Or can I borrow some money for petrol to get to work Mum?
So its been nearly a year since I last updated you about my son and how he has got on at college and his electrical installation course. For those of you new to this saga, I have been charting the last four years of my son’s education from Year 10 through to his attempts at getting an apprenticeship – his learning to earning journey. You can grab a full recap here.
Well the last year has been both interesting and very expensive. The good news is that my son managed to finally get a GCSE Grade C in Maths so that he could move up to his Level 3 and reduce down to a one year rather than two-year course. However he fared less well in his attempts to get an apprenticeship through the traditional routes. His college seemed only able to get a couple of vacancies to share among 60 students and training providers would only accept him if he had already bagged an employer. He applied for six apprenticeships online and never received any replies.
Now I know what you are thinking, he probably did not fill out the right forms or had a good enough CV. My thoughts exactly. But if you have ever tried to offer advice and help to a truculent hormonal boydult with a ‘you can’t tell me anything cos you are a parent’ attitude, you can bear witness that parents are in a no-win situation. On one hand I admire him for standing his ground and being confident and on the other I despair.
My sister who is a trained counsellor in mental health blames this on the teenage brain; emerging evidence that the adolescent brain does not reach adult maturity until the early 20’s which unfortunately means that I have got another three years of sighing, rolling of the eyes and incomprehensible grunting that only gets clearer when a demand for cash/petrol/clothes/loan/phone/oil/MOT/repair is looming.
After two attempts (at theory and practical stages) my son passed his driving test in November which started an onslaught of an adolescent version of pester power to honour my commitment to get him a car and pay for his insurance for the first year. This was a deal I struck up with him years ago when it was obvious he would not be going to university like his sister. In the interests of balance and fairness I agreed (stupidly) to give him the same amount towards a car that I paid towards her fees and maintenance, which he reminded me of at least three times a day and managed to extend in value by at least 33%. However he had given me a very difficult task to find a new model Corsa (3 not 5 door), it had to be silver, a 1.2 engine and less than 80000 miles on the clock. As you can imagine choices were limited, the mere hint of an alternative or 06 number plate had him raging and flailing his arms about with accusations of me being a bad parent, reneging on my promises and being ‘just just … oh forget it!’ (cue flounce out of room and silent treatment).
In the end I managed to find the car of his dreams, which needed a bit of TLC, new tyres and apparently a new exhaust system (which I had to replace just five days after purchase). Add this to the cost of his insurance which I managed to get for a mere £1500 through one of those black box deals, lets just say I paid out far more than I bargained for.
Some of you might be thinking what a fool I have been, but it appears that this investment has started to pay off. It seems that you are much more likely to bag an elusive apprenticeship if you drive and have your own transport. As soon as he had his car my son’s success rate at getting in front of people doubled overnight and he got four weeks work experience within a couple of days. Unfortunately the experience did not last too long as the company only wanted to pay cash in hand and offer work as it came in. At the time my son was also working 16 hours a week at Iceland and in one week clocked up nearly 50 hours in work… something he could not sustain alongside his studies.
Most of his friends have bagged their apprenticeships through friends and family. One of his mates has got an apprenticeship paying £25,000 a year, learning one day a week a college with his uncle who owns an electrical company, his other mate’s Dad runs a construction company and has found him a job with one of his sub-contractors; another knows someone who knows someone. In fact none of his friends have got their apprenticeships through the Government’s apprenticeship portals, or through providers and or through the college. They have managed to get them through the ‘its not what you know it’s who you know’ route.
Being a family with absolutely no connections to the building trade we began to lose hope until a passing conversation with my partner’s neighbour, whose sons’ own their own electrical business, revealed that they would be interested in having a chat with my son. After a week of persuading him to ring them up and send his CV, they took him on a week’s trial back in March. I am pleased to report that he is still there, working on the days he is not at college and will this week be signing up to an apprenticeship with them (crossing fingers the college will pull their finger out and sort out the paperwork quickly).
Working out why we have eventually been fortunate is not difficult. My son has held down a 18 hour part-time job since leaving school rising to a deputy supervisor within six months – he has developed employability skills; hard work, flexibility, personal communication (but not with his mum!) and responsibility but most importantly he has access to transport and a driving license – an absolute must have for a role in the trade – how else can you pack in eight jobs a day?
He has had a firm foundation of skills and support, which has reminded me of the importance of family and continuous support to keep him in line and focused. We cannot just rely on the educators but they should have provided more than they did by accessing more employers and jobs, give better CV and interview support. And it seems to me to be a no-brainer for the Government help pay for driving lessons and a licence to improve the chances young people will have of getting an apprenticeship (for low-income families or rural areas) where it counts?
The apprenticeship system surely has to change, we have been talking far too long about the failure to serve young people and employers. But we also have to change our views on what social mobility really means, we must not talk just about the elite jobs, we need to talk about all jobs and routes to progression as the ‘who you know’ rule is entrenched in all classes.
You can follow Caroline @evaluationista