Blazing a trail with Oldham College apprenticeship programmes

Oldham College apprentice Sarah-Jane from VPS

Picture; Oldham College apprentice Sarah-Jane Thomas from Vacant Property Solutions


OLDHAM College continues to support various employers with apprenticeship programmes, employer recruitment and workforce development.


National Apprenticeship Week, which is held every Spring, is a week of activity dedicated to celebrating, promoting and realising the success of apprenticeships and allows us to share the many benefits that apprenticeships bring.


2019’s Apprenticeship Week had the theme of Blaze the Trail. From March 4 to 8 there was a range of activities and events hosted across the country and at Oldham College.


The college, recently awarded an Ofsted ‘Good’ across all areas including apprenticeships, is well-placed through its Job Shop to support employers’ apprenticeship recruitment   including candidate search, vacancy advertising, interviewing and recruitment support to find the best apprenticeship candidates.


Oldham College works with over 800 employers to support their workforce development plans to upskill existing staff and support new recruits through a range of apprenticeship frameworks, standards and bespoke training courses.


One example of this is Sarah-Jane Thomas, aged 27, an invoice analyst at Vacant Property Solutions (VPS) in Chadderton and on a one-year Level 2 accountancy apprenticeship programme.  Sarah-Jane, from Blackley, is currently studying for her AAT qualification which allows her to combine paid employment and training whilst gaining relevant qualifications that will allow her to progress within the company and onto a higher-level apprenticeship in the autumn.


After attending North Manchester High School for Girls, she had various jobs in the NHS and facilities management. She joined VPS in 2016, initially in customer services.


She said: “After a few months in customer services at VPS, I moved to the invoice department as an invoice analyst.


“There are a few staff at VPS who have previously done AAT courses. I approached my company’s HR department about this, and they said I could do the training through an apprenticeship route.


“So, as an apprentice, I now attend Oldham College on a day release model. At college we do a lot of practical work such as basic accounting, debits, credits and elements of costing. Stephanie Tupman from the college visits me at work to support my on the job training and oversee my progress. I’ve been impressed with Oldham College’s support and engagement. My own company has been very supportive too.


“So far, I’ve sat two accounting exams and gained distinctions in both. It felt amazing. Because I’m a mature student, I think I’m more focused.  Mature students should definitely consider apprenticeships for skills and career development.”


Pearson Solicitors & Financial Advisers is another firm using Oldham College’s apprenticeship services. Pearson currently has a number of apprentice paralegals who combine employment with training.


Apprentices Olivia Deasy, Lucy Roughley and Emily Gardener spend 4 days a week at Pearson and one day training at Oldham College which allows the apprentices to regularly build their knowledge, skills and behaviours needed as a paralegal and fully prepares them for their end point assessment.


Lucy Roughley, aged 19, is on a Level 3 paralegal apprenticeship programme. She attended Hathershaw College and Blue Coat School Sixth Form College, gaining four A-levels.


She said: “In sixth form, I loved studying politics, how politics links to law, and legislative and parliamentary processes. I thought about working in law for a firm like Pearson.


“I really enjoy my apprenticeship and being at Pearson. My colleagues are great and it’s a good environment to be in.


“I’m focusing on wills and probate legal work and spend time each week at Oldham College, working on legal theory with my tutor. Once I’ve completed my apprenticeship with the wills and probate focus, I might think about moving into commercial law. Incoming years, I’d like to progress right through to Level 6 and become a solicitor.


“Being an apprentice means you can learn while you earn. At sixth form, I felt there was a lot of pressure to choose the university route, which was a turn-off for me. I didn’t want to leave university with £50,000 of debt.”


Colleague Olivia Deasy, aged 19, attended Mossley Hollins High School and Ashton Sixth Form College. She studied A and AS levels in law, psychology and biology and a sports science BTEC. She was also active at Tameside School of Gymnastics.


She said: “After sixth form, I didn’t know exactly what I wanted to do because I enjoyed both law and sport. I didn’t want to go to university without being sure what I wanted to study. My sister went to university, but she was very clear about her subject.


“So, I started looking at apprenticeships and liked the idea of learning while you work. I was interested in a law job. I had an interview at Pearson for a business administration role but when my interest in law became clear during the interview Pearson opened a position for me in the family law department. Now I’m focusing on family and care law, and it’s really interesting.


“My work includes calling clients, working with solicitors, dealing with forms and court papers, correspondence and clients’ files. Also, Pearson has been very supportive to me whilst I have been here.


“At Oldham College, I’ve had my first law theory lesson which was also very interesting. Looking ahead, I’d like to stay in law and develop my qualifications through higher apprenticeships.


“I’d definitely encourage people to consider apprenticeship programmes and other work-based learning. I have friends who went to university who are now having second-thoughts and wished they had gone down another route.


Meanwhile Emily Gardener, from Oldham, has been with Pearson for two years. She previously attended Blue Coat School. She began some A-level courses but, after a few months, decided she wanted something different. She then enrolled on a business administration course and later moved on to a law programme with Oldham College.


Emily is now a legal assistant at Pearson on a Level 3 paralegal apprenticeship programme. Her role is very client-focused and includes taking enquiries, handling new legal matters and passing papers to courts


Alison Hollroyd, Olivia’s mentor at Pearson, said: “Emily is brilliant, enthusiastic and great to work with. Her role is varied with lots of different things happening every day.


She added: “Overall, Emily, Lucy and Olivia are all great examples of how apprenticeships and other work-based learning programmes benefit both employers and workers.”


Debra Woodruff, Deputy Principal at Oldham College, said: “Apprentices bring energy, enthusiasm, new skills and ideas to any business. They represent an excellent return on investment. Year on year we are seeing an increasing number of people applying for apprenticeship roles and as new apprenticeship standards are developed more employers are looking to recruit them.    The recent Ofsted ‘Good’ grade is testament to the strength of our offer.”


Businesses of all sizes and sectors can benefit from apprenticeships.

Usually an apprentice will work at a business for four days and spend one day a week at college, university or a training organisation, working towards their Apprenticeship Framework or Standard.


If you’d like to find out more about apprenticeships, contact Oldham College’s Job Shop and apprenticeship team Email: or call 0161 785 4269.

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