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Beyond apprenticeship: Jock Duncan’s speech to his peers...

‘At the start of my apprenticeship I was completely inexperienced in my chosen industry – a little hesitant as to where I wanted to be, and doubtful as to the value of the training I was starting, as opposed to going straight to university.

Four years ago, however, I just decided to go for it. And since then, I have enjoyed
opportunity after opportunity to learn, gain experience and excel in my chosen career.
With AiGTS managing things and mentoring me along the way, I didn’t look back.

Today, I have my trade certificate under my belt, a sound mind as to where I want to go in life, and a strong foothold in my chosen career with four years of industry experience.
And tonight I am speaking in front of an audience – something I would never have
thought myself capable of.

While it certainly wasn’t a walk in the park, my apprenticeship was an enjoyable experience that has left me with a sense of achievement – and not only in terms of my academic and career progression. I believe it has taught me broader life principles: it has taught me that hard work pays off in the end, and that no great achievement is possible without persistent work; and that there is no substitute for experience. I therefore feel that tonight is a celebration of achievement, and it is the completion of a
journey. But the more I have thought about it, the more I have realised that this is as much a beginning as an ending. One thing that I’ve learned during my apprenticeship is the importance of thinking about what I want in life and where I want to end up, so that the decisions I make today genuinely reflect where I want to be tomorrow.

I think if we’re not careful, we can easily slip into a mundane routine of working, eating and sleeping, and not really asking ourselves what it is that we’re aiming towards. Many people tend to live each day as it comes, without actually thinking about where their life is going.

Someone once said to me that the way you live your days is the way you live your life. What else is life, other than a large number of days strung together? And so, I think it is important to reflect on how we spend our days on average, and whether that will deliver the sort of life we would be happy to look back on.

Two and a half thousand years ago, the philosopher Socrates said the unexamined life is not worth living.

One of the concepts I’ve learned during my apprenticeship is to live life by design, rather than by default. Live a life that has been consciously thought out with a purpose, as opposed to just letting life pass us by – not getting to the end thinking: ‘I wish I could give that another go.’

And so, as I and many others now finish our apprenticeships, the question becomes: what now? Is this the end of the road in terms of progression? Have we reached the limit of what we can achieve? Someone once said the measure of who you are is what you do with what you have. Tonight, we celebrate the fact that many of us now have, not only a nationally recognised qualification, but an opportunity to shape the course of our lives. So the only question now is: what will we now do with what we now have?’