The operator of the world's largest fleet of "pop-up" hospitals, Vanguard Healthcare, has appointed its first apprentice – and it is all thanks to business entrepreneur Sir Richard Branson.
Vanguard, based at Gloucester Business Park, has taken on Lawrence Parkin, 18, as an apprentice providing support to the sales and marketing team.
The company's marketing and operations director Mary Smallbone said: "After hearing Richard Branson talk so positively about apprenticeships at an Institute of Directors conference we decided that we wanted to begin an apprenticeship programme to give young people the chance to develop their skills.
"Apprenticeships are an essential part of supporting growth going forward not just at Vanguard but throughout the business industry. We're proud to invest in young local talent."
Training opportunities for young people are the cornerstone of The Age of the Apprentice campaign run by the Gloucester Citizen, Gloucestershire Echo and Stroud Life.
With our partners, Gloucestershire College, South Gloucestershire and Stroud College, Gloucestershire Engineering Training, Western Power Distribution, Delphi Diesel Systems and Speller Metcalfe we are highlighting the benefits of an apprenticeship.
It culminates in SkillsFest 2014 at Gloucestershire College on March 7 to 8.
Lawrence from Quedgeley is a former pupil at St Peter's High School, Gloucester, and a Gloucestershire College student before joining Vanguard Healthcare.
He said: "The thought of continuing full-time education didn't appeal to me and the apprenticeship route is the ideal opportunity to start building a career much quicker than if I did a degree.
"It's fantastic that Vanguard will also support me with my academic study and enable me to receive a marketing apprenticeship which will also include an NVQ qualification."
Lawrence, who plays for Quedgeley Wanderers Football Club, applied for the apprenticeship through South Gloucestershire and Stroud College.
The college's employer engagement business executive Anita Al-Zamily said: "Working with young people and employers such as Vanguard is extremely fulfilling." "We need more employers like Vanguard to support our young people to undertake apprenticeships.
"They provide young people with a nationally recognised qualification, hands-one experience in the workplace and industry-relevant skills.