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We spoke to former apprentice Gary Potts to hear about his career journey to becoming Group Vice Principal at the Education Training Collective (Etc).

What’s your name, where are you from, and where do you work?

I’m Gary Potts, I live in Stockton and I’m Group Vice Principal: Business, Innovation and Partnerships at the Education Training Collective (Etc).

The Etc is a group of colleges and training providers offering high quality educational opportunities, incorporating Stockton Riverside College, Redcar and Cleveland College, NETA Training, Bede Sixth Form College, The Skills Academy and the Tees Valley Logistics Academy.

What does your day-to-day role involve?

I am a senior leader for a Group of colleges, focussing on apprenticeships and other types of training to support employers to ensure they can access and train the best local talent!

What do you enjoy most about your job?

I like to see people grasp new opportunities! Whether that’s by taking their first steps into a new career or upskilling to take the next step in their career journey. It is fabulous to see how training and skills can have a positive impact on both individuals and in businesses.

Where did you do your apprenticeship?

I completed my apprenticeship at a manufacturing company in Newton Aycliffe.  I started in 1993 and finished it in 1998. I started off working in engineering and trained as a tool maker, but I got the opportunity to work in a number of departments before specialising in the design department.

Why did you decide to do an apprenticeship?

It seemed to make sense to me, I could carry on studying and learning but I could also earn some money. Perfect!

How did this lead you to your current role, or help shape your journey?

I think it gave me a strong foundation in hard work, behaviours, work ethic and continued personal and professional development that I have continued throughout my career. It made me mature quickly and gave me the confidence to move into management early and then into teaching.

Did you always know what you wanted to do before starting your apprenticeship?

I actually always wanted to be a Police Officer (never ended up doing it!).  I did an apprenticeship in engineering and it gave me the launch pad to develop my career in ways I never planned or imagined.  I feel privileged to have had that start to my career, as I would not be sat where I am now without it, I’m sure of that.

What’s been the highlight of your career so far?

There have been many highlights to my career, so it is difficult to choose one!  Every time I hear a story of how somebody has used a course in the college to access a job or improve their lives, it makes me very proud to have played just a small part of that.

What would you say to someone thinking about starting an apprenticeship?

Quite simply, do it!

Find a sector that interests you and do an apprenticeship which will allow you to develop the knowledge, skills and behaviours to work within it, all while building your confidence and work ethic.

There are so many apprenticeship opportunities available across lots of different sectors (not just the traditional ones that spring to mind!), with fantastic employers who are looking to train their next generation of staff. An apprenticeship won’t be right for everyone, but it might be the right pathway for you!

Is there one myth you’d like to bust about apprenticeships?

It isn’t just for people who didn’t get the grades to do A-Levels!

I did well at school, but full-time education just wasn’t for me. An apprenticeship still gave me the knowledge and skill set needed to fulfil my potential.

Feeling inspired by Gary’s story? Click here to find out more about apprenticeships.