PAUL Virgo may have left school in the 1980s, but that has not stopped him from becoming one of the UK’s oldest apprentices at the age of 60.
The Skills and Training Manager at Birmingham City FC Community Trust is challenging the stereotype that vocational qualifications are only for people a third of his age to mark National Apprenticeship Week.
Even more remarkably, Paul is studying towards his qualification with one of his former students.
Matt Jackson was taught by Paul when he completed a Level 3 qualification after leaving school. The pair’s paths crossed again when Matt accepted a role at BCFC Community Trust after he graduated from university.
Now, the pair work together to complete a Level 5 Teaching and Learning apprenticeship delivered by Oxford-based registered training provider Ignite Training.
Despite turning 60 this year and having more than 30 years of experience in the education sector, Paul has no sights on retirement and believes age should be no barrier to learning new skills.
“Six of my colleagues enrolled onto the apprenticeship and I saw no reason why I shouldn’t join them. Even after all these years working in education, you can still add to your skillset to benefit the experiences of those you engage with.
“What’s often misunderstood is that apprenticeships are for everyone, not just school leavers. It doesn’t matter how old you are, how experienced you are in your profession or your job title – I can guarantee there is an apprenticeship out there for everyone.
“They allow learners to combine full-time work with real-life on-the-job development while gaining an industry-recognised qualification. I only see this as a positive and hope more people my age consider finding a programme in 2023.”
Now in its 16th year, National Apprenticeship Week is a week-long celebration of apprenticeships.
It allows businesses and apprentices to shine a light on the positive impact apprenticeships make on people, organisations and the wider economy.
“I’m not aware of a teacher working towards a qualification with one of their previous pupils, but there is a first for everything!
“It only enhances my belief that whether you’re a teenager fresh out of school, a university graduate, a working professional or closing in on retirement there is a qualification for you.
“Matt was one of my students in 2017 and now we’re working towards the same goal as part of our professional development. He has a bright future ahead of him and part of that is down to his work ethic and being able to access meaningful apprenticeships.”
Justin Merritt, Ignite Training CEO, added:
“We believe Paul’s story can be replicated in many more organisations and charities across the UK in the coming years, particularly as employers prioritise the job satisfaction, health and wellbeing of their staff.
“Last year, over 70% of apprentices were aged 19 or older proving vocational qualifications are suitable for people of all ages. We’d like to wish Paul and Matt every success with the rest of their studies.”