My Apprenticeship was my game changer

6 November 2015

I started my Apprenticeship in Teaching & Learning Specialist Support with Bolton College last August and it has changed my life.

Before starting my Apprenticeship, I was long-term unemployed and had been involved in varying levels of substance misuse, criminality, and anti-social behaviour. I was referred to Raise the Youth Foundation (an organisation that helps ‘high risk’ young people) as a user, and then stayed on to volunteer for a couple of years.

While I was volunteering the company installed a music studio, and that was when I decided to come to Bolton College to learn how to use music, to work with the kids and help them learn.

I believe I’m more than just an average teaching assistant. I want to help improve the young people’s lives, not just their grades. I used to be just like them, making trouble out on the streets and getting on the wrong side of the police, so I feel as though I can build a more meaningful rapport with them than someone from the outside. I tend to tell them about my own experiences first and this creates a bond of trust between us, which is the initial step in getting through to them.

If a learner is particularly difficult to motivate, I engage them through music by giving them some creative freedom and a chance to express themselves. I’ve always had a passion for music – it got me through some really difficult times growing up – so I want to use it to help others in the same way.

I currently produce my own music and have been asked to put on a regular night in Bolton town centre, to encourage amateur musicians to showcase their talent and work towards becoming professional by recording their own stuff. Having this impact on the local community, as well as the kids I work with, is incredibly rewarding.

This Apprenticeship has been a real learning curve for me – both academically and in terms of taking on professional responsibilities – and this is just one of the reasons for which I believe Apprenticeships can be real game-changers. It’s easy for past offenders to slip back into their old ways; making a change is more difficult. But my Apprenticeship with Bolton College – and the young people who need my support – has given me a purpose in life, and motivated me to become a better person. It has also made me realise my passion: helping young people to use music as a way of channelling their emotions.

A few years ago, I’d never have imagined being recognised as an exemplary apprentice – let alone being Highly Commended by the National Apprenticeship Service and the Association of Colleges! I feel like I’ve come so far, and it’s all thanks to the opportunities this Apprenticeship has given me. It’s been a challenge – balancing studying at College, working for Raise the Youth Foundation with very complex young people, developing my own functional skills and looking after my younger siblings – but it’s been worth every minute.

Connor Stevenson, 24, is currently completing a Level 3 Apprenticeship at Bolton College and working as an Apprentice Youth Worker for Raise the Youth Foundation in Bolton.