Young Niall reminds me of me

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My daughter, Lena, is studying a BTEC Level 3 Extended Diploma in Fashion and Clothing at South Downs College.

She will soon be deciding whether to further her studies at university, or attempt to find a job in fashion.

I sold my tools and machines to boost our finances.

It is estimated that, today, graduates will leave university with average debts of around £44,000 and will be repaying them well into their 40s.

A sobering thought, and that’s before embarking on three years’ hard study!

Apprenticeships can offer an alternative to university, providing a qualification with the possibility of employment at the end.

Large corporations and many small companies now recognise the benefits of apprenticeship schemes.

I’ve been very fortunate to have experienced the best of both worlds, serving an apprenticeship in carpentry & joinery from 16-21, then, following a building recession and a reoccurring prolapsed disc, I went to university aged 24 to study a degree in Fine Art Valuation.

I feel either luck or fate played a part in both. My old school woodwork master Harry Bourne personally called his former workmate at well-known local Portsmouth building firm Barnes & Elliott and secured me an interview for an apprenticeship.

Then, when my back problem forced me to give up carpentry and my only other interest was antiques, as luck would have it the only degree course on Fine Art and Antiques Valuation in Europe was at Southampton Solent University!

I caught the bus each day from Edinburgh Road in Portsmouth and used the hour each-way journey to read my library books.

I sold all my woodworking tools and machines to boost our finances and ended up with a large student loan – and Mrs Cameron worked to support two children and a student husband for three years!

My first post-graduate job was at a firm of auctioneers in Salisbury, which meant a 90-mile round trip, but I was just glad to get a job in the business.

Last year I received a letter and CV from a young lad called Niall, enquiring whether we had any jobs at Nesbits auction house.

I could see from his CV he was very keen – he had gained work experience at several West Sussex auctioneers and had just completed a technical award in antiques valuation with the National Association of Valuers & Auctioneers.

Now he is the first apprentice valuer in the country. He travels 90 miles by train to work at Nesbits each day, using the commuting time wisely to read his antiques reference books. Reminds me of someone!

Antiques expert John appears on TV shows including Cash In The Attic and Put Your Money Where Your Mouth Is and also runs Nesbits auction house in Southsea. E-mail or call (023) 9229 5568.