Alan Wright - Apprenticeships teach so much

It was good to see apprenticeships in the spotlight during last week.

While there may be fewer of them than in their heyday a generation or two back, the concept is far from dead.

Some of the examples highlighted during Apprenticeship Week were great, and we have a lot to be proud of locally.

I know that, in many years of compering awards nights at our own Hartlepool College of Further Education, the sheer quality of what happens in our town shines through.

Like all the best things in life, the image of the apprentice has changed with the times.

Today’s apprentice works in a very structured way in a partnership between college and employer, and theory and practice.

At the last count, the college was involved in the training of over 500 apprentices, with literally scores of major employers involved.

It’s really important for young people to get the full experience of what the working world involves.

Even the obvious things like being there on time are crucial – missing out on the discipline of working life is a huge drawback to later life.

Of course, the most visible example in town is the fact that 20 apprentices are working alongside contractors Miller Construction on the brand new college which is looking great on Stockton Street.

You can just imagine the pride that those apprentices will have in years to come when they can point at a lovely building and know that they had a big part in its construction.

My dad was an apprentice in a former age. He was always proud of being a proper time-served fitter and turner, learning his trade at Richardson Westgarth when shipbuilding and heavy engineering were kings.

He kept all his life some examples of the skills he learned.

Those “masterpieces” were aptly named; practical things he’d made which showed he was a master of his craft.

Some were very simple, like a poker for the fire, but they were perfect pieces and made with great skill and pride. The great thing about a quality apprenticeship, then and now, is that it’s about much more than professional skills.

It’s about learning human and relationship skills from your mentor too.

The tradesman my dad was apprenticed to probably had a stronger hold than today’s version.

If my dad and his friends were required to help out on their tradesman’s allotment at the weekend, along they went.

Their behaviour was under the spotlight too, at work and at play. Letting your senior man down would lead to a sharp word to the apprentice, and it wouldn’t need doing twice.

Every day of the week, high quality apprenticeships are alive and well in Hartlepool, and the masterpiece of 20 of them is in daily view in our town centre.