With government regulations encouraging students to stay in the ‘learning and improving’ business until 18, Dhekelia has been providing work experience opportunities for youngsters in the Eastern Sovereign Base catchment area.
The scheme managed by VTQ (Vocational and Training Qualifications) is part of the HQ British Forces Joint Educational and Training Services provision for young people within British Forces Cyprus and is available from centres across the island in Episkopi, Akrotiri and Dhekelia.
The aim is to offer young people the opportunity to achieve National Vocational Qualifications (NVQs) within a real working environment, learning on the job from professionals.
In Dhekelia three youngsters are among those signed up for apprenticeship training.
Twenty-year-old Josh Lovell is coming to the end of his Level 2 Apprenticeship in Business Administration. His last school was Cirencester College where he studied Business and Hospitality earning a First B Tech Diploma in Business. On arrival in Dhekelia in 2012 he swiftly signed up to the scheme and is due to finish his Level 3 Business Admin Diploma this May. Assessing him as he progresses through the course was VTQ Assessor Zoey Hindley, also the VTQ Manager in Dhekelia.
Josh hopes to go to University in Cardiff reading Event Management, a Foundation Degree that he hopes will broaden his knowledge and inform his selection of his ultimate specialisation.
While Josh was working in the Dhekelia Hive, the centre for information and guidance for soldiers, families and workers on Dhekelia Station, he also publishes the Station newsletter and Monthly Programme of Events, his fellow student Jay Smiley was sweating it out in the Battalion kitchen of the 2nd Battalion, The Royal Regiment of Fusiliers. Under the watchful eye of Sgt Craig Tait the Battalion’s Catering Manager, aspiring chef Jay was getting to grips with his Level 2 Catering apprenticeship.
The Level Two training will take him to the point where he is actually putting food on the plate that soldiers will eat. Jay knows the soldiers have high standards and if he can please them he has a chance of making a success of being a professional chef.
Sgt Tait has seen an improvement already in Jay. “These are youngsters on this course and they need to quickly learn to be responsible and I need to explain military terminology to them I have already seen a significant improvement in Jay, he knows it is important he gets his Level Two. Our normal sitting, the number we have to feed each session, is about 100 at a time.
“It is very intensive work. Jay has to know what he is doing. . Her has been here six months and has already begun to move round the kitchen looking like a professional. He is showing potential and flair and imagination, Jay’s communication skills have also improved, vital to a chef working in a busy kitchen and he is now a popular team player in this kitchen.
The Level 2 NVQ Jay is aiming for, will propel him above his peers, straight away, if he wants to join the Army as a chef,” said Sgt Craig Tait.
“You have to be good. The modern soldier’s taste are different to the old days. The Fusiliers for example, they don’t want deep fried food, the need energy-packed, healthy, tasty food and that is what we give them.”
So what’s on offer for the ladies?. Step up Eilidh Dunbar (19) a former student at Dhekelia’s King Richard School, she left in March 2014 and has already developed a huge reputation as a hard worker. With a job at in the Station cinema, she also helps at the Parachuting Centre on the base, is the publicity officer for the Base’s SSAFA committee and is doing an NVQ through the VTQ scheme in Customers Service. She left King Richard School with AS certificates in Business, Biology and a B Tech in Sport.
Eilidh is now working towards her qualification as part of the SSAFA Community Health Team based in the Dhekelia Medical Centre. Health Visitor Team Leader said, “We welcome the opportunity to take on an apprentice but were determined to give her a quality, tightly controlled and monitored experience. Primarily working with the Health Visitors and Midwives team, she can be seen providing support and learning on the job in the Medical Centre and the Station’s SSAFA Health Zone.”
Eilidh works three days a week and says she finds the work very interesting, “I see different aspects of work every day. Sometimes I’m helping with babies, the next day I may be out with the School Nurse and assisting in teaching a Year 8 Class at King Richard School.
“I’ve covered the dangers of smoking, prepared lesson plans and developed interactive games to keep up audience interest with Helen Provan’s, the School Nurse, help.”
Eilidh says she wants to work towards working with children. With that in mind she is planning to take a ‘Teaching English as a Foreign Language’ qualification. You’ve guessed it, Eilidh also wants to be able to travel the world and have a job she loves as well.
Apprenticeships on offer within the Garrison allow students to build up knowledge, skills and qualifications aged from 16 to 24. Qualifications on offer can include Customer Service, Business Administration, Children’s Care Learning and Development.
At Apprenticeship level the qualification is equivalent to five good GCSE passes; also available is Advanced Apprenticeships that are the equivalent of two A level passes. Supported by a paid weekly allowance.
The VTQ options, now allows youngsters to work with professionals, some of whom are leaders in their fields. Army chefs are among the best in the military world and have taken on and won, top culinary competitions. SSAFA provides some of the most experienced professionals available in Health Care anywhere. Equally importantly, apart from providing a grounding, it is an invaluable chance for youngsters to evaluate a potential career and give themselves a head-start over the competition at the same time.