Meet the 50-year-old Barking and Dagenham College apprentice

Barking and Dagenahm College apprentice
Karen Boxall, 50, works at the fitness centre

Barking and Dagenahm College apprentice Karen Boxall, 50, works at the fitness centre - Credit: Archant

Apprenticeships have played a key role in certain industries for a great many years, but now more and more people are choosing to earn while they learn across a host of different careers.

Barking and Dagenahm College apprentice
Karen Boxall, 50, works at the fitness centre

Barking and Dagenahm College apprentice Karen Boxall, 50, works at the fitness centre - Credit: Archant

The ninth annual National Apprenticeship Week runs until Friday, in a boost to highlight the importance of work-based learning.

But it’s not just school-leavers that are embarking on vocational schemes, as the system can also serve as a useful stepping stone for those wanting a career change.

Mum-of-four Karen Boxall has spent the best part of 30 years running a number of successful businesses, but began a leisure management apprenticeship at Barking and Dagenham College in September to pursue her dreams of becoming a personal trainer.

Starting out in the food trade, the 50-year-old had operated a pie and mash company for 15 years with restaurants in Goodmayes and Stratford, before opening a pine furniture business in Takely, Essex.


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After a decade attending auctions and working out of a warehouse, she spent two years running a tanning and beauty outlet in Suffolk.

But now Karen, who lives in Romford, can be found in the Rush Green college’s fitness centre, where she is the temporary manager.

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“It’s never too late to change career or give something else a go, one million per cent,” she said.

“You can be stuck in a rut for a long time if you don’t follow your heart so I’d encourage anyone to think about an apprenticeship if you’re looking to change career.

“I’ve run businesses before but this was a totally new industry for me and it’s certainly been a real eye-opener.

“I’d always gone to the gym and that’s something I enjoy.”

Although her sons – aged between 32 and 21, two of whom own companies – found it amusing that their mum was embarking on apprenticeship, Karen is already making her mark.

“I’m really enjoying what I’m doing,” she added.

“Hopefully I’ll have decent management experience in five years and will have qualified as a personal trainer.”

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