A Mansfield school has adopted a fresh approach to nurturing new talent by hiring its first apprentice.
Heatherley Primary School, Forest Town, is showing its commitment to training young people after taking on Laura Rowe as an apprentice teaching assistant.
She was recruited by Vision Apprentices, West Nottinghamshire College’s apprenticeship training agency, which provides employers with high-calibre candidates.
The 20-year-old had been planning for a career in animal care after studying the subject at college alongside a part-time job at White Post Farm, Farnsfield.
However, a change of heart led Laura to realise her real passion was working with children.
Laura, from Mansfield, said: “My mum said ‘you’ve always been great with children and you’re such a caring person, why don’t you work with children’, so I looked around for a teaching assistant role.
“Because I’ve got dyslexia, I struggled a bit at school and the teaching assistants were the ones always saying ‘you can do it’, so I want to give something back and do that for somebody else.
“I looked on the Vision Apprentices website and when the role at Heatherley came up, I thought it sounded amazing.
“I read about what the apprenticeship involved and the type of person they wanted, and felt I fitted the description perfectly, so I decided to apply.
“As soon as I came for the interview and started interacting with the children, it just felt right.
“I was over the moon to be offered the job and it’s been fantastic ever since. I go home every day with a big smile on my face.”
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Laura is now progressing with her level two intermediate apprenticeship in supporting teaching and learning in schools.
Her duties involve setting-up the classroom each morning to ensure a stimulating learning environment and giving lessons to small groups of children.
She is supervised by Caroline Rafton, foundation stage team leader, and fellow teaching assistant Sally-Anne Morgan, who act as her mentors.
Laura said: “I like it because I get to learn from people with lots of experience and there is always help if I need it. I’m enjoying learning in a hands-on way and doing all the different tasks.
“But the best thing is when a child gives you a big smile because you’ve helped them achieve something.
“I’d now love to become a drama teacher in a school. I enjoy making a positive contribution to children’s lives.”
Laura is employed by Vision Apprentices, which offers employers the choice of “hosting” the apprentice or hiring them directly.
In addition to being supported by colleagues at the Heatherley Drive school, she receives regular visits from an assessor to go through her coursework and from her Vision Apprentices placement co-ordinator, who oversees her progress.
Miss Rafton, Laura’s lead mentor at school, said: “Although we’ve got a lot of experienced teaching assistants, we thought it’d be nice to give a young person an opportunity.
“Laura has worked with animals and does gymnastic horse-riding – things the children love to hear about – and she has a lovely all-round manner.
“Through the apprenticeship scheme we’ve found someone from a different walk of life who can really enrich our classroom in the foundation stage.
“Although Laura is naturally quite shy, she’s really come out of her shell through the apprenticeship and become one of the team.
“She’s still learning and has just started marking children’s work. It’s about making sure she isn’t pushed in at the deep end.
“But Laura is like a sponge; she just soaks it up and learns. She’s great.”
Heatherley’s pioneering approach is now being replicated by other schools, with Rainworth’s Lake View Primary School recently appointing Sutton teenager Joseph New as its own apprentice teaching assistant through Vision Apprentices, which is also recruiting on behalf of several others.
And Miss Rafton said she has no hesitation in urging schools to hire an apprentice.
She said: “If you’re looking for somebody to train-up as your own, there’s no better way.
“You have to recognise the apprentice doesn’t come ready-made with all the skills – you’ve got to put things in place so they learn them.
“But if you’re prepared to give them time, allow them to observe, and set them challenges to achieve, then you will definitely gain the rewards.”
Your Chad has teamed up with West Nottinghamshire College and its recruitment arm Vision Apprentices to urge employers in Mansfield and Ashfield to take on an apprentice.
Our Vision for Jobs campaign aims to give more people the chance to gain the skills for a successful career while helping businesses build their future workforce.
We shine the spotlight on a local primary school that is backing apprenticeships.
If you think apprenticeships could benefit your business, call Vision Apprentices on 0800 121 8317 or email firstname.lastname@example.org