Life of an apprentice

James Robins

James Robins is part way through his 12 month apprenticeship. In this interview he tells us about his life as a VLUK apprentice:

The life of a VLUK apprentice

In September 2018, James Robins began an apprenticeship with VLUK and 4 months into the 12 month programme he is reflecting on life as an apprentice through this interview:

What did you do before starting the apprenticeship?

On completion of my A-Levels at Kings School, I decided I wanted to spend a GAP year at Kings to help me to qualify as a rowing coach. During that year I was employed on a full-time basis by Kings and concentrating on gaining experience with my rowing coaching.

Why did you choose an apprenticeship?

6 months before the end of my GAP year work, I really wanted to stay on at Kings but I needed to be able to gain a qualification from the work I was already doing here. Then my coach told me about the opportunity to do an apprenticeship which would then give me a Level 3 NVQ Diploma qualification in the delivery of PE and School sports. So, with the help of my coach and VLUK, the apprenticeship was organised to start in September 2018.

What do you do day-to-day?

I now manage the school boathouse administration as well as coaching the J15 boys squad 5 times per week.

The boathouse administration includes things like entering and organising events for the students with British Rowing. I handle all the registration, organising crews, transport, health and safety and everything required throughout the event including supporting the students.

One competition we do is an indoor rowing competition where I invite local schools and rowing clubs to come and compete on the indoor rowing machines. We had over 200 entries this year and 32 races. I organised everything from contacting the schools with invitations, planning the race schedule, booking the facilities and managing the staff and equipment!

On average I work 38 hours a week with around 30 hours committed to the job and about 8 hours on my apprenticeship qualification.

How does VLUK support you?

The Sport Brain platform makes it really easy to get my work done as all tasks are set through this. The Sport Brain makes completing the work very flexible too. And I have 2 great mentors in Adam Powell and Allan Smart who are in regular communication with me to check that everything is going as it should be.

What have you gained so far from the apprenticeship?

Personally I have achieved a Level 2 rowing coaching qualification, Level 2 Powerboating qualification and through the apprenticeship I will achieve Level 3 NVQ, Level 3 Employment Awareness and Level 3 Apprenticeship Administration as well as lots of coaching development training. Also the sense of achievement when my students do well is amazing

What do you hope to do in the future?

I am hoping to continue with coaching rowing in some way and I hope that the experience and apprenticeship qualification will help me to achieve this.

VLUK’s Apprenticeships are designed to provide a vocational pathway for students in a range of environments including the community and schools. It’s particularly useful for those who already work, or aspire to work, in a physical education and school sport setting. The apprenticeship is designed to provide the apprentice with a greater understanding of programmes of study for physical education, the national curriculum and the environment in which they will be operating.

For more information on VLUK Apprenticeships visit