What Britain needs is the kind of apprenticeships that actually mean something in terms of real practical skills rather than the proposals of skills minister John Hayes (Letters, 25 May), who, like many at the top in politics, sees everything in terms of university education.

I left school at 15 and was fortunate enough to win an apprenticeship with a local electrical engineering firm. Six months later my employment started with a three-month “pre-apprenticeship course” at a local college, which gave me the basic grounding in engineering practices and what to expect when I entered the factory.

The company ran its own internal training school, where I spent a further three months before going on to the shop floor. The next five years were spent working alongside skilled tradesmen in the different departments around the factory, until I emerged at the age of 21 having had an experience that not only provided me skills that would last a lifetime but also taught me problem-solving, how to read drawings, how to interact with others etc, and generally made the man out of the boy.

I worked for 23 years on the shop floor and will be for ever grateful for the experience, the friends I made and the enlightened employer I worked for. The fact that I later went on to be leader of Gateshead council and then an MP for 24 years was in no small part due to the benefits of my apprenticeship and my experiences at work.

Good, down-to-earth, practical apprenticeships can be so much more than just learning how to handle tools, for many as important and useful to their lives as going to university, and in many cases more so.
David Clelland

Paul Champion

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Twitter: @blogapprentice
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