EY Foundation, Edinburgh, July 2019.
© Malcolm Cochrane Photography 
+44 (0)7971 835 065 
No syndication 
No reproduction without permission

The apprentices going far and firing it up

Omar Choudhury has a lead role in the Government’s ‘Fire it Up’ apprenticeship campaign, and follows hot on the heels of fellow Foundation alumni, Chris Achiampong, who fronted up the 2016 campaign.

With National Apprenticeship Week underway (4-8 March 2019), it is the perfect time to find out more about their experience of working with the Foundation – a national charity that supports young people facing barriers to unlocking their potential in the workplace – and what it’s like to champion a national campaign.


Chris, Omar, tell us about your EY Foundation experience

Chris: My journey was very interesting, I was hoping to be a professional footballer and was playing for Arsenal football club and I unfortunately got released, so I was looking at different opportunities. I came across the programme at an event in London, so I was proud to be the first cohort and it was a superb experience.


Omar: Before Smart Futures (an EY Foundation skills-based training programme) I was intending to go to University to study Economics, and then pursue a career as a financial consultant. However, after my work experience I learnt that I didn’t need a degree to be successful in a Big 4 firm. I heard of the degree apprenticeship after networking with one of the managers at EY and I was massively interested. I came out of the programme having a better knowledge of the working world and my confidence boosted.


Ch: I came out of the programme with a different mentality on life, it was an opportunity to broaden my horizons and for me that was key. Smart Futures gave me a great insight into this world and harnessing my skills, and realising what I’m good at what career could potentially work for me.


O: The programme massively superseded my expectations. Without being on the programme I now wouldn’t be on the degree apprenticeship or have experienced some of the amazing opportunities I have been involved in.


It’s quite unique that both of you have been featured in national campaigns, why did you want to get involved?

Ch: I’m passionate about getting young people into work and levelling the playing field. I think an apprenticeship is a great pathway to help promote social mobility, and I’m a big advocate for the fact that it doesn’t matter where you come from, it’s where you’re going. Employers are really starting to understand that and are recruiting from a different talent pool. Apprenticeships in some way try to correct this balance.


O: I’ve always been keen on promoting the fantastic opportunities an apprenticeship can bring you and the Fire it Up campaign did this on a national level. I believe young people know about apprenticeships, but see them as inferior to university, which no longer is the case as there is such a range of apprenticeships out there. I believe schools need to inform their students about the amazing opportunity a higher/degree apprenticeship could give them.


What do you think about the current apprenticeship offering out there?

Ch: Looking at the nature of apprenticeships, and how they’ve changed, you can get an apprenticeship in anything – there’s a wealth of opportunities out there. You may as well go straight into your career because there are these fantastic apprenticeships available.


What would be your advice to any young person at school or college now thinking about their next steps?

Ch: I would tell them to have fun, meet people and speak to people. Sometimes you go into a job at 18 and you’re outside your comfort zone, but learning from people is the main thing. Also, don’t be afraid to make mistakes, you’re young, they’ll forgive you. Be proactive too, because sometimes we’re a generation who expect everything to come to us, whereas we need to ask for things.


O: I would tell them to gain as much work experience as possible, as this allows you to understand how different companies work. Although I had university and apprenticeship offers, had I not done work experience at EY I would never have worked at such an amazing and supportive company. I would also advise them to be confident, articulate and network with as many people as possible as this brings about opportunities, just as it has done for me.