Whether you left school with no qualifications or gained a degree, improving your skills will assist you at work, or even maximise your earning potential. You’re never too old to be an apprentice and a childcare apprenticeship can transform your career and confidence at any age. It’s a common misconception that apprenticeships are designed for school leavers – but anyone wanting to improve and expand their skill set can benefit from an apprenticeship, regardless of age.

Karen Derbyshire, Head of ILE’s Childcare and Education sector says: “Over the past five years we have witnessed a significant rise in demand from employers in the Childcare and Education sector keen to put in place apprenticeship schemes to support their staff’s development and keep up to speed with new Government guidelines.

“Crucially, childcare workers are also embracing the benefits of an apprenticeship throughout their careers as those in their thirties, forties and fifties recognise they can refine their skill set in management, HR and other areas. Just because we’ve grown up, doesn’t mean we have to stop learning – no matter how educated you are, improving your skills will benefit your career.”

From apprentice to business owner

One childcare worker who has benefited from ILE’s training and support is Julie Carter, aged 44, who since completing her Higher Apprenticeship in Management, has now successfully launched her own business, Momma Bears Nursery & Pre-School in Shard End, Birmingham.

Julie says: “I started my journey in Childcare about 14 years ago. After juggling many career choices, I found that this was something I felt I could potentially be good at.

“I began working at an after-school club while also gaining my qualifications in childcare. After a few years I was offered the opportunity to lead a pre-school class at the nursery I was working at.

My trainer assessor was so supportive 

“With little experience I enrolled to take on an Advanced Apprenticeship with ILE.  My trainer assessor, Mandy Allen, was so supportive – she helped me overcome my fear of gaining the functional skills I needed in maths, English and ICT. With her support and encouragement, I completed them all and went on to gain my full Advanced Apprenticeship.”

Having achieved her goal Julie didn’t stop there. With Mandy’s encouragement she went onto study and complete a Higher Apprenticeship in Management.

She says: “I found this my biggest challenge to date, I almost give up on myself so many times as I felt that I wasn’t progressing as well as I wanted. Once again through lots of support from Mandy and her belief in me I went on to gain my Higher Apprenticeship. After I gained my Level 4 I had many conversations with her about what I wanted to do with my new qualifications.

“My final three choices were quite clear; I could have continued to work as a deputy manager with my current employer or move on to a new place and introduce what I had learned or I could open my own nursery.

The confidence to succeed

“Mandy gave me the confidence to feel that I could do just that – open my own! Within a year of achieving my Higher Apprenticeship in Management me and my business partner opened our own nursery, Momma Bears Nursery & Pre-School. We have now been open for seven months and are in the process of opening our third room. I am and will always be grateful to my trainer asesessor for showing me that life-long learning will help you realise your dreams.”

Crucial to Julie’s journey has been Mandy, from Oldbury, Birmingham, who has been working as an ILE trainer assessor for almost 10 years, in a wide range of childcare settings including day nurseries, schools, playwork environments and crèches.

Speaking of her role she says: “In my job every day is different depending on which place I am visiting and type and level of qualification I am delivering,” says Mandy. “The courses I support include Children & Young People, Playwork and Supporting Teaching & Learning, which range from Level 2 up to Level 4.

Robust employer engagement is crucial

“A really important part of the apprenticeship programme is to have all parties involved in the learner’s journey including employers and where appropriate, parents. Keeping employers up to date and fully informed is achieved by good relationship management and employer engagement in preparation for my appointments and afterwards, involving them in the review process and the planning of the learner journey.”

New employers who have never recruited an apprentice before can  often be unsure of the role a trainer assessor plays in delivering the programme and it is Mandy’s and ILE’s job to share her knowledge, vision and passion of caring for children throughout the teaching sessions.

Guidance, support and encouragement are key

“I feel apprenticeships in childcare and education are the hardest but equally most rewarding,” says Mandy. “Children bring so much joy to everyone, it is important to have the right individuals supervising and teaching them. My years of experience in the sector has taught me that guidance, support and encouragement are key in moulding a good strong candidate that is able to demonstrate competency throughout all areas of caring for children.

“I am excited for what the future holds in our sector and the new routes allowing progression for our learners of all ages – because you’re never too old to be an apprentice.”

Want to find out more? You’re never too old to be an apprentice, get in touch with one of the team.