A change in the law, known as Raising the Participation Age, is set to help all young people reap the benefits of education and training.

Some will want to dive head first into the work place, and although they may hope to make a splash, evidence shows that long term their job prospects will be improved if they stick to their studies – part time, at least.

Your County  talks to two apprentices to discuss their experiences.

Apprentice Sam Hunnisett has just completed a four-year apprenticeship with Colas Mechanical Services in Ringmer.

Apprentice Sam Hunnisett has just completed a four-year apprenticeship with Colas Mechanical Services in Ringmer.

The Vehicle Body Repair Apprentice

Sam Hunnisett has just completed a four-year apprenticeship with Colas Mechanical Services in Ringmer.

Sam’s school took the unusual step of allowing him to do a Level 1 day release course at a local college during his final year at school.

Sam says: “The best part about working at Colas is the quality of the training and the fact you are on a college course at Sussex Downs on day release. You also get a good variety of vehicles to work on, including all the emergency vehicles used by the council.”

But things didn’t quite go to plan. Sam’s love of BMX dirt jumping resulted in a series of injuries, including a broken foot, and eight days in intensive care after a blow to the head. The time spent recuperating could have jeopardised his apprenticeship if the Colas Contract Manager hadn’t stepped in, and encouraged him to put his BMX racing on hold.

Now, twenty-year-old Sam has completed his Level 3 Certificate in Vehicle Body Repair and is on a one year improver’s scheme, where his skills are fine-tuned during a full working week. He’s already earning more and soon he will become a full member of the team.

The Business Administration Apprentice

When eighteen-year-old Paige Simons started her college course she soon realised she’d made a mistake. “I wasn’t motivated, but I didn’t know what to do.”

Four weeks after starting the course, Paige decided to leave.

She did some research and applied for about 15 apprenticeships before spotting one for the Youth Employability Service in Hastings. “It was an apprenticeship for business administration, but it was also about helping people and that really pulled me in,” she says.

Paige started her 12-month apprenticeship in May. Six months on, her work includes answering phone calls and emails from young people and parents. She helps arrange the twice weekly drop-in sessions and manages the staff safety board.

“With an apprenticeship you learn on the job. I don’t go into a classroom at all and that works well for me.”

At the end of the apprenticeship, Paige hopes she will have earned a Business Administration Level 2 qualification. “A levels aren’t the only route to success,” she says. “I’m really enjoying what I’m doing and learning as much as I can. Once this is finished, I‘d like to do a second apprenticeship and get experience in event management. My big ambition is to be a wedding planner.”

A change in the law means young people must now stay in education, training or employment with training until they’re 18.

Apprenticeships can combine paid work and a qualification, which can make a young person a lot more employable in the future.

Could your business offer an apprenticeship?

Apprenticeships are designed to be flexible and can take between one and four years to complete. If the apprentice is aged 16-18 all training costs are funded by the government. Taking on a young person can provide real benefits to your business, find out more at www.apprenticeships.org.uk/employers

Getting help and guidance

School or colleges are responsible for providing careers guidance and are usually the best starting point for young people who are 13 to 18 years of age.

You can also check out:

National Careers Service

To speak to a trained adviser from 8am to 10pm, 7 days a week call 0800 100 900 or for a web chat visit nationalcareersservice.direct.gov.uk

Connexions 360

There is also a range of information and advice on courses and support available in East Sussex at connexions360.org.uk


East Sussex County Council provides information, advice and guidance to 16 to 18 year olds who are having difficulties with education or training through the Youth Employability Service. For more details visit facebook.com/YESEastSussex or call 01424 722045 or 01323 410803.

It’s never too late to opt-in

Inevitbly, some young people leave it too late to apply to college, or they arrive but discover they’re on the wrong course, or are simply in a quandary about what to do next. If that happens, the Opt-in Service is there to provide wide-ranging support and help young people get back on track. It’s free, travel is paid and there’s a breakfast club too. The service operates from Sussex Downs College in Eastbourne and in Newhaven. Find out more at sussexdowns.ac.uk

Financial help

If you’re aged 16 to 19 and at school or college (not university) or on a training course, including unpaid apprenticeships, you could apply for a bursary to help with study related costs. Ask your school, college or training provider for an application form.