National Apprenticeship Week 2021: From Apprentice to Assistant Principal | Nacro
National apprenticeship week Nacro simon ashton

National Apprenticeship Week 2021: From Apprentice to Assistant Principal


Simon’s journey with Nacro began almost 13 years ago as an apprentice at our Boston Education & Skills Centre. Since then, he’s witnessed the development of our education provision and worked his way up to assistant principal of Nacro Education. This National Apprenticeship Week, he tells his story and reveals how apprenticeships can open doors you never even knew were there.

As a child, I never would have imagined myself ending up as assistant principal and in charge of multiple education centres of one of the country’s biggest independent training providers. My passion was always sport, particularly football, and I was dreaming of a career on the pitch.

I was 14 when I stumbled upon Nacro for the first time. I’d been seeking out football-related work experience and Nacro offered me a 2 week placement supporting a sports project which aimed to engage with young people in rural Lincolnshire who were at risk of offending. We provided sports sessions in schools, parks and community centres, keeping local kids active, busy, and out of trouble. 

A couple of years later, I’d secured an apprenticeship with the local football club. But it fell through because the club had financial difficulties and so was no longer a professional club. It felt like a huge blow at the time. I had to re-consider my options. Where do I go? What do I do? Did I go on to Sixth Form, or college, or find another apprenticeship? That’s when I encountered Nacro again, and I was offered a Sport Development Level 3 apprenticeship with them. It was attractive because I could still do sports, it was flexible, and, of course, familiar.

The apprenticeship ran for two years and gave me opportunities I had never imagined myself doing. The initial practical sports focus gradually became more educational and Nacro supported me to get qualifications in teacher training. I started doing some teaching at 19 as part of the apprenticeship, focused more on qualifications and engaging with young people that weren’t in education or employment. I feel that teaching learners who were similar age to me helped them to better connect with me, and, I believe, may have inspired some to take a path similar to mine.

I stayed with Nacro beyond the end of my apprenticeship. As well as the teaching qualifications and training courses, I even studied a distance learning university degree with Nacro’s encouragement. During my apprenticeship, I had starting developing a real interest in education, and the opportunities that Nacro provided me in training and my studies helped cultivate an even stronger passion for further education down the line. 

The apprenticeship wasn’t something that I planned but in the end it felt completely right for me. From apprentice to teacher, then centre manager to now assistant principal, I have seen Nacro grow. When I began my journey, Nacro Boston had 10 learners; we now have over 80! I would not be in the role I am now without the skills and confidence I developed in my initial apprenticeship and beyond. I am now in a job I really enjoy at an organisation I’m really passionate about, and I’m here to do it for the learners. 

Things could have been very different if I’d stayed with football. But that’s what apprenticeships can do; they have the power to unlock new doors and spark new passions. They provide a valuable opportunity to learn whilst you earn, of taking a different route to employment that sets you up with practical skills and valuable links to organisations and employers. And that’s what I hope for our learners: to aspire towards apprenticeships. I tell them my story and hope that they feel excited about the doors that apprenticeships can open for them and about discovering the possibilities that lie beyond them.

Find out more about our education provision here.