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Training Matters: A thank you to my apprentices

Sue Green is the recipient of the 2015 chairman’s award for her outstanding contribution to journalism training.

She is a former regional journalist who has been teaching NCTJ-accredited courses at City of Wolverhampton College for over 15 years.

Most recently Sue has been leading the training for the college on the BBC local apprenticeship scheme, made up of 46 BBC local radio apprentices and three apprentices on the Express and Star newspaper.

In the final blog of the year, Sue reflects on her year training the new apprentices and what they were able to learn from each other.

Sue Green with NCTJ chairman Kim Fletcher

Sue Green with NCTJ chairman Kim Fletcher at the recent Jouralism Skills Conference

The young apprentice was deceptively quiet when she took me on one side and whispered she was not very academic.

As she took her seat with the chosen ones from thousands of applicants across the country, it was hard to imagine she would not fulfil her wildest dreams, despite doubts in her own ability.

The unnerving thing for them in all the excitement was they did not know what to expect.

For me, their challenge of a lifetime on the BBC’s biggest ever apprenticeship scheme was going to be a tough call, unless handled in a positive light.

The big question was how to channel the enthusiasm of the class of 2014-15 along the route of hard, determined study to reach the required high standards of an NCTJ professional qualification.

So my opening statement on day one of training went something like this: “I am nobody’s friend and I don’t smile ’til Christmas.”

Now, a year down the line, I’m delighted to report I am in the very unusual position of having 44 very special friends – in towns and cities across the UK where there is a BBC local radio station.

And it does not stop there.

I now realise so many of them must have nominated me for this year’s NCTJ chairman’s award for an outstanding contribution to high standards of journalism training. Wow!

The penny dropping moment was when NCTJ chief executive Jo Butcher said afterwards she was worried the surprise might have been let out of the bag because there were so many nominations.

I cannot begin to say how thrilled and surprised I was to receive this accolade.

This is my first opportunity to say thank you to my lovely apprentices.

We all share this achievement. So on reflection, what was the key to our success?

For me, it began with the disclosure of so many shock stories and bad experiences – from those who only ever stacked supermarket shelves, those who had been excluded from school, those who were told by school teachers they were thick and those who left school without any qualifications.

As both journalist and trainer, I was genuinely interested. Most importantly, I took the time to listen to their stories. I was not going to let them down.

Once the apprentices knew this, they believed in me and started to really believe in themselves. We liked each other and so it was time for everyone to knuckle down.

This meant total commitment in making the very best of such a fabulous opportunity to work with the BBC and achieve the qualification. My instruction was clear: “You must shine like little stars in the sky.”

Every unit of study was another jigsaw piece in their first step towards the best job in the world. Inevitably, there were those who said they did not do politics.

“No! Public affairs is about how the country is run. Whatever the platform, this understanding is essential so you can do the job you want.”

They listened. Love it. Love them.