‘Fun, challenging and rewarding’ – UK Youth’s apprentice of the year full of praise for scheme. 

2 February 2024

  • Blog
  • Young People

To mark National Apprenticeship Week, from February 5-11, UK Youth is taking the opportunity to celebrate the achievements of its apprentices and the positive impact they make to our business and the wider community and economy, as well as how they develop skills for life through their roles at the charity’s Avon Tyrrell Outdoor Centre in the New Forest. 

Ben Finley is a second-year outdoor learning apprentice, having begun 12 months ago, fresh from completing a sports science degree at Portsmouth University. 

The 22-year-old, from Bournemouth, said: “I wanted to learn some new skills. I was very football-based, football-focused, and now I’ve learned so many different activities.  

“I had just come out of university and I needed experience out in the field and then I found this job. It involves a variety of activities, ranging from navigation, to orienteering and geo-caching. Then you’ve got your high ropes activities, so your leap of faith, incline logs catwalk, climbing, and you’ve got paddle sports, so paddle boarding, kayaking, canoeing and we do take the pedalos out. 

Young people looking and engaging with outdoor learning apprentice wearing helmets and harnesses in the forest under trees ready to do tree top trail

But alongside the fun activities – it is not all hot days paddle boarding on Avon Tyrrell’s lake, much as Ben might love that – he is also learning on the job, both how to instruct the different activities as well as wider skills for life. 

During the two-year apprenticeship, apprentices gain the skills and confidence to run a variety of outdoor activities, alongside qualifications in archery, high ropes and paddlesports instruction, mountain bike leadership, activity first aid and foundation safety and rescue. 

“You get the nationally recognised industry qualifications which authorise you to instruct the activities,” he says. “And then alongside that, during the apprenticeship you look at a soft skills, like what it takes to actually lead a group progressive group. 

“Before this I knew nothing to do with the industry in terms of the outdoors, but within a year I’ve been signed off on so many different activities that I thought I’d have no idea how to do it. 

“But it’s also the skills you learn from doing the apprenticeship, whether it just be personal skills and community leadership. Even just people skills, just talking to people and knowing how to be a leader in a sense, taking responsibility and things like that. 

“For me personally, the best thing has been the range of skills we’ve got. It’s definitely a lot of fun, challenging, but also rewarding.” 

Outdoor learning at Avon Tyrrell is based on a model of Experience, Learn and Develop, with a desire to offer equitable access for all.

And Ben is full of praise for the model and outdoor learning in general. 

“That’s what we try to bring out to groups,“ says Ben. “But it’s lovely, it’s fun, isn’t it? Everyone’s enjoying themselves. You can teach different levels of groups. If there are those who want to take it harder, you can do some more experienced skills, but then there are those who are just there for a bit of fun. It’s nice just seeing people telling you what they want to get out of the session and then seeing it happen in place.” 

Ben is also full of praise for the team at Avon Tyrrell, being one of almost a dozen apprentices – most of whom who live on site – alongside the instructors and the rest of the staff. 

Apprentices at Avon Tyrrell, who must be 18-plus enjoy free on-site accommodation in the first year, plus low-cost accommodation in the final year of their two-year apprenticeship. 

They must have a friendly, enthusiastic personality and a can-do attitude, enjoy working with people of all ages, be happy to work outside in all weathers and have the resilience and stamina fully commit to the programme 

Ben says: “We’ve got a different range of experience throughout the team, and there’s about 10 apprentices, so it’s nice to know you’re not the only one who’s there to learn and discover these new skills, but it’s a good, good experience.” 

“You sort of fully immerse yourself into the into the role, if you like, because you’re living on site.” 

Ben Finley, UK Youth's 2023 apprentice of the year.

Looking ahead, Ben wants to take the skills he is learning overseas, safe in the knowledge he is doing something right after being crowned UK Youth’s 2023 apprentice of the year. 

“My next step is hopefully to go abroad and do this sort of stuff, but in different countries. I haven’t actually had like a gap year or anything yet, so I’d love to go and work abroad and do this just somewhere a bit warmer.” 

“Doing this has definitely cemented the ideas and the fact this is where I’m meant to be, something I’m meant to be doing and I must be all right on my job if I got that title. It is really nice as an apprentice because to have everyone else, the other team, the instructors come and give you that feedback. It’s really nice.” 

David Watts, UK Youth director of outdoor learning, said: “Avon Tyrrell supports equitable access for all young people and is proud to be a leader in the use of outdoor learning to transform the lives of young people and communities. Young people sit at the heart of our work at Avon Tyrrell and our experience, learn and develop framework ensures we support personal development on every visit, be it one of our popular educational  or youth group visits or a family break or day out.

“We are very proud of our Outdoor Learning Apprenticeship programme, it is a great way to start a career in the industry and we make every effort to give the apprentices a broad range of training and qualifications. Our investment in apprentices ensure they are a hugely important part of the Avon Tyrrell team, working to deliver rewarding experiences for all our visitors, while developing key personal and professional skills as they go.”

To find out more about apprenticeships, see apprenticeships.gov.uk or visit here for more information on outdoor learning apprenticeships at Avon Tyrrell Outdoor Centre.

UK Youth is a leading charity with a vision that all young people are equipped to thrive and empowered to contribute at every stage of their lives. UK Youth reaches more than four million young people across the UK and is focused on unlocking youth work as a catalyst for change. To find out more, visit ukyouth.org  

UK Youth is involved in a range of programmes designed to help young people thrive, such as outdoor learning, physical literacy, social action and employability, including Hatch, a youth employability programme run in partnership with KFC. For more on UK Youth’s programmes, see ukyouth.org/what-we-do/programmes 

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