This Thursday, I joined my fellow Brathay Apprentice Challenge team members to relive winning the Apprentice Team of the Year 2013 at the Skills Show in Birmingham. We were recognised at the National Apprenticeship Awards and also got to present our recommendations to Deputy Prime Minister, Nick Clegg on how to increase the number of young people involved in community activities.
Our team of nine current and former apprentices competed against over 90 organisations to complete the Brathay Apprentice Challenge 2013. The Challenge involved gruelling tests of our team building, leadership, logistical and communications abilities as well as asking us to undertake awareness raising activities and a community project.
It was our community project work in the Challenge that led me to meet the Deputy Prime Minister this week. In the regional heat of the Brathay Apprentice Challenge our team renovated a number of sites for Chrysalis Cumbria, a local charity that provides support services for adults with learning disabilities, based in Wigton. We painted, built and installed a handrail and wheelchair ramp. We also fundraised with a raffle and chilli cook off competition. As part of the finals we chose three charities to support - Brathay Trust, Calvert Trust and Freeman Hospital Cardiothoracic Unit. We held a race night and charity auction raising £6,000.
Since winning the award in June we have met the Business Secretary, Vince Cable, our local MP and Apprenticeship Champion MPs, alongside the head of the National Apprenticeship Service; and have spent time on fact finding research and developing recommendations for getting young people involved in community activities, alongside other finalists in the Brathay Apprentice Challenge.
ICM research reveals that over half (53 per cent) of young people would get involved with their local community if it gave them more skills with 47 per cent saying they would undertake community work if it led them to a job. A third stated they would do more if it made their community a better place to live.
Apprenticeships are not just about the education you receive via a training organisation, or the work experience through your job, but also about developing life skills. Being involved in community projects is a great way to develop these life skills and that is why we are highlighting this to the Deputy Prime Minister.
As a group we want to increase community involvement from all young people so have recommended to the Deputy Prime Minister that the government supports - or introduces:
• A nationally recognised certificate on completion of volunteering for community work
• More recognition from employers and universities for volunteering in recruitment
• A campaign to tackle the stigma behind community projects being uncool or irrelevant, backed by influential people.
Young people are keen to get involved in their local communities but want to be recognised for doing so. Winning the Brathay Apprentice Challenge has made me realise that many young people want to get involved with helping local communities but we are more motivated to do so when it is supported by our employer, helps our career and gives something back to the community that we are part of.
I hope the Government can develop something to recognise the importance of being involved in community projects and how this can enhance Apprenticeships and business training. Being recognised for participating in community work would ensure more involvement by young people and could give them a career advantage, for example in an interview situation.
But I also think young people need to learn to see the benefits of volunteering beyond any personal gain - and start to value the importance of giving something back to the community.
After presenting to the Deputy Prime Minister Thursday, we then attended a Q&A session with over 150 young people that discussed issues that affect them and their futures. I hope we have made some progress into making a difference for individual young people and the communities they are part of. The whole event marked the formal opening for this year's Brathay Apprentice Challenge.
Being the Apprentice Team of the Year has given us recognition of all the hard work the team put in and made us all feel proud. I'd encourage more organisations to apply for the Brathay Apprentice Challenge. Now in its third year, the Challenge tests apprentices on their team building, leadership, logistical and communications abilities in a series of challenges including awareness raising and community projects.
The Challenge focuses on offering an enhanced Apprenticeship, developing skills like team building, leadership and communications - many of which are found in the top positions within business.
For more information on the Brathay Apprentice Challenge and to apply, visit http://bit.ly/BAC2014
Check out this video to see what my team at Innovia Films had to do to win the apprentice team of the year title 2013: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4GS0hMdQLA8
Sam Ogle is training in IT at Innovia Films through a Higher Apprenticeship (and is a member of the winning Brathay Apprentice Challenge, apprentice team of the year 2013).