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How one 18-year-old beat the odds through apprenticeships

After completing two apprenticeships and hoping to start university in September, Katy is well on the way to realising her dream of working with children

When Katy Dodd received her GCSE results two years ago she didn’t quite get the grades she needed, but refused to let that stop her from pursuing her dream of working with children. 

The 18-year-old from Dalton, Cumbria, describes herself as “not very academic” and knew A-Levels would have been a struggle, so she qualified to work with kids in nursery and reception. 

Now, just two years on from those GCSE results, Katy is employed full time in a local primary school, still learning on the job and working toward a level three teaching and learning apprenticeship. 

She has even bagged an offer to study at Edge Hill University in Ormskirk, Lancashire.

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“When I first went into the course, I initially just wanted to be a teaching assistant, because you get to know the individual children,” Katy told the Big Issue. “But ever since I’ve got to know the staff at Dalton St Marys, it’s made me think actually I want to be like them and go to university in September.” 

Unlike her friends on more traditional academic routes, Katy is getting paid while learning. She works full time at her school and studies for one day every other week.

Much of this is thanks to Gen2, a training organisation and offshoot of apprenticeship provider City & Guilds, who Katy has been with since December 2020. Gen2 helps young people into the world of work through “responsive training and educational programmes”, with 1500 apprentices across its centres in Cumbria. 

Katy described her placement, which has seen her gain experience with children aged three to 11, as “amazing”. She said her teachers at Gen2, coupled with the course’s flexibility, had also helped her secure maths and ICT qualifications.

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“They are quite flexible with me, so when I’ve got a busy week at school I can say ‘I’m really sorry, I can’t come in this week’ and do that work at home,” she added. “You have got to be independent as an apprentice.” 

For National Apprenticeship Week, the Big Issue’s Ride out Recession Alliance is highlighting the power of apprenticeships to launch those in the post-pandemic job market into new careers.

“For anyone who is new to apprenticeships, they are a way that people can learn a new skill while also earning a salary,” writes City & Guilds managing director David Phillips in this week’s magazine.

“Apprentices learn on the job alongside experienced colleagues, using structured learning frameworks that have been developed with businesses to ensure that apprentices have the skills that are truly in demand in the marketplace.” 

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Katy teaching kids at her local school in Cumbria.

During the lockdown, Katy has been going into school and helping vulnerable children and the kids of key workers, while also providing online learning for those being taught from home. 

She said her favourite part of the course had been working with supportive staff who had made sure she was looked after: “Everyone has just been so supportive and Gen2 have been very helpful as well. There’s been so much support, its been brilliant.”

Katy said she would recommend the course to anybody who wanted to work with children. 

“I think if you’ve got a passion with working with children in all capacities, definitely go down that path,” she added. 

“I’m not very academic, I didn’t do very well in my GCSE’s, but I’ve still managed to do really well today and get into university which I’m really proud of.”