When I started my apprenticeship in 1986, I knew I was joining a company that would provide me with the skills and training to have a successful career. Most people do not think an apprenticeship is the best starting point to reaching a senior position in their chosen career. My story shows that this is simply not the case.
Undertaking an apprenticeship furthered my career rather than holding it back, and it has provided me with vital skills that have helped me to succeed.
One of the first things my apprenticeship taught me was how to communicate effectively and manage difficult situations. It was this early experience and training that were key to my progression through numerous management roles. I still use these skills today when managing my 100-strong team.
When I started as an apprentice in Glasgow I had no idea where my career would take me, but I never thought I would be living in London, and overseeing one of British Gas' most coveted and unique teams - our lamplighters.
The 'custodians of the lamps', as they like to call themselves, maintain and light London's 1,500 traditional gas lamps every evening.
Protected by English Heritage, the lamps can be found around some of the city's most famous landmarks including Westminster Abbey and Buckingham Palace.
I have even found myself working with film and TV crews. Most recently I have been advising on the set of Mary Poppins Returns, helping producers use the gas lamps to create the perfect setting for the classic film's sequel.
Despite misconceptions about how far you can go with an apprenticeship I, and thousands like me, can testify that apprenticeships give people from all backgrounds a unique opportunity to learn about a new role and a business, in an immersive way.
With hands-on experience and the chance to earn while you learn, I would encourage career-seekers to consider apprenticeships and explore the 'learner to leader' journey they can offer.
National Apprenticeship Week celebrates everything positive about apprenticeships and it is a reminder to all, including our future leaders, that there are many routes into an exciting and high-flying career.
Iain Bell was just 17-years-old when he joined British Gas as an apprentice. He now manages the company's central London patch of 140 home service engineers. He also leads a unique team of lamplighters, responsible for lighting London's 1,500 traditional gas lamps every evening.Suggest a correction