Don’t let exams get you down

Holly swimming with Nala in the firm's heated canine pool, where she is learning canine exercise skills as part of her apprenticeship.
Holly swimming with Nala in the firm's heated canine pool, where she is learning canine exercise skills as part of her apprenticeship.

Teenagers who are sitting their GCSEs this month are being urged to consider alternative routes into employment if they don’t get the results they want.

Nicola Swift-Hunter left school without good GCSE results, and even failed maths, but has since gone on to set up three successful businesses - Barker and Bonehouse, and Little Buddies, both in Cramlington, and Hair of the Dog in Bedlington.

She thinks there is a lot of pressure on students to achieve high grades, but is keen to point out that there are other options, including apprenticeships.

She said: “With the support of family and friends I was able to learn a new skill – dog grooming, which led me into an exciting career. I now employ others who have the passion for personal success and self-development in my dog grooming salons and dog daycare.

“I’m a big believer in apprenticeships: my husband did an apprenticeship in his younger years and is now in a successful career as a watch manager for Tyne and Wear Fire and Rescue. It was my husband that suggested I look into apprenticeships as an employer.

“After talking to various providers I took on my first apprentice Daniel, who, like myself, didn’t achieve the grades in school. With encouragement and a lot of hard work on his part, Daniel passed his apprenticeship and even went on to manage my Bedlington-based dog barbers Hair of the Dog.”

Mrs Swift-Hunter, who also offers work placements to local schools, such as Collingwood special educational needs school in Morpeth, recently hired another apprentice; 17-year-old Holly, from Cramlington.

She said: “Although Holly’s GCSE results weren’t near the A grade, she certainly has an A grade in determination and self-belief, and I truly believe that’s more important than any academic grade.

“Holly is learning new skills, like canine exercise swimming, animal management in our daycare, dog grooming and customer service through our apprenticeship provider Newcastle College, all whilst getting paid.

“Yes, young people should work hard to achieve the best possible grades they can in their exams, but they shouldn’t let low grades get them down.”

She added: “There’s always alternative routes – if plan A doesn’t work, the alphabet has 25 more letters.”