Choice Training

A Message from Lord Pickles and Lord Blunkett, followed by Choice Training's best practice article

The ability to listen and learn from one another has always been vital in parliament, in business and in most aspects of daily life. But at this particular moment in time, as national and global events continue to reiterate, it is uncommonly crucial that we forge new channels of communication and reinforce existing ones. The following article from Choice Training is an attempt to do just that. We would welcome your thoughts on this or any other Parliamentary Review article.

Blunkett signature Rt Hon The Lord David Blunkett
Pickles signature Rt Hon The Lord Eric Pickles

Highlighting best practice
Directors Rob Maw and Rob Tye
Female apprentice making a
start on a Level 2 frame
Before 2012, Rob Tye worked extensively in heating,
ventilation and maintenance. He and colleague Rob Maw,
whose background was in plumbing, both taught at
Newham College. After deciding to split off and form their own
business, they met senior members of Barking and Dagenham
Council at a regeneration meeting. When they began discussing
the state of youth unemployment in the local area, the topic of
their venture came up, as did its main focus – apprenticeships.
It wasn’t long afterwards that they secured funding, and seven
years on, Choice Training now employs 16 people and delivers
vocational education across London and the southeast.
We’ve come a long way since 2012. We now work across the City of London
and most surrounding areas. We also deliver apprenticeship training for several
national agencies. Every year, we employed a few more people, all experts in their
field, and ended up with more and more students. To promote our services, we
regularly hired stands at Lakeside Shopping Centre and ExCel London and even
ran up and down the streets handing out leaflets; now, people come to us for the
apprenticeship training they want and deserve.
Transformed from humble beginnings
We started as a plumbing college but have changed over time to become more
of a service and maintenance college. Our specialist courses have been regarded
as some of the best in the country, and students come from up and down the UK
to enrol with us. We have partnered with large organisations, including Skanska,
»Directors: Rob Maw and
»Established in 2012
»Based in Dagenham
»Services: Building services and
engineering apprenticeship
»No. of employees: 16
»Last year, we gave away 20
free courses to give local
young people a fair start in life
Choice Training
Harrods and the Bank of England, and
our students have even been placed at
the Palace of Westminster.
Our experience with further education
colleges before we first got started
really fuelled this journey. They
do a lot of things right, but too
many layers of management often
convolute and confuse things,
consequently prohibiting flexibility.
We wanted to try new strategies,
recruiting for apprenticeships all
year round for example, rather than
just in September, as almost all FE
It’s this kind of realistic, business-
focused approach that has contributed
to our success. My colleague Rob
and I have worked in the service and
maintenance industry for our entire
lives, and that’s really helped the way
we deliver apprenticeships.
Changing the state of British
We’re big on helping people and
giving back to our students and
stakeholders. If we were ruthless
businessmen, we might have made
more money over the past few years,
but that’s not the way we want to do
things. People are extremely satisfied
with their courses, and we get a lot
of people back into work. We’re also
great at getting people placed – so
much so that we even struggle with
demand in the summer.
With the experience we have
underpinning our current position, we
are trying to take every opportunity to
change the way things operate. Over
the past few years, we’ve been trying
to encourage more and more women
to enter the trade. We are now in a
position where we could help a sector
that’s one per cent female on the
ground, and just ten per cent when
management roles are included.
Perceptions need to change
I personally think too many people
are going to university without fully
understanding the apprenticeship
process. We have seen this change
over the past couple of years – but
even on the back of that, we have
had so many people approach us
and tell us how happy they are that
apprenticeships are “starting” again,
as if they’d been dead and buried for
the past decade.
Most people still don’t really
understand how the process works or
how beneficial an apprenticeship can
be. Our trade can be a very lucrative
one – some of our apprentices are
earning small fortunes at a young age.
It isn’t always bound to the minimum
wage, and there still seems to be
some kind of stigma around pursuing
vocational education. The general
perception seems to be that without
five A to C grades at GCSE, you
“have” to go into an apprenticeship
– but things really have changed in
that regard. A lot of the companies
we work with require those grades or
more to even qualify for an interview.
United Living apprentice
threading LCS pipe
We have
partnered with
Skanska, Harrods
and the Bank of
England, and our
students have
even been placed
at the Palace of
Highlighting best practice
This doesn’t just include the general
public; the perceptions that schools
and colleges have needs to change.
There’s a sense of apprenticeships
being a “second-best” choice for
most young people throughout the
education system, and we believe that
going to university purely because you
can isn’t always the rightoption.
The apprenticeship levy isn’t
perfect – but it’s a good start
I actually spoke at Westminster about
the apprenticeship levy recently and
found the general response to be
one of uncertainty or disapproval. For
us, it’s a great initiative – one that
we welcome with open arms. The
idea of larger companies paying for
apprenticeships is excellent; 90 per
cent of our business comes from levied
companies, and since it came into play,
our apprenticeship figures have grown
by somewhere between 200 and 300
per cent.
It does, however, need to be tweaked.
The larger international companies
we partner with, for example, have
the capacity to take on hundreds of
apprentices. All of them, however,
have to be paid and insured from
somewhere, and companies aren’t too
keen on using all allocated funds for
the levy in one fell swoop. Alongside
these financial concerns, no end point
assessment centres have been rolled
out at the time of writing – and we
have apprentices ready to complete in
July this year.
Our overall view of the levy is a positive
one. As one of the few centres in
the country offering the courses that
we do, we’ve had more and more
levied companies coming to us for
placements. I’m not sure that it will or
should stay in its current format for
the future, but it’s definitely a great
initiative and one that we support
Diversifying what we offer
and opening a second campus
Thanks to increased demand we
are now starting to offer electrical
courses for our students. Many of
the maintenance companies we work
with have expressed a desire to place
their electrical apprentices with us,
and this diversification has come as a
At this point in the time, we have the
capacity to incorporate the growth
in numbers, but at some stage in the
future we will need a second campus,
the location of which will need to be
sensible and accessible.
No matter how many campuses
we open, however, we will not
compromise on delivering quality
vocational education.
With the
experience we
our current
position, we
are trying to
take every
opportunity to
change the
way things
Woodford Heating
apprentice starting his
unvented cylinder task

This article was sponsored by Choice Training. The Parliamentary Review is wholly funded by the representatives who write for it. The publication in which this article originally appeared contained the following foreword from Rt Hon Kwasi Kwarteng.

Rt Hon Kwasi Kwarteng's Foreword For The Parliamentary Review

By Rt Hon Kwasi Kwarteng

This year’s Parliamentary Review reflects on a tumultuous and extraordinary year, globally and nationally. As well as being an MP, I am a keen student of history, and I am conscious that 2020 would mark the end of an era. It will be remembered as the year in which we concluded Brexit negotiations and finally left the European Union. Above all, it will be remembered as the year of Covid-19.

In our fight against the pandemic, I am delighted that our vaccination programme is beginning to turn the tide – and I pay tribute to the British businesses, scientists and all those who have helped us to achieve this. But the virus has dealt enormous damage, and we now have a duty to rebuild our economy.

We must ensure that businesses are protected. We have made more than £350 billion available to that end, with grants, business rates relief and our furlough scheme supporting more than 11 million people and jobs in every corner of the country, maintaining livelihoods while easing the pressure on employers. The next step is to work with business to build back better and greener, putting the net zero carbon challenge at the heart of our recovery. This is a complex undertaking, but one which I hope will be recognised as a once in a lifetime opportunity.

Through the prime minister’s ten point plan for a green industrial revolution, we can level up every region of the UK, supporting 250,000 green jobs while we accelerate our progress towards net zero carbon emissions.

With our commitment to raise R&D spending to 2.4% of GDP and the creation of the Advanced Research & Invention Agency, we are empowering our fantastic researchers to take on groundbreaking research, delivering funding with flexibility and speed. With this approach, innovators will be able to work with our traditional industrial heartlands to explore new technologies, and design and manufacture the products on which the future will be built – ready for export around the globe.

And I believe trade will flourish. We are a leading nation in the fight against climate change. As the host of COP26 this year, we have an incredible opportunity to market our low-carbon products and expertise. Our departure from the EU gives us the chance to be a champion of truly global free trade; we have already signed trade deals with more than 60 countries around the world.

As we turn the page and leave 2020 behind, I am excited about the new chapter which Britain is now writing for itself, and for the opportunities which lie ahead of us.
Rt Hon Kwasi Kwarteng
Secretary of State for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy