8th February 2024
To celebrate National Apprenticeship Week, Torbay Business Forum once again hosted the Business Breakfast Apprenticeship Takeover at South Devon College.
The event, to showcase the next generation of local employees, was held in conjunction with the 17th National Apprenticeship Week. This year’s theme is ‘Skills for Life’. The college’s catering apprentices prepared and served a delicious cooked breakfast for the 65 attendees.
Chair of Torbay Business Forum Steve Reynolds started proceedings by welcoming the guests and stressing the importance of apprenticeships, locally. He said: “This is our Torbay story – how do we retain our talent and get our young people trained up locally to do the local jobs? This is the programme of apprenticeships.”
Laurence Frewin, Principal and CEO of South Devon College, highlighted how apprenticeships are a vital programme within the economic and business landscapes, bringing industry recognition and credibility to the workplace, whilst driving skills for the future.
Laurence Frewin welcoming guests
He said: “The apprenticeship provision at the College is growing and going from strength to strength. We work with over 1,200 local businesses and around 2,000 of our students are on an apprenticeship.
“We are a great believer in the importance of training and building knowledge and skills, and developing the right behaviours in the workplace – in fact around 10% of our employees at the College are apprentices.”
‘It’s Never Too Late! The Experience of a Mature Apprentice’ was the session delivered by Ben Pountney, Head of Business Solutions and Apprenticeships at South Devon College, during which he shared his experiences of navigating A Levels and a stint at university to entering the world of work, and a journey that finally led him to where he is now – as a mature apprentice within the College, on the Chartered Managers Degree Apprenticeship programme.
From left: Jordan Keen, Deputy Head of Apprenticeships at South Devon College, and the Regional Chair of SWAAN; Ben Pountney, Head of Business Solutions and Apprenticeships at South Devon College; and Nigel Fenn, Head of HR, People, Project and Planning at Pennon
“It’s been a real revelation to me. It’s supported me and helped me in many ways. I feel really privileged to work for an employer that places real value on training and developing their existing staff and I feel very engaged,” he said.
“I’m enhancing my skills, becoming more adaptable and equipping myself with skills that will see me into the future.”
Mr Pountney then hosted a discussion with a panel of local employers and apprentices, featuring Pennon (South West Water), Torbay and South Devon NHS Trust and construction and regeneration group Morgan Sindall.
Jake Robinson, Apprenticeship Administrator from Torbay and South Devon NHS Trust, highlighted how hiring apprentices impacts organisations strategically, both in the short and long term.
“Hiring apprentices shapes skilled employees who are more likely to stay the course to develop their own skills and contribute to the local economy in the longer term,” he said.
“It will also be of huge benefit to the health outcomes of the local community in terms of the Torbay and South Devon NHS Trust – it can only be a good thing for an organisation’s strategic goals.”
Nigel Fenn, Head of HR, People, Project and Planning at Pennon, discussed how apprenticeships influence the organisational culture of an organisation, and how they contribute to a positive work environment.
He commented: “Pennon currently has 300 apprentices in all departments, and we have a target to recruit 1,000 by 2030.
“It’s essential for us to recruit those employees of the future – not only for the technical skills but to embrace new ways of thinking and working in the future. Services will need to evolve and we need to invest in that next generation of employees.”
Mentorship and guidance delivered by professionals during an apprenticeship was a feature picked up by Pennon engineering apprentice Matt Sluman, and how these have positively impacted his career development – “I’m achieving new skills both practically and theoretically and my mentors at College are very supportive in every aspect of my training and they give me the guidance I need to move forward.
“We also had raft building activities and a guided tour of Venford Reservoir during a team day, which was an interesting experience highlighting team work and problem solving.”
Lily Frewin is undertaking a Degree Apprenticeship in Site Mangement, paired with Sustainable Construction in the Built Environment, with Morgan Sindall, and has seen her employability skills enhanced through the programme.
“I’ve learned so many things from the people I work with – it’s also really boosted my confidence,” she commented.
“It’s helped me understand how to work as part of a team, as well as giving me hands-on experience that you wouldn’t always have in a classroom setting alone. I am a visual learner so going out on site and applying what I’ve learned in the classroom is a great benefit.”
Taking on apprentices helps a business adapt to changing industry trends – a fact that was reiterated by Nick Rowe, Operations Manager at Morgan Sindall.
“Lily is a prime example of the youth coming through into our industry via apprenticeships, and the support goes both ways – we support the apprentices and commercially they support us and offer us a lot of insight into our business,” he said.
Lily concluded the panel discussion: “I would thoroughly recommend the apprenticeship route. It has given me invaluable experience with practical learning – and I would recommend asking lots of questions from your co-workers and employees, as they see the value in your apprenticeship.”
Steve Reynolds, Chair of Torbay Business Forum; Ben Pountney, Head of Business Solutions and Apprenticeships at South Devon College; Nick Rowe, Operations Manager at Morgan Sindall; Jake Robinson, Apprenticeship Administrator from Torbay and South Devon NHS Trust; Jordan Keen, Deputy Head of Apprenticeships at South Devon College, and the Regional Chair of SWAAN; Apprentice Lily Frewin at Morgan Sindall; Apprentice Matt Sluman at Pennon; Nigel Fenn, Head of HR, People, Project and Planning at Pennon; and Laurence Frewin, Principal of South Devon College
The session then moved on to hear from Jordan Keen, Deputy Head of Apprenticeships at South Devon College, and the Regional Chair of SWAAN (South West Apprentice Ambassador Network), who talked about the importance of collaboration with employers who invest in the development of the workforce whilst providing meaningful experiences for the apprentices.
“Apprenticeships have emerged as a beacon opportunity bridging the gap between learning and doing. In my role at the College, I have witnessed first hand the transformative power of apprenticeship programmes, unlocking the potential of individuals, and providing them with a pathway to success, whilst addressing the skills gaps in our region.
“At the heart of our endeavours is our apprentices themselves and our commitment to their success is unwavering,” he concluded.
The final words came from Steve Reynolds: “Thank you to South Devon College for hosting and allowing us to use this wonderful building and to the catering team for the great breakfast.
“We love to support National Apprenticeship Week. As an employer you get an engaged employee, subsidised by the Government, and it’s a win win situation for employer, employee and our community as we retain the talent that we need.”