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Dispelling the urban myths about apprenticeships

Author: ICAEW Insights

Published: 21 Nov 2023

BPP’s Laura Beswick chose to participate in Rise because she wants to educate young people that university isn’t the only option to secure a professional career.

As Director of Apprenticeships for Accounting and Tax at training and education provider BPP, Laura Beswick is always looking for opportunities to spread the word about education and apprenticeships. She found her latest opening in the Rise programme.

Raising aspirations

Beswick has worked at BPP for 16 years, working her way up from an administration assistant to director. Her career path means she understands better than most the need for greater visibility of different role models across education but particularly in schools and young people in the geographic areas that are the hardest to reach.

“Apprenticeships are a key part of my role, alongside working with employers to introduce apprenticeship programmes to help them create a more diverse workforce. Therefore, helping our learners develop their professional skills is something that I’m really passionate about,” she says.

“We already worked closely with ICAEW, so when ICAEW mentioned that the Rise initiative was being created we were pleased to be involved from the start.” Beswick has already participated in two Rise workshops – one at Childwall Sports and Science Academy and the other at the Academy of St Nicholas in Liverpool, where she is based.

Despite being a major UK city, Liverpool, a former industrial centre, has been plagued by socioeconomic obstacles for decades and has entrenched areas of social deprivation. Last year, Steve Rotheram, Mayor of the Liverpool City Region, committed to more than 40 actions to tackle inequality for people with protected characteristics.

The Combined Authority is now considering ‘socioeconomic status’ alongside the list of protected characteristics under the Equality Act 2010, as recommended by the Social Mobility Commission. 

“Liverpool is a fantastic city and there are loads of opportunities here. And yet lots of young people I’ve spoken to don’t recognise that where they live offers a lot,” says Beswick. “That’s also what’s great about Rise as it is purposely focused on targeting schools in areas that don’t necessarily have access to careers advice from people who work in the professions and that’s quite limiting for the aspirations of students.”

“It’s just so important to raise aspirations. It’s vital that young students have access to role models that hopefully inspire them to consider different careers and help them realise their potential.”

Broad business skills

What Beswick really admires about the Rise programme is its focus on transferable everyday skills such as communication, teamwork and listening. “Rise is not industry specific. It’s more about the skills and the opportunities to make young people realise how those skills are transferable and can be used in so many different professions.”

Rise volunteers can transmit the message to young people that whatever job they’re going to do in life they will need good communication, strong team working and active listening skills – all of which are covered in the workshops.

“It was interesting chatting with some of the students that had Saturday jobs or worked in family businesses who didn’t recognise that this work experience is an asset and would help them in their future careers,” says Beswick. “I always tell them that experience is vital and helps them stand out, and they can talk about the skills they’ve developed in their next job interviews.

“It’s about helping them join those dots together. I think that’s been the key of showing them how these skills apply in the real world. That’s been quite an eye opener for many of them.”

Beswick is not new to volunteering but she says Rise’s set-up is one of the best she’s been involved with in terms of the ease of volunteering thanks to the organisation of the Talent Foundry, which facilitates the workshops, and the enthusiasm and support from the schools themselves.

“I really enjoy working with the students to complete the tasks, seeing how all the groups approach things differently and then highlighting to them that there’s not always a right or wrong way to do things. Companies want to see innovation. They want people who think differently or do things in a different way. Basically, it’s ok to be different.”

More on Rise

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