For National Apprenticeship Week’s Apprentice Wednesday, we are placing the spotlight on some of the 11,220 apprentices we have worked with over the past 20 years who have used the transferable skills they honed during their LFE Apprenticeship Programme to transition into either the professional game, or a new career.
Lewis Simmons signed for his boyhood club Preston North End at the age of nine and progressed through the ranks at Deepdale all the way up until the end of his apprenticeship, when he was unfortunately, released.
However, despite Lewis’ disappointment at not receiving a professional contract, he’d always had an idea of what he’d like to transition into if football didn’t work out. “I continued playing for AFC Blackpool but then Covid hit. I didn’t know exactly what to do but I had always had an interest in the army, and I knew there were lots of opportunities to play football and at a good standard within the army, so I signed up. It’s something I’d always had in the back of my head to be honest. Growing up, obviously becoming a professional footballer was my main goal but I’d always had a back-up plan with the army. My dad was in the army, but he never forced it upon me, it was all off my own back.
Lewis decided he wanted to really test himself and joined the Parachute Regiment of the British Army. “I joined the Parachute Regiment and that is kind of the elite of the elite. For me, it was either the Royal Marines or the Parachute Regiment. They’re the two most physically demanding in my eyes, the most challenging. I decided if I was going to do it, I wanted to join the best.”
Alongside his day-to-day job in the army, Lewis continued to pursue his passion for football. Thanks to the huge amount of investment put into army sport and the endless opportunities that it provides, the footballer turned paratrooper’s transition from academy to barracks was a relatively smooth one. “There is so many different teams you can play for in the army. My unit is the Parachute Regiment but there is hundreds of other units which can play against each other. I know lads in the team who have been let go by the likes of York City, Leicester, and Hereford, so we’ve got a lot of players who have played in a professional environment before. To be fair, it’s a really good standard of football.”
LFE work in partnership with the British Army to provide a pathway for apprentices like Lewis who wish to possibly pursue a career within the army. Lee Fraser is a Sports Engagement Warrant Officer for the British Army and delivers workshops to EFL academies all over the country. Lee believes the transferrable skills apprentices learn during their apprenticeship stand them in good stead to transition into the army. “An academy footballer is about 75% there (being a soldier) due to the fantastic work put in by the academies. This is why the link is so good between us and LFE. These young lads know about working in a team, being on time, what to wear, what to eat, being fit and motivated. The transferrable skills are there. Some players won’t make the cut at their clubs because they’re missing a couple of bits – the Army can give them that.”
LFE supports current and former apprentices like Lewis by providing tailored and specific personal development and life skills sessions in clubs. Over the past 20 years, LFE has delivered over 7,500 workshops, reaching in excess of 150,000 people in the process.