Mature apprentices start new roles at L&Q

Published on 05/03/2019

A group of ground-breaking tradesmen have started their first apprenticeship at an age when most people are thinking about retiring.

Traditionally, apprentices have been young people starting out in their careers. But now, a new breed of mature apprentices are changing careers or upskilling in their 50s and 60s.

These include Steven Roach, 60, Stephen Shortte, 58, and Peter Beardall, 55. All three are maintenance technicians employed by charitable housing association L&Q, where they have been offered the opportunity to gain a national multi-skill qualification with Barking & Dagenham College.

L&Q and Barking & Dagenham College are launching their new Construction and Maintenance Skills Centre on Tuesday March 5 to coincide with National Apprenticeship week, which begins on March 4.

Peter Beardall said: “I’m going to be 56 soon, so this training will be useful for me both in the workplace and if things go wrong at home! It also means that I can keep myself active when I retire.

“I think everyone should give it a go. You are never too old to learn new things, and it can only be beneficial.”

This year’s group of students has an average age of 45 after the housing association, which manages over 2,000 properties in Barking & Dagenham, encouraged older employees to consider apprenticeships.

John Lewis of Barking & Dagenham College, which trains the L&Q apprentices said: “We are really starting to see the age of all our apprentices increase.  This year alone, 143 of the apprentices we are training – nearly a quarter of them - are aged over 25, which is brilliant. After all, with people having to work for longer before they can retire, being able to get an apprenticeship and start a new career at any age is a great option.”

Matthew Corbett, Director of the L&Q Foundation, added: “We are delighted to offer our employees that chance to learn new skills to help them progress in their careers. Everything we do starts with social purpose, and future-proofing our employees so that they can feel secure is a vital part of this. Talent has no age limit, and we are proud to nurture and develop all of our staff, regardless of what stage of life they are at.”

The college has put the increase in older apprentices down to major changes in Government policy including the new Apprenticeship Levy, which requires businesses with annual wage bills of £3m or more to pay 0.5% of their payroll cost into a training fund. In 2017, the Government also scrapped the age limit of 24 for apprentices, which means companies can now use their training funds to upskill their existing workforce.

Steven Roach, who is also one of this year’s apprentices, said: “I’d never thought of doing an apprenticeship when I left school, because I just wanted to get out there and earn money and the amount you get paid for doing apprenticeships wasn’t what it is now.

“Before I came to L&Q, I worked for a long time for a company that got rid of me as I approached old age. Now I’ve been offered the chance to learn skills that will last me for a lifetime. I already had a carpentry qualification, and I’m now learning about plumbing and working with electricity.

“I’m coming up to retirement and my pension won’t be great, so it’s brilliant to know that I will now have the skills to keep on doing bits and pieces on the side.”

Stephen Shortte added: “It’s challenging, but also exciting for me because I know there’s an extra qualification for me at the end of it. It gives me more opportunity to move on with within and outside of L&Q which gives me security.”