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64 Reasons Why Apprentices Should Aspire to the Top

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Anyone who is passionate about the future economic success of our country should join with me in celebrating the stories of 64 amazing young people - the competitors in the finals of the Brathay Apprentice Challenge.

Eight teams of eight young people descended on the Brathay Trust's Cumbrian HQ last Friday from Balfour Beatty, Bentley Motors, aerospace engineering firm Cobham, the Co-operative, MBDA Missile Systems, the National Apprenticeship Service, Rolls-Royce and Virgin Media.

Jaine Bolton, from the National Apprenticeship Service, eloquently set out on the Huffington Post just what it meant to people to compete for the title 'apprentice team of the year'.

But I want to focus on the skills these teams demonstrated to earn this accolade - and why these 64 young people prove that continued investment in Apprenticeships by the country and employers is absolutely vital.

Throughout the Challenge the individual members of each team needed to demonstrate the same work skills that are required to be successful in their organisations and progress their careers and are skills valued by businesses as the key to their success.

And this approach is at the heart of what takes place at Brathay - and has been for the last 60 years. We have noticed that organisations that work with us to make the investment in developing the whole person, building technical and personal work skills and behaviours needed to do the job, develop apprentices that 'get on.' In short, this means ensuring their apprentices develop six key qualities to get the most out of their Apprenticeships.

These six qualities are summed up by what I believe should be a mission statement for apprentices in all workplaces; ASPIRE or Ambition, Strategy, Planning, Interaction, Reflection and Empathy.

Over the last six weeks, the teams have had to show ambition and determination - this is best demonstrated by the fact that in this short time, the eight teams raised £30,000 for good causes. This tremendous effort - and the exciting work of the teams speaking to school students, celebrities and the media to promote their activities - also showed just how adaptable and creative apprentices can be.

To achieve the overall ambition of winning the Challenge, the teams had to define a strategy and set realistic goals for each element - and this was especially vital before setting out on events like paddle and foot orienteering. Decisions to adapt the strategy needed to be taken on the hoof to ensure a balance between spending time on tasks and hitting deadlines. As in the world of work, there were consequences should the deadlines be missed.

In order to deliver on this strategy, without encountering penalties, careful planning to manage resources was required. This ensured teams had all the equipment and resources they need in right place at the right time, including themselves!

Interaction and communication are crucial in any organisation and the teams' abilities were tested to ensure all team members were aware of the goals, the plan and how they all contributed to this. Some, like the Virgin Media team, went as far as setting task related nicknames for their squad, to encourage ownership and responsibility.

Through reflection on performance as a team and as individuals, the competitors were able to assess their own performance and encouraged to communicate and participate in discussion about how plans may need to change.

The strenuous nature of the activities undertaken in Cumbria meant that the teams had to show huge empathy for each other and also a massive degree of trust in how each of them will perform under pressure and how prepared they are to challenge themselves and others to take risks to enable the team to exceed expectations, all valuable skills in the workplace.

And this empathy was clear in the final stage of the Challenge, the whaler boat race across Lake Windermere, where all eight teams had to dig deep to focus on a repetitive specific task that required tired minds and bodies to maintain focus and motivation.

To see the ASPIRE values put into practice, watch the video produced by the National Apprenticeship Service. And while extra recognition needs to go to the winners at Team Cobham; James Coyne, Mark Empson, Jade Harrison, Lloyd Jamieson, Alex Seton, Nick Shipp, Ed Tillard and Bradley Wood, it was Apprenticeships which were the real winner.

By demonstrating that young people who follow this path to success make a hugely positive impact on their businesses right from the start, the Brathay Apprentice Challenge shows that the new era for Apprenticeships and skills in our country is on track and more young people should aspire to be an apprentice.