Why apprenticeships make sense: By the apprentices

At Great Annual Savings Group (GAS), we’re super-excited about tonight’s National Apprenticeship Awards final in London.

Partly because we’re a finalist in the Newcomer SME of the Year category (have you heard?).  But also because we’re a vocal advocate of the importance of apprenticeships, both to businesses and the country’s economy.

Our apprentices would be the first to tell you about the significant levels of responsibility they’ve experienced since joining the Group and how it has helped them develop as professionals and people.  In true GAS apprentice style, Marketing and Customer Experience Apprentices Rachel McCourt and Ethan McGhin decided to write a statement on the employment route to which they’ve dedicated the next three years of their life.

MPs, business leaders and journalists can affirm apprenticeships’ value, but the apprentices themselves have the most invested in them.  So, who better to voice their views?

Ethan McGhin: I used to be apprehensive about the idea of working in an office.  I expected it to be stressful, draining and ultimately boring.  However, when I started working for GAS I was proved wrong on all accounts and by the end of my first day I was eager for another day at work.  I still look forward to coming in every day.

I expected the tasks no one wanted, but I have been given more responsibility than most other schemes would dream of and I’m given the guidance to achieve what I need to.

Everyone learns differently and businesses put a lot of effort into getting the most out of their staff.  Working as an apprentice suits me as an individual.  It’s the best of both worlds, preparing me for a professional role whilst still learning academically and offering me the chance stand out from the crowd when looking at other roles.

Employers can benefit indirectly from apprenticeships, as well as directly.  Creating employment in the local community obviously generates good will for the company.   I’m being moulded and developed into the specific employee GAS needs and becoming an integral part of the workforce.

With government funding, plenty of training providers and huge demand for places, Apprenticeships are an ethical way of growing a company.

Rachel McCourt: Apprenticeships are a vital option for young people.  I feel that my apprenticeship gives me more freedom to develop as a professional than I’d get at University or in a regular full-time role.

I’m still working towards a qualification, but feel immersed in the world of work, too.  I’m working in the world of Marketing and Communications, which usually requires years of study, so I’m soaking up as much as I can to turn this opportunity into a career.

A three-year University commitment felt huge (and expensive) – even if you don’t take to an apprenticeship immediately, you’re still picking up vital transferrable skills and can afford to give it time because you’re on a wage.

I’ve already learned proper workplace conduct and I know now what my strengths are that I can build upon during the apprenticeship.  I’ve got a lot of responsibility and I have to be self-motivated as I’m trusted to complete tasks to a deadline.  There are no teachers or lecturers any more to help me manage my time, it’s on me and I see the benefits.

I’ve also learned about the world outside of work from spending time with people with more life experience than me – things like politics and what Brexit could mean.

But I know GAS is benefiting from me, too.  Many of my ideas are already being used and a fresh perspective is always welcomed here.  Employee engagement is a key concern for many businesses in the UK, so the enthusiasm apprentices can provide in your workplace can be infectious and useful.

Good luck to all of the finalists at the National Apprenticeship Awards tonight, not least the apprentices themselves!

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Paul JohnsonGroup Financial Director

Paul Johnson is very much a home-grown talent.

He joined Great Annual Savings Group in its infancy, fresh from a youth career as a professional footballer with Hartlepool United.  He quickly established a reputation within the business and aced all required accountancy qualifications in the space of four years to become the Group’s Management Accountant.

Several successful projects later, Paul was promoted to Head of Finance.  When the former FD left GAS, he took on the mantle of the business’ most senior finance professional; boasting a string of incredible achievements all under the age of 30.


“I have witnessed phenomenal growth at the Group over the many years I’ve worked here and I’m looking forward to guiding the Group into an exciting new chapter.”

Interesting fact:

Paul made his professional debut for Hartlepool United against Bournemouth in the Football League.  Some say Danny Ings still resides in his pocket to this day.