Wheel of fortune

Before we issued the invitation for proposals from the sector, we set out to find out as much as we could about our learners. We collected real-life stories from Apprentices, their teachers and employers, and came up with a set of personas representing a range of learners from different parts of the vocational ‘sector’. We gave them a name, a back story and a set of aspirations. We came up with 16 personas covering the older and newer vocational areas, rural and urban, technical and people-centred areas, and a range of learning needs. In the event we commissioned content aimed at 13 of these.  You can read their stories below (the ones in grey did not get any commissioned content). We have included this here because, in view of the diversity of the skills sector, we feel it is a useful and engaging way to create and share a vivid picture of who our audiences are.

Wheel of fortune with names


JACK is training to be an AUTOMOTIVE ENGINEER. He is 17 and lives near Bristol with a homestay family. He is working in a big firm but wants to work in a small garage. He loves Top Gear but is interested in environmental issues (thanks to his favourite teacher at school). He is bright and responsible (did Duke of Edinburgh Award) but his education was disrupted because of family problems and he was in foster care for a while. He can be very focused on things he’s interested in but he can be quite casual about things he’s not interested in. He is left-handed and can seem quite clumsy with tools that are designed for right-handers.

LEO is studying DIGITAL MEDIA PRODUCTION for the broadcast sector. He is 19 and grew up in Devon; he is living with an aunt in London and a homestay family in Eccles while he works at the BBC in London and Salford. His classroom learning is delivered via the BBC Academy and on block release to a training provider that operates out of an FE college. He loves music of all kinds and at the moment wants a career in radio. He comes from a high-achieving family but is not academic – or focused. He is OK at maths and very articulate, but dyslexic. He doesn’t like the idea of admin getting in the way of his creativity, but he knows it’s vital.

MARIAM is training to be a BROADCAST ENGINEER. She is 20 and lives in Rochdale. She is on the BBC Apprenticeships scheme and is working towards a BEng in Broadcast Engineering. She was expected to go into the family import-export business, but resisted the pressure. She is the first in her family to be working towards a degree. Her Maths and science are excellent and she has always been interested in how things work. She is very shy and unconfident and hates working on team projects. She is the only girl on the scheme.

AGA is studying BUSINESS ADMINISTRATION. She is 23, lives in Croydon and works for a Polish travel firm doing data entry whilst studying through a work-based training provider. She wants to move into public-facing roles but her English is not good enough; though she has been resident in the country for three years she has not had opportunities to mix with British people; she has been at home since the birth of her child three years ago. She had worked in business admin in rural Poland but is having to work at a lower level here. She finds writing in English hard, and she gets frustrated with the number of rules in the British workplace.

LOU is studying CHILDCARE. Aged 19 and living in south London she has severe hearing loss following a childhood illness and her own education was interrupted. She wants to work with hearing-impaired children and is working towards a qualification in Childcare. She learnt BSL and she is struggling to achieve a GCSE in English. She is very confident with children but not with adults. She loves dance and theatre because she feels it brings her out of her shell.

DANNY is a 19-year-old trainee BRICKLAYER from south London. He had a reputation as a trouble-maker at school and his severe dyslexia was never addressed. He left with no qualifications and drifted into the construction industry as a hod carrier. He works on an infrastructure project on a historic site and has become fascinated by the heritage side of construction. He spends his spare time cycling around London with his camera taking photos of old buildings and learning about London history. He has got excited about sustainability and once he gets his City & Guilds wants to specialise in the heritage and/or environmental sector.

LOLA is an apprentice on the Royal Opera House scheme and is learning CARPENTRY in the scenery workshops in Thurrock. She is 18 and lives in Thurrock. She has always loved making things and was bitten by the theatre bug when she visited the Royal Opera House as part of the outreach programme.  She did not enjoy school and didn’t do very well but now she has found her niche and is making up for lost time. She is studying Level 2/3 Carpentry and wants to take this as far as she can, but needs a lot of help with Maths at the moment.

DAISY is a JEWELLERY apprentice. She is 21 and has just moved to London to work in the creative industries after working in an office job that she didn’t like. She feels much more suited to working with her hands and is very practical but not confident with marketing and all the things that go along with being self-employed (which she expects to be). She was ok but not great academically and has diabetes so, while it was easy to manage her condition when working 9-5, she is struggling to keep things under control at the moment and her stamina is suffering.

SOL, age 18, is an apprentice on the LIVE EVENTS & PROMOTION course at DV8 and wants to go into the FOOD events sector. Originally he thought he wanted to be a chef as he loves food, but he enjoys working with technology more and through working for a catering and food events company decided he would rather put his creativity into logistics and digital marketing than actual cooking. He is super-organised but comes across as a bit too bouncy and enthusiastic, so he needs to work at convincing people he knows what he is doing , especially when it comes to Health & Safety, paperwork etc.

BRIAN is training to be a HAIRDRESSER. He is 20 and lives in Essex. He had a few false starts after leaving school, doing basic skills at college, a Princes Trust course, and he had a go as a cook, but hated it. He is severely dyslexic but very sociable. His father saw the ad at the barber’s when they were looking for an apprentice, so he thought he’d give it a go. He has taken to the job and the learning but he knows he has a lot of catching up to do, especially with Maths, English and organisation. He is not very good with technology and has found learning games ‘a bit silly and patronising’.

PRITI worked in a hospital in India. She came to the UK three years ago (through marriage) and is studying HEALTH & SOCIAL CARE via a private provider in Leeds. She works with patients with dementia. She is 24 and though she studied through the medium of English she needs extra ESOL help and communication skills generally, to get her up to a standard where she can work with patients in the UK. She needs to learn about medicines manage-ment and health & safety in the UK context. She is tough, having worked in difficult conditions in India. She went into dementia care because it’s a shortage area, rather than by vocation.

NIKKI is a HORTICULTURE apprentice. She is 24 years old and lives in West London. She worked in media before and when she was a runner on a gardening programme she realise she wanted to work outside. She hopes to work in historical gardens. She is bright and sparky but not focused when it comes to academic work. She knows this is a problem, especially with respect to the admin needed to work in this sector and as a self-employed person.

ALEX is an apprentice LABORATORY TECHNICIAN. She is 18 and lives in Sale near Manchester. Her family are all health professionals but she hasn’t got the grades to go to university and in any case she doesn’t want to get a massive debt. She is torn between wanting to concentrate on the technical side and wanting contact with patients, so she is thinking of going into supporting dentists or opticians, radiologists and so on. She is, in fact, a little lost and wants to keep her options open.

BILLY is training in LOGISTICS. He is 23 and had no qualifications before going into the army. He had a difficult army career and left with a driving licence; he has hearing loss and he suffers from Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder as a result of seeing his best friend killed. He doesn’t want to be a driver because he feels he needs more support than he would get being on the road all the time. He wants to work at a more strategic level in logistics but his literacy and numeracy skills are not adequate and he is not used to working unsupervised.

MARCO is 18. He lives in Luton and is training as a PLUMBER. He has an apprenticeship with the family firm. He resisted this route for a long time until he realised that he wasn’t good enough to be a professional footballer. He is also realising how much time he wasted at school, so has a lot of catching up to do with maths and English. He wants to get a Gas Safe Certificate as soon as possible so he can take over the heating side when his uncle retires. He wants to learn more about how IT can help but his father and uncles do things the old-fashioned way, so he doesn’t get many opportunities at work.

JAMES is 19 and lives on a hill farm in the North Pennines. He is studying in the LAND-BASED sector. He was always expected to work on the family farm but insisted on going to university to study travel and tourism. He hated all the theory and missed the open air, and dropped out after two terms. Nevertheless he wants to explore the possibilities for tourism in his area, but meanwhile he has to do his bit with lambing, sheep shearing, driving, doing the agricultural fairs and so on. He is worried he will be too busy and too cut off to learn much.