STUDENTS at Swindon College packed into the assembly hall on Monday morning to witness the launch of the tenth annual National Apprenticeship Week.

They listened to speeches by former Swindon College apprentices who now run their own businesses and North Swindon MP Justin Tomlinson, who sought to inspire the students with his motivational rhetoric.

National Apprenticeship Week aims to bring together employers and apprentices from across England to celebrate the success of apprenticeships and to encourage more students to take them up.

Monday’s assembly saw Level 1 and Level 2 apprenticeship students from various trades – plumbing, woodwork, brick work and engineering – kick off a week of educational workshops and fun activities.

Julia Hoskins, deputy head of Business First, the commercial arm of Swindon College, said: “Hopefully students will finish this week with the view that apprenticeships are a viable option.

“Most schools are promoting going to university, but apprenticeships are now a great way for people to get up to master’s degree level without all the cost.

“A lot of employers know the value of investing in young people and there is real competition between employers to find talent.

“Even though the wages may seem low in the first year, the combination of gaining skills in the work place set people up for a great career. There are so many employers I speak to who stress the importance of a good attitude and strong work ethic.”

Some of the apprenticeship-related events set to take place at Swindon College this week include conducting mock interviews with students and hosting educational days for pupils at other schools.

There will also be a charity bake off to bring students together and allow them to discuss their futures over a few sweet treats.

MP Justin Tomlinson, eager to celebrate the tenth anniversary of National Apprenticeship Week, said: “More and more young people are now taking up apprenticeships and accessing the wonderful opportunities and career prospects which are available.

“I think it’s important to inform the next generation of the apprenticeships on offer and to take the opportunity of forging a better future – and I am very proud to be a part of it.”

Level 2 apprentice in plumbing and heating, Gary O’Reilly, 19, said: “Today has been really inspiring. It was great to hear all of the speakers being so positive about the opportunities apprenticeships bring, particularly the progression on to advanced level apprenticeships. Getting paid to learn is a plus point, and once qualified I can take my trade anywhere really.’’

Pupils were also given the expert advice of former Swindon College student Lee Flanagan, whose company CentraHeat has been named in the prestigious Centrica Top 100 Apprenticeship Employer list.

Lee said: “So far, every apprentice we have had has been recommended to us by the college and they have all had amazing attitudes. It’s great to see how willing they are to learn and that benefits us hugely as a business.”