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National Apprenticeship Week - LCCI Patron Member London Gatwick's Apprenticeship Programme in Focus

This National Apprenticeship Week, we’re celebrating the positive contribution of apprentices to London businesses and UK economic growth. LCCI is a huge advocate of apprenticeships and early career opportunities and is proud to champion the industry-leading approaches taken by our members across all sectors, to support career progression and provide #SkillsForLife.

With a commitment to nurturing talent and inspiring the next generation into STEM careers, London Gatwick’s award-winning apprenticeship programme provides extensive opportunities for personal and professional growth. We spoke with Dave White, Apprentice Development Lead at London Gatwick, to understand more about how these have evolved to meet the needs of the industry, and support London’s reputation as the best city in the world to do business.

Tell us more about the history of London Gatwick’s work in this area.

London Gatwick has been offering apprenticeships since 1977. These have predominantly been engineering-based apprenticeships, although last year we diversified our offerings to include apprentice roles in corporate responsibility and sustainability, IT service desk analyst, and cybersecurity.

Over the years, more than 300 apprentices have benefited from these programmes, and we are very lucky to have an incredibly high retention rate, with many apprentices securing full-time positions within the airport’s technician workforce.

In terms of qualities that we look for, passion and an eagerness to learn and grow are paramount. The majority of our apprentices are probably aged 16 to 21 when they start but we also welcome candidates of any age, including those transitioning from other roles within the airport.

How do the apprenticeships on offer at London Gatwick align with the current demands of the industry and the future challenges and opportunities presented by its evolving landscape?

With London Gatwick’s strategic focus on growth post-pandemic, we have adapted our apprenticeship offering to meet industry demands. Adaptations such as introducing mechatronics in engineering apprenticeships and cybersecurity training, ensure that our apprentices are prepared and have the skills necessary to take on future challenges.

Sustainability is also top of the agenda for London Gatwick and our apprentices certainly have a significant role to play in this. Many of the young people employed as apprentices have incredible ideas on how they can contribute to sustainability at the airport. It is an issue that is high up on their agenda and it is amazing to see the ideas they have to drive our sustainability initiatives forward.

How does London Gatwick’s offering relate to the skills shortage and the need to train and retrain staff?

London Gatwick's STEM programme addresses the critical skills shortage by engaging extensively with schools. We recognise there is a huge shortage of students engaged in STEM activities or STEM-related learning and it is vital for us that we go into schools and students and young people come to us at our brand new STEM centre. There are also preconceived ideas and taboos and we work hard to break down gender stereotypes. We are also utilising our apprenticeship levy to upskill people within the current workforce.

How do you ensure that your apprenticeship programmes provide a balance between hands-on experience and structured learning?

The apprenticeship curriculum emphasises practical skills alongside theoretical knowledge. Our apprentices spend their first year at college five days a week, where they have a balance of practical work and theory. They spend time in the electrical mechanical workshops in a welding base, working on fluid power systems, and gaining that practical knowledge. In years three and four most of them will get back to college to carry out additional qualifications to underpin their theoretical knowledge.

How does London Gatwick promote apprenticeships and early career opportunities?

We work hard to broaden the knowledge and understanding of young people about the range of job roles and career pathways available, which includes virtual workshops, career fairs, school talks, and the newly established STEM centre.

However, I have found what most inspires students is when one of our young apprentices talks to schools directly about what they are doing in their role. Apprentices themselves play a pivotal role in inspiring the next generation.

And finally, how do you feel the partnership with LCCI supports the work you are doing in this area?

We really value our membership of LCCI, both in terms of its advocacy on behalf of the business community and its focus on advancing solutions to policy issues like driving sustainable aviation. Being part of a strong network of cross-sector businesses is vital for sharing good practices, building knowledge and finding opportunities to collaborate.