National Apprenticeship Week 2018: Discover your future

By: Dave Gunner

March 4, 2018

National Apprenticeship Week 2018: Discover your future

Next week is National Apprenticeship Week 2018. It’s an opportunity to raise awareness of apprenticeships as the gateway to a great career and showcase how they work for both the individual and the company, as well as the wider economy.

Many long and fulfilling careers have started with our apprentice schemes. Whether in engineering or Virgin Holidays retail, if you’re obsessed with aviation or travel and love the Virgin brand then joining one of our apprenticeship programmes could be the best thing you ever do. But don’t take our word for it. We chatted to a few of our Class of 2017 to see how they’re getting along and also caught up with Angie Lemkes, who leads the Virgin Atlantic and Virgin Holidays apprenticeship strategy.

Setting you up for a lifelong career

As one of our apprentices, you’ll get a decent wage as well as access to the best training and development in the business. You’ll also be working alongside experts such as our outsourced and overseas base maintenance manager Matt Sharp, who started his career as an apprentice 17 years ago. Matt joined us as an apprentice in the year 2000, and he vividly remembers being offered the position on the scheme and what a massive opportunity it was.

Matt Sharp

Matt Sharp

“There’s no doubt the skills and lessons I learnt during my 4-year apprenticeship set me up for a lifelong career in aviation,” he said. “As an 18-year-old just out of college, I was getting paid to train to be an engineer, and gained the knowledge and real-life experience of working for an airline. That can only come from being an apprentice”.

“Over the past 18 years, I’ve been fortunate enough to have some brilliant opportunities and some fantastic roles within the company,” he continued. “As a certifying engineer, I was responsible for all the maintenance on the aircraft my team and I were working on. I also got to be the flying engineer on a week-long Prime Ministerial tour of China, meeting David Cameron and being invited to Number 10. I then spent a year as an overseas technical representative working and living in the Philippines, China and Europe, before returning to LHR as a duty maintenance manager and now aircraft maintenance manager. The opportunity to learn in such a hands-on and practical way worked for me. It’s a credit to the apprenticeship that out of the 160 frontline engineers currently working at Heathrow, over 40% of them began their careers as Virgin Atlantic apprentices”.

Our 2017 apprentices share their experiences

Left to Right - Matthew Frain, Richard Fry, Ben Brash, George Ilbury, Chay Oliver, Macaulay Rhind, Joseph Brewer, Rebecca Hoibak, Steven Atiopou

Our 2017 Engineering Apprentices LtoR – Matthew Frain, Richard Fry, Ben Brash, George Ilbury, Chay Oliver, Macaulay Rhind, Joseph Brewer, Rebecca Hoibak, Steven Atiopou

In advance of National Apprenticeship Week 2018, we caught up with nine of our 2017 intake of engineering apprentices, along with five Virgin Holidays retail apprentices. Here’s their take on how it’s going so far:

Can you tell us more about your role and journey?

Matthew Frain, Engineering: We’re all currently studying for our Category A licences at a training organisation in Engineering:e. The journey so far has been hard, but very rewarding and is completely different to what I’d been doing before joining Virgin Atlantic.

Katie McCartney, Virgin Holidays: I absolutely love working at Virgin and talking to customers about all the fabulous holidays they are going on or would like to go on. I love the working environment and of course the amazing red uniform!

Chay Oliver, Engineering: I love that I’m expanding my knowledge and experience bank. The sense of achievement after succeeding in any form exam is a great feeling!

Joseph Brewer, Engineering: I became interested in engineering at secondary school where I studied industrial engineering. As a Virgin Atlantic engineering apprentice, the journey was very different to anything I’ve experienced in the past. The feeling of working for a company like Virgin is excellent.

Tell us about the training and development you have had since joining us? 

Matthew: My best memory of working at VA so far has been the on the job training that we have completed during our studies. I got involved in changing one of the engines on a Boeing 747-400 aircraft, and it was amazing to see how the whole team joins together to make something like that happen.

Rebecca Holback, Engineering: Although I’ve spent a lot of time at our training facility undertaking an intensive course to study for my A licence, for one memorable week in January I spent time at the Gatwick hangar. I got to push back my fi rst 747 and perform a wheel change on a 330 – definitely the highlight of the apprenticeship so far!

Jack Lee, Virgin Holidays: Your knowledge of holiday destinations improves very quickly due to the training that is in place and all your colleagues really help you too. There are amazing benefits working for Virgin and it’s also a way of being able to travel to places in the world you’d previously only dreamed of!

Katie: At the start of the apprenticeship scheme we were taught about Virgin values and beliefs. We were also given an overview of the many countries that Virgin Holidays sells holidays to, and what products and services they offer such as car hire and experiences. This course benefited me as I have never flown long haul and I continue to revise all the information I was given.

Our Virgin Holidays Retail Apprentices LtoR Evie Greenhouse, Heather Graham, Jack Lee, Katie McCartney, Katherine Twemlow

What are some of the good memories you’ve made since joining?

Chay: So far, I would say my best memory is first walking into The Base (Virgin Atlantic’s state of the art training facility) or finding out I was offered the job, as this is what I have always wanted to do!

Macaulay Rhind, Engineering: My best memory so far is starting the jet engines on a 747 by myself (along with the supervision of a qualified engineer). It’s like nothing I’ve experienced before! Being in the cockpit during the tug process from the hangar to stand was also just awe-inspiring.

How would you describe the culture at Virgin?

Rebecca: “As anyone who works for Virgin Atlantic can vouch, the atmosphere and culture is like no other – I truly feel at home when I go to work”.

Matthew: The culture and atmosphere at Virgin is incredible. Everyone always seems to want to help each other, and you can tell that people love to work for the company.

Joseph: Everybody is friendly and will do anything and everything to help anyone in need.

Jack: Virgin Holidays has such a positive working environment. You make loads of friends through training and in store, and you build great relationships with customers and learn how to be confident when doing promotional activities.

Katie: The Virgin culture is definitely why I love working here. Every person I’ve met who works for Virgin is so friendly and welcoming. People work extremely hard but also enjoy their job and have lots of fun at the same time. It’s definitely the people you meet that make the whole experience at Virgin Holidays. The working area is also very vibrant.

Macaulay: I have pride wearing the uniform because I know it’s such a prestigious company. Everyone treats each other the same, and you’ll never be short of somebody helping you out. In the one month we worked with fully qualified engineers in the hangar, I learnt so much, and everybody was extremely helpful and welcoming. To the people who are looking to join it’ll be a pleasure to help you in your coming years at the company!

Do you have a message for anyone thinking of joining an apprentice scheme?

Matthew: My decision to join Virgin was the best decision I have ever made, and I would recommend the company to anyone that is thinking about joining the team.

Chay: I would just say be yourself at the interview as that’s what Virgin love! Go for it as it’s such a great place to work with endless possibilities.

Evie: It’s the best thing I could have done after deciding to leave university. I finally feel happy and content doing the job that I do.

Joseph: Not to think twice about joining as it will be the best decision of their lives.

Jack: I would recommend any future apprentice to apply as everyone does work hard but plays hard too. It’s a very fun company to work for. The advice I would give for the interviewees is just to be original, make friends and show that you have a great personality.

Macaulay: I can promise that as soon as you walk in you’ll never want to leave. I still remember the first day, it has to be the proudest moment of my life so far! It’s probably the best thing that’s happened to me.

Katie: Apply as there are so many opportunities at Virgin and also fantastic benefits! If you have a passion for travel and would like to see the world but also sell amazing adventures to customers, then Virgin is the place for you.

Everyone is welcome

Our apprentices will be among the people carrying our airline forward into a challenging and exciting future. Who knows what new technology they will come across in their lives? That makes it incredibly important to invest in their careers, and it means we must give them high-quality training and experiences while making sure they have the skills we need in our business and within our industry. We also believe apprenticeships provide a great opportunity for us to widen our diversity and inclusion, so that our workforce of the future better represents our customers and communities we serve. Angie Lemkes is our apprenticeship guru:

Angie Lemkes

Angie Lemkes

“Across Virgin Atlantic and Virgin Holidays, we are passionate about using apprenticeships to improve skills and development opportunities in our business. We have lots of exciting plans underway to increase the number of apprenticeship opportunities in our business for both new starters, and for existing employees.

“While apprenticeships are a great way to start your career, our apprenticeship programmes aren’t just for school leavers anymore. We actively encourage applications from all walks of life; this means all backgrounds, ages and experience. We are proud that all of our apprentices earn living wage, not an apprentice wage, and get to join our world famous benefit programme including seven return flights to travel anywhere on the Virgin Atlantic network.”

So what are you waiting for? If you are you obsessed with aviation and travel, come along and meet us on Monday 5 & Tuesday 6 March at the National Apprenticeship Show

National apprenticeship week is 5th – 9th March. Find out more about apprenticeships and why they work #NAW2018

Our engineering apprenticeship applications are now open. Apply at’s Find Apprenticeship Service. Closing date: 19 Mar 2018

For other apprenticeship opportunities, register for ‘apprenticeship’  job alerts on our dedicated Careers page or email

Dave Gunner

Dave Gunner

I love telling the story of our people, our planes, our places and our planet through Ruby Blog.

Categories: Our Experience