I remember it well. The same routine many young people go through. The days spent wondering around university campus after campus deciding where my next chapter was to be held. The hours dedicated to filling in my UCAS form. The agony of pouring over my Personal Statement, as if my entire future depended on those few hundred words. At the time, I thought it did.
A few months later it was A-Level results day. I had got what I needed. This secured in my mind the seemingly inevitable. I was going to University.
Skip forward a year and a half and I was laid on the floor of my front room, my hands on my face, feeling more confused and lost than I ever have. I had already dropped out of one University and was contemplating doing so again. But surely, from what I had been told, that would end my hopes of a successful career?
Skip forward another year and a half and I had a promising career, a job with a Government Minister and I had just been selected, aged 22, as a Conservative Party Parliamentary Candidate for the 2015 General Election, making me one of the youngest Parliamentary candidates in the country.
What happened to make that difference?
An apprenticeship can take you anywhere.
National Apprenticeship Week is one of my favourite weeks of the year as I know first-hand just how life-changing apprenticeships can be.
In October 2013, I was working in a supermarket having dropped out of University multiple times. One evening I was scrolling through the W4MP website knowing it would be a dream come true to work for an MP, but resigned to it never being more than a dream. Suddenly, one advertisement caught my eye. It was an advertisement for a Parliamentary Apprenticeship, through the Parliamentary Academy. I quickly pulled together my CV, as the deadline was the following day, and sent it off. It was at that moment my life changed forever.
I did not expect to get anywhere. Jobs in Parliament are extremely competitive and I was far from a polished and qualified candidate. However, apprenticeship providers do not look for polish, they look for potential. That is the beauty of apprenticeships. They take those who need a chance and give them that chance. I was given my chance, accepted the role and began my new job as Parliamentary Apprentice to Rt Hon Matt Hancock MP.
My apprenticeship helped me grow as a person, acquire essential skills and meet new people. I was able to learn whilst earning a wage and I have been in employment ever since. Recent statistics show 90% of apprentices will stay in employment after their apprenticeship, with seven in ten staying with the same employer. As my apprenticeship came to an end, I accepted a promotion and permanent role in my boss's office. Towards the end of 2015, I decided to move onto a new challenge and was met with a number of job offers. In the Autumn, I took on a new role working for debt-counselling charity, Christians Against Poverty. Thanks to my apprenticeship, my possibilities are endless and my future is brighter than it has ever been.
A determination to give other young people the opportunities I have been blessed with drove me to put myself forward as a Conservative Party Parliamentary Candidate in the 2015 General Election. I was selected for the Normanton, Pontefract and Castleford constituency in my home county of West Yorkshire, which saw me take on Labour heavyweight Yvette Cooper. I was proud to stand for Parliament representing a party that has overseen the creation of over 2.6 million apprenticeships since 2010. Each one another fantastic opportunity for another young person like me. But it is not enough and we will not stop there. The Conservative Party is pressing on tirelessly with its aim to oversee the creation of 3 million apprenticeships by 2020. I am proud to have done my apprenticeship with a Conservative Party Government Minister. To me, this is proof the Conservative Party practices what it preaches.
Some people say that because I did my apprenticeship with a Member of Parliament it 'does not really count'. To me, this just shows the narrow view some people have of what an apprenticeship is. My apprenticeship helps show what a wide range of apprenticeships are available. Apprenticeships are currently available in around 1500 different job roles, covering more than 170 industries, From politics to plumbing, from design to digital, from healthcare to horticulture and everything inbetween.
I am constantly speaking to people who have done or are currently doing an apprenticeship in a huge variety of sectors. Current and former apprentices are all around us. Apprenticeships are a real driving force in our economy, in our skills sector and in the future of our country.
If you are even remotely contemplating doing an apprenticeship, please do. You will not regret it. It will be the start of something amazing. I have not looked back since I first started mine.
If you are a provider thinking about taking on an apprentice, please do. Not only will you be providing a young person with an opportunity of a lifetime, you will benefit from the talented and accomplished employee that they will grow into as a result of your investment.
Those of us who are already making our way up the ladder need to make sure we keep the ladder steady and add more rungs for the following generations who are starting to climb. For the rest of my life, I will fight to promote apprenticeships for each person who wants one. I hope everyone else is with me.
National Apprenticeship Week 2016 takes place from 14-18 March. To find out more about apprenticeships go to http://www.apprenticeships.gov.uk/.Suggest a correction