Ablaze CEO Sally Melvin talks to Airbus’s Harry Swan about the benefits an apprenticeship can have for your career

Originally posted on LinkedIn

One of the things I love most about my job is getting to know and spending time with young people at all different stages of education and early careers. Throughout my own career I have had the opportunity to learn from them while supporting them in their education and career journeys. In my experience they have a lot of wisdom to impart.

Harry Swann is one of those young people. I first met Harry in 2016 when he volunteered as a mentor on the Airbus Foundation Youth Programme I was managing at Airbus UK. Harry was then 21 and in his last year of an undergraduate apprenticeship at Airbus. Dial forward seven years, now an established Airbus employee as a landing gear design Engineer, he is also leading the Youth Programme, which is still going strong.

I sat down with Harry recently to reflect on why he is so committed to working with the students who participate in the programme.

“I think it stems from my choice to do go down the apprenticeship route when I left school. When I was at college no one was talking about apprenticeships, so it was a lucky chance that my Physics teacher told me about an Airbus open day and I went along, on a whim. I don’t come from a wealthy family, I wanted to help out at home so the idea of earning money while doing a degree was attractive to me. Degree apprenticeships were fairly new back then, in 2013, and they weren’t promoted by my college at all.

You need to be committed and organised.  I was in the same classes and had the same deadline as the full-time university students, the difference was they had the ‘university experience’ while I was at work.

It was so worth it though. An apprenticeship accelerates your career. You study and understand the theoretical principles at university, and have practical exposure whilst being immersed in a regulated professional environment at your workplace. In addition, it allows you time to build valuable networks and relationships around the business.

“I can’t remember the last time I used any knowledge from my degree at work. I use things I learned and receive support from the network I built during my apprenticeship every day.”

I learned professionalism while on the apprenticeship, being in the workplace environment, knowing how to talk to people, knowing the behaviours of being professional and how to act with integrity. I learned that if you don’t know the answer that’s ok and built relationships with the correct people to provide support. All these interpersonal skills in a real environment that are so useful now. You are surrounded by people from all stages of life, people you want to become. I looked at people’s traits and thought I really like that so I’m going to spend time with you.

I was treated equally and fairly by the employees I worked with on the apprenticeship, and I was given every possible opportunity to develop. Now I want to pass some of that on to the young people who come on our Youth Programme. If they asked me what career path they should take, whatever industry they are interested in I would tell them to give an apprenticeship serious consideration.”

It’s been a privilege to work alongside Harry over the last seven years and to watch him grow and develop. I can testify to his professionalism and work ethic as well as his genuine commitment to supporting the young people who participate on the programme. They are lucky to have him as a role model. He makes a pretty compelling case for choosing the apprenticeship route and as we approach National Apprenticeship Week, I hope that those who read his story will agree and choose to promote apprenticeships to our community of young people.

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