Nigel Bennett 2 (2)

Construction materials group Breedon is paving the way for workers to switch careers and pursue a new life as an HGV driver through its apprenticeship scheme.

The company is capitalising on the government opening up apprenticeships across all levels of learning and giving people of any age the chance to change jobs and enrol on a level 2 Large Goods Vehicle apprenticeship.

One, 42-year-old Nigel Bennett (pictured), swapped his previous life as a manager in a special needs children’s home for life on the road.

He is now employed full-time as a concrete mixer truck driver.

Bennett said: “I was looking for something where I could start completely from scratch because I didn’t want to stay in the industry I was in – the career change offered me a chance to learn something new.

“I turned 40, I realised I couldn’t do that for the rest of my life, I suppose it was a bit of a midlife crisis – I just fancied a change.”

Another apprentice, Robbie Parr, swapped an office-based job for one behind the wheel and he encouraged others to make the leap: “It’s not just passing your driving test then spending your life on the motorway,” he explained.

“There are all sorts of aspects to the job, you could go into all sorts of different industries.

“I’m in construction at the moment, but I could go into something else and once you’ve got the experience through your licence, there’s all sorts of opportunities for you.”

Stewart Hook, learning development manager at Breedon Group, said apprentices were starting to be seen in a different light from when they were perceived as a junior and straight out of school.

However, he added that some businesses were still getting to grips with that: “It’s about changing the mindset of the marketplace and showing that it is about learning new skills – an apprentice could also be at degree level,” he said.

“The structure of the levy has created some barriers for the way we can fund apprentices, but I think there are also some creative ways we can work with the levy funding, it’s just a new way of thinking that is needed.”

Neil Bates, MD of Seetec Outsource, which helped Breedon with its apprenticeship scheme, said more investment in these programmes could help reskill many who have been made unemployed by the pandemic: “Apprenticeships are a key part of the skills recovery from Covid-19 and we will continue to build on our existing employer relationships to raise the prominence of this particular route to a successful career,” he added.