Ambitious chool leavers looking for exciting careers should consider apprenticeships as an alternative to increasingly costly degrees.
That’s the verdict of engineer Matt Firth from Harrogate Spring Water after recent figures from the OECD suggested England has the highest university tuition fees in the developed world.
The 22-year-old said apprenticeships offer young people a debt-free route into exciting and rewarding careers at a time when university education can be expensive.
At Harrogate Spring Water, Matt is responsible for keeping the lines running at the plant, keeping everything in good working order and overseeing millions of pounds’ worth of highly advanced manufacturing machinery.
He joined the company as one of its first engineering apprentices, aged 17.
Matt quickly worked his way through the ranks and is now a fully qualified engineer.
“I always knew that an apprenticeship was the right route for me,” he said.
“The training I’ve received at Harrogate Spring Water has set me up for an incredibly rewarding career here, helping me achieve my lifelong dream to become an engineer.
“I’ve learnt so much from my very first day back in 2015, and I’m lucky enough to be working on some of the most technically advanced projects on one of the most environmentally efficient facilities in the world. The variety of skills I’ve learnt and the hands-on training I’ve received have been second to none.”
Matt began his apprenticeship with Harrogate Spring Water straight from his studies at King James’s School in Knaresborough.
He added: “I would recommend an apprenticeship at Harrogate Spring Water to anyone looking to get into engineering or manufacturing.
“The team are very supportive and great to work with, and there’s so much opportunity and hands-on learning for anyone who wants to make a career here.
“Choosing to go straight into an apprenticeship after leaving school meant I could start earning while learning, and thanks to that decision I’ve recently been able to buy my first home, which is something I’ve very proud of.”
Allan Whiteley, engineering manager at Harrogate Spring Water, is effusive in his praise for Matt. He said: “Taking on a young apprentice and training them up is no small feat. Over the last few years, I’ve been consistently impressed by Matt’s dedication, maturity and focused mindset.
“The success we’ve seen over the course of Matt’s apprenticeship has encouraged us to look into creating new apprenticeships and training opportunities for local people. This isn’t just about jobs – it’s about providing a livelihood and a career for hard-working young people like Matt.”
James Cain OBE, managing director of Harrogate Spring Water, said: “There is still a lot of work to do in encouraging bright young people to consider apprenticeships when thinking about their options after school.
“The fact is, there are hundreds of Yorkshire companies running exciting programmes that offer gateways to high quality, rewarding careers across a range of sectors.
“I’d strongly recommend that ambitious young people look at apprenticeships. And for businesses across Yorkshire, now is a great time to invest in them.
“As the furlough scheme comes to an end and the economy begins to pick up pace, a skilled workforce will stand businesses in good stead to seize the opportunities that will undoubtedly emerge.”