berthon programme, it is clear the apprentices not only trust their employer, but also trust their choice to follow a vocational approach to education and subsequent career. The talk finished with some advice: to work hard individually and as a team, to ask for support where needed and to remember the importance of making a good impression. There was a noticeable sense of personal and professional respect from all in the room.
Due to complete their full-time course at Brockenhurst College this week, the 13 new apprentices will be heading to Berthon full-time from 17th February 2020, while continuing their City & Guilds studies through day release for academic classes 36 weeks of the year over the next 3 years. We congratulate them for succeeding so far and look forward to watching them develop their skills over the coming years.