Stephen Rushton admits he didn’t like school. 

The ex-Hanley High pupil recalls: “The only subjects I liked were maths and art. The interest in maths stemmed from playing darts with my dad and the art because I was handy with a spray can.” 

Stephen did however link up with training organisation Project Management (later PM Training) after leaving school at 16, completing 12 months on an engineering programme before switching to painting and decorating which he preferred.  

Stephen was an apprentice at S.Peake & Sons, transitioning there as he puts it: “From someone who wasn’t interested in learning to someone who really wanted to learn.”  

“I studied for five years and gained the Chartered Institute of Building (CIOB) site management qualification which gave me the confidence to go self-employed as a painter and decorator.” 

In 1995 Stephen was offered a job with the Probation Service, supervising offenders at weekends, teaching them painting skills. This meant Stephen, who by now had two children, was working seven days a week and then he was offered work as a tutor at Project Management. Incredibly, he kept this up for 12 years, but something had to give, and he let the business go when he was offered the job of training manager then progressing to head of partnerships.  

Stephen said: “The company rebranded to PM Training, and I became a director. I had overall responsibility for stakeholder engagement, upskilling and apprenticeships contract delivery which to me was a labour of love. 

“The company ceased trading in 2022 and I swiftly moved to setting up my own business, Training & Business Solutions Ltd. I concentrate on school leavers as well as upskilling adults to apprenticeships. My clients range from sole-traders to large businesses. 

“I ensure that I match the learner, with the right employer and trainer. It sounds simple but if you get one part of the jigsaw wrong it all falls apart. 

“I work with 11 training providers, both colleges and training companies. I have excellent contacts built up over the years and I see my business goal as getting young people started on a meaningful career path.” 

Stephen’s passion for apprenticeships and getting young people started means he spends a good deal of his time doing unpaid work speaking to pupils and parents, extoling the virtues of apprenticeships. 

Stephen said: “I grew up in Abbey Hulton and I still live nearby. I regularly talk to parents and children at the Abbey Hulton Sports & Social Club, offering information, advice, and guidance. I also speak at school assemblies, and I am a Stoke & Staffordshire LEP Apprenticeship Ambassador. 

“My audience is years 9 to 11 and I stress the importance of study, hobbies and interests and get them to think about making their CV stand out from the crowd. 

“To quote Paul Devoy, CEO of workplace accreditor Investors in People, “Apprenticeships are the key to social mobility and high-quality apprenticeship programmes are essential for companies looking to grow the workforce of the future.” 

“It is vital that more employers grow their own talent and invest in running high-quality apprenticeship programmes. We need that shift in approach to reverse the decades of skills gaps and shortages. 

“An apprenticeship turned my life around and I want to play my part in giving as many young people as possible the opportunities and rewards that I have had.”