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Competition is the Key to Apprentice Success

(0) Comments | Posted 19 March 2012 | (11:12)

There aren't many occasions when talk of leg-waxing, hitch-hiking and whaler boat racing go hand in hand, but that's what it took for aerospace engineering firm Cobham to be crowned the 'apprentice team of the year'.

Following a six-week contest against other teams from some of the country's leading employers, Cobham emerged victorious at the first Brathay Apprentice Challenge.
The finals, at the Brathay Trust's Cumbrian HQ, saw the Cobham team narrowly beat seven other teams from Balfour Beatty, Bentley Motors, the Co-operative, MBDA Missile Systems, the National Apprenticeship Service, Rolls-Royce and Virgin Media.

The Challenge pitted eight teams of apprentices against each other in a range of challenges designed to test young people's business acumen, team working and even physical endurance.

The two-day event in Cumbria tested teams' problem solving and physical endurance, culminating in a 10-mile whaler boat race across Lake Windermere, but it built on six weeks of fundraising and communications challenges.

We saw teams fundraise by hitchhiking from Dorset to Cumbria, undergoing sponsored leg-waxing, rowing for 24-hours solid and one team even climbed the equivalent of Mount Kilimanjaro.

And what was so impressive is that in just six weeks, the eight teams raised more than £30,000 for good causes, including Help for Heroes, Make A Wish Foundation, Macmillan and Cancer Research UK. An inspiring achievement.

If there was ever an example of young people demonstrating just what they could achieve, it is summed up by the winning team captain. Cobham's Nick Shipp told me that while they felt the Challenge had pushed them to the limit, it was a hugely positive experience for the team, a real honour for them to represent their company and a privilege to have won the Brathay Apprentice Challenge competition.

But if the enthusiasm shown by the young people taking part was impressive, it was matched by the commitment of their employers to Apprenticeships. In second place was defence contractor MBDA and their UK Manufacturing Director, Bernard Waldron, stressed that apprentices are a vital part of our company - and the future of their whole industry.

And Caroline Mockus, the HR Business Partner of third placed team Balfour Beatty, said the result was a hugely positive sign for the future of the firm that the competition proved their apprentices are already showing they're among best in the country.

And it is that competition which we at the National Apprenticeship Service see as a key part of a new era for Apprenticeships and skills in our country.

Competitions promote quality and higher levels of skills. And, in turn, this means the higher quality Apprenticeships we are rolling-out become even more vital so that young people can really help the nation's businesses grow.

For a flavour of what it takes to be crowned the apprentice team of the year, watch the short clip below. And if your company is inspired to take part next year, let me know on Twitter - @JaineBolton - or look out for other skills competitions, such as those at the Skills Show in November.

As the film shows, the winners of the Brathay Apprentice Challenge demonstrate what young people are capable of - and all the competitors proved what a real asset they are to their company and the country.

Jaine Bolton is the National Director for Business Development at the National Apprenticeship Service and the UK's official delegate to...

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