Thames Valley Young Apprentice Ambassador Network launch by Leona Weston

On Wednesday 3 October, the Thames Valley Young Apprentice Ambassador Network (YAAN) was launched at Pinewood Studios, in Buckinghamshire.

The purpose of YAANs is to engage a diverse group of Apprentices, from all sectors and stages of their apprenticeships, in sharing their stories, in the hope of encouraging more young people to consider this route into a career.

As an Apprenticeship Ambassador with Oxfordshire Apprenticeships (OxLEP Skills), this is something that I feel is highly-beneficial in captivating the interest of young people and increasing awareness of all further and higher education options.

The launch was a celebration of this exciting initiative, with attendees made-up of Apprentices themselves, their employers and LEPs from across the Thames Valley area.

Companies involved within the ‘YAAN’ include; Darke and Taylor, Nielsen and the Atomic Weapons Establishment.

Pinewood Studios, the venue for the event, is a world-renowned TV and Film studio, for whom employing Apprentices plays a large role in engaging and encouraging a current and innovative workforce. This is just an example of the wide range of areas that Apprenticeships can cover - many of which young people may not even consider as options for themselves - which is why initiatives such as this play such a vital role.

As well as having time to network over lunch, we took part in a series of activities throughout the afternoon of the launch, in order to help get the ‘YAAN’ off the ground. Whilst discussing some of the words that come to mind when considering our own experiences with Apprenticeships, phrases such as ‘life skills’ and the concept of ‘education through experience’ featured prominently.

The Thames Valley YAAN will cover Oxfordshire, Buckinghamshire and Berkshire, providing the option for Apprentices to network with peers that they may not necessarily meet in usual circumstances, due to them being outside of their direct locality.

This is a scheme that I am really interested in getting involved with and would like to see grow. I think the messages behind the network are of great importance and have the ability to shed a lot of light on the missing information that young people may be looking for with regards to Apprenticeships.

Sharing personal stories of how Apprenticeships offer the same levels of qualifications as university and beyond - but focus on a different way of learning - is a key step in helping to move away from the Apprentice stereotype, which has become considerably outdated.