APPRENTICES from a Basingstoke college are helping to publicise the benefits of earning and learning ahead of National Apprenticeship Week.

Now in its seventh year, the event, from March 3 to 7, helps to raise the profile of apprenticeships amongst employers, individuals, teachers, parents and the media.

Judith Moule, apprenticeship account manager at Basingstoke College of Technology (BCoT), said: “Apprenticeships are more popular than ever. Throughout the recession, the apprenticeship area is the only Government department that has grown, with £1.4million of investment and 870,000 people becoming apprentices within the last year. More and more people are turning their back on degrees and taking up apprenticeships.”

Judith is keen to put paid to myths suggesting apprenticeships are for those less academically able. She explained: “There’s a misconception that apprenticeships aren’t smart – if you can’t do anything else you can do an apprenticeship. But that’s not the case.

“They are aimed at high-level students as well, who really see education as part of their learning.”

Amber Hankins, 17, from Bramley, began an apprenticeship at BCoT in creative digital media last September.

She said: “I’m a creative person and not academic. College wasn’t for me – I don’t like being stuck in a classroom. With an apprenticeship, you get paid and I get lots of work experience.”

Neil Watts decided to return to education in his late 20s and is now enrolled as an electrical installation apprentice.

The 31-year-old secured his apprenticeship with Skilz, in Basingstoke, after the company gave him a second chance. Neil, from Overton, was accepted as an apprentice with the company when he was younger, but gave it up.

He said: “I regretted it forever, and then had the opportunity of starting again and I grabbed it. I’m lucky to get two chances.”

He added: “I gave it up because I thought I knew best and the money wasn’t good. But I didn’t know best.”

He soon realised that his earning potential could increase by completing the apprenticeship and becoming an approved electrician.

Preeya Lakhani is six months into a four-year mechanical engineering apprenticeship with Gillette.

The 18-year-old, from Skyline Plaza, Basingstoke, said: “I think I’m more practical-skill based – I prefer to learn by doing something.”

Preeya spends two days at BCoT and the rest of the week with Gillette, and at the end of the four years will gain various qualifications including an NVQ level 2 and 3 and BTEC level 2 and 3 in mechanical engineering.

She said: “It puts you in the working world a lot sooner so you learn from the people you work with around you.”

BCoT, in Worting Road, is holding an Apprenticeship Open Day on Monday, from 3pm to 7pm, supported by the National Apprenticeship Service.

The event will offer employers the chance to showcase businesses and promote apprenticeship vacancies.