Former jockey canters into construction apprenticeship aged 50

Michael Schofield, a former Jockey from Swindon, recently relocated to Darwen in Lancashire to be closer to his grandson after retiring from the sport last January. At aged 50 and with a very particular skillset, Michael faced unemployment and limited career options.

Apprenticeships are proving a viable method of re-training people that are forced to retire early, out of work or wanting a career change.

Commonly associated among the 18-25 generation as an alternative route to university, apprenticeships have grown in popularity in recent years. This is partly due to rising tuition fees, but they have also proved a lifeline to those that are out of work.

Michael Schofield, a former Jockey from Swindon, recently relocated to Darwen in Lancashire to be closer to his grandson after retiring from the sport last January.  At aged 50 and with a very particular skillset, Michael faced unemployment and limited career options.

Michael Schofield

Michael admits that when speaking with an advisor at the careers centre, he initially rejected the concept of an apprenticeship as he felt they were for ‘young people’.  But after walking past a construction site near his home, where ENGIE is building a new development, Michael was inspired to obtain a Construction Skills Certification Scheme card and explore a path in construction.

Within months, he had secured the relevant certification to begin an apprenticeship and was offered full time training with ENGIE’s regeneration business (formerly Keepmoat Regeneration), where he continues to work on the very project that inspired his new career.

Michael explains: “It’s funny because I started off my professional life as an apprentice rider at 15 and I didn’t think that 35 years later I’d be embarking on another apprenticeship.  The reality is – I’m only 50 and so that’s roughly another 20 years I could still be in work, so why settle for any job that will pay the bills, when I could do something that I love and still progress.

“There are so many people that are out of work or, like me, had a job that you can only feasibly do for a certain period of time; so I think apprenticeships are a fantastic way of not just getting people into the working world – but getting them back into work.

“I picked construction as it seems like one of the few jobs where you really do climb up the career ladder and progression is fast.  It was also a welcome change to be on my feet instead of sitting on horses for hours.  My background in racing has definitely put me in good stead for this sector as racing is not dissimilar in that you start at the bottom and work your way up, while doing a real variety of tasks.”

Dave Sheridan, Divisional CEO for ENGIE, said: “We have a number of apprentices in their 50s and 60s and so this actually isn’t a unique case.  We’ve always encouraged candidates from all walks of life to take advantage of our apprenticeship or trainee schemes and Michael is a real asset.  He’s a shining example of why not to settle or think you’re ‘too old’ for an apprenticeship as you are only an apprentice for so long. 

“The country is in the midst of a housing and skills crisis, so the prospects in construction are second to none.  With the right attitude – which Michael has – you will go a long way.”

Interested in finding out more? Head over to our apprenticeships page

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