National Apprenticeship Week Column: Aptitude and attitude lead the way into our newsrooms

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Young people often get a bad press and as the mum of two now grown-up kids I’ve not been slow to moan about the youth of today... it was never like this in my day of course.

But it was an encounter with a bunch of mainly teenagers that proved to be one of the most uplifting days days of my (long) career; it was a day I spent interviewing and selecting the company’s first apprentice journalists.

What a fantastic bunch of people they were; enthusiastic, energetic, full of ideas and with a real desire to forge a career. Most were already demonstrating their initative by writing,blogging and vlogging, the modern equivilent of my days as schoolgirl correspondent for the Blaydon Courier.These switched on kids had already worked out what employers, and now the Government ,is realising; you don’t need a degree (and the debt) to succeed in work and in life. These young people could’ve gone to university but were savvy enough to realise that a degree no longer sets you apart from the crowd and does not open doors as it once did. Two of the three new recruits are post-A level school leavers; one has a masters’ degree.

Three months in and our three apprentices - Natasha Meek, Ann Holmes and Laura Andrew - have proved to be a real asset; hard-working, willing to have a go, keen to learn. Their grasp of the new tools of the journalistic trade, such as social media, has taught us old timers a thing or two. The support and encouragement they’ve been given in our newsrooms is a real source of pride.

It may come a surprise, but we still have a great number of people who started their career as an apprentice or an indentured trainee after school and have risen to editor level. These people in particular see journalism as a vocation as well as a profession for which a degree is not necessarily the best route in. A return to recruitment based on apptitude and potential to succeed seems like coming full circle.

It also throws into the spotlight our ever-expanding universities offering degrees in subjects that do not require a purely academic approach which leaves many graduates on the dole queue - but ensures that these wealthy institutions are big players in business.

Back to our apprentices, who are the trail blazers for more in Johnston Press.

Recently Natasha got the opportunity to tell the Prime Minister, on a visit to one of our newsrooms, face to face about the benefits of being an apprentice; suffice to say Mrs May was impressed enough with Natasha’s stance to retweet Natasha’s tweet and picture.

Next week, National Apprenticeship Week, apprentice Laura, who is from Doncaster, will write about her experience in the Free Press.