FOR the first time since the pandemic emerged, Leonardo apprentices from the aerospace engineering company’s sites across the UK recently had the chance to brief MPs face-to-face at the Houses of Parliament to share their experiences of their apprenticeships.

Amongst the group of Leonardo apprentices representing the company was Yeovil Mechanical Craft Apprentice Kayley Manns, 25.

Kayley grew up in Stalbridge and Weymouth, attending Stalbridge Primary and Sturminster Newton High School, before studying a BTEC in Outdoor Adventure at Weymouth College College.

After graduating Kayley decided to change the direction of her career and embarked on her apprenticeship at Leonardo, as it would allow her to work in a hands-on role while applying maths and science.

After a tour of some of its most iconic chambers, including Westminster Hall, rebuilt after the Blitz by the architect Sir Giles Gilbert Scott, the apprentices met MPs at a special reception hosted by trade organisation ADS (Aerospace, Defence Security & Space).

Attendees also included over 100 Apprentices from across industry. There they didn’t just have the chance to speak to their local MP, but MPs from across the UK including Jack Lopresti, MP for Filton & Bradley Stoke, Mark Fletcher, MP for Bolsover, Carol Monaghan, MP for Glasgow North West, Dave Doogan MP for Angus also in Scotland.

Kayley said: “I spoke to the MPs about how I came to pursue an apprenticeship.

"While most young people get inspired to take up an apprenticeship through school or a careers advisor, it opened up a whole new career path for me a lot later than many 16 year olds who would typically consider it after leaving school.

“I told the MPs that I thought it was important that these school leavers realise that their choices today don’t define their life and they can retrain and change routes.

“The MPs seemed fascinated by the fact that I worked in the flight shed, where we carry out the final assembly and system checks for the helicopters.

“Then you get to wheel the helicopter straight out to the flight pad just outside the shed and see it take off.

"Being surrounded by aircraft every day has become so normal for me that I sometimes have to remind myself that you don’t get this much excitement in every job.”

According to the latest figures released by the UK Government covering the 2021/22 academic year, apprenticeship starts were up by 26.0 per cent to 204,000 compared to 161,900 reported for the same period in the previous year.

Deborah Soley, head of apprenticeships UK who accompanied the apprentices on their trip to the Houses of Parliament said: “We have seen our apprentices really grab the opportunities we have offered them, whether through on the job training or representing our company at external events such as this visit.

“Despite the pandemic they continue to thrive as a population at our company and we can chart career paths to the most senior levels of our organisation from early starts within our apprenticeship programme.”