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'Apprenticeships are for everyone' message as 61-year-old Falklands veteran takes on new challenge

PUBLISHED: 17:42 27 February 2019 | UPDATED: 17:42 27 February 2019

Merv Hines at work at the Silverwood Child and Family Centre. Photo: NSFT

Merv Hines at work at the Silverwood Child and Family Centre. Photo: NSFT

NSFT

The word apprentice tends to conjure up images of fresh-faced youngsters.

Former Royal Marine Commando Merv Hines (front left) in the early 1980s at Portsmouth Harbour, before setting sail for Gibraltar. Photo: Merv HinesFormer Royal Marine Commando Merv Hines (front left) in the early 1980s at Portsmouth Harbour, before setting sail for Gibraltar. Photo: Merv Hines

But that is not the case for 61-year-old Falklands War veteran Merv Hines, who started in a role with the region’s mental health trust last May and is telling his story ahead of National Apprenticeship Week next week.

Mr Hines, an apprentice receptionist at the Silverwood Child and Family Centre at Northgate Hospital, Great Yarmouth, served as a Royal Marine Commando for 16 years.

But he struggled to find a job in recent years, and was knocked back around 100 times.

He said: “I’d read about the Equality Act somewhere so I knew I couldn’t be discriminated against on the grounds of age, but I was still surprised when I got it,” he said.

Luke Rivens, who completed an apprenticeship at NSFT. Photo: NSFTLuke Rivens, who completed an apprenticeship at NSFT. Photo: NSFT

“I love it, particularly interacting with people, and I enjoy the crowd I work with.

“I’ve also learnt so much. I’d worked in admin many years ago but my office skills had got rusty and I’ve picked up new, softer skills to help me deal better with people.”

In addition to being a receptionist, he spends four hours a week studying for his level two business administration apprenticeship and will take exams in maths and English before his apprenticeship finishes in mid-August.

Norfolk and Suffolk Foundation Trust (NSFT) has around 180 apprentices and wants to encourage more people to apply for the roles.

Jane Stringer, NSFT apprenticeship lead, said: They offer an alternative pathway for people who do not want to go down the college or university route. Apprenticeships provide opportunities for people to learn while they earn and develop skills that will help them to progress and develop their careers.”

IT technician Luke Rivens is proof of the many career opportunities that can open up after completing an apprenticeship.

Since finishing an 18-month information and communication technologies (ICT) apprenticeship at NSFT in August 2016 after just eight months, Mr Rivens successfully applied for an ICT service desk post at Hellesdon Hospital and progressed further when he was appointed in January this year to his current job as an ICT field support technician, a role that takes him all over Norfolk to help colleagues with more difficult IT issues that cannot be resolved remotely over the phone.

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