London Eye's Boss Tells Budding Apprentices to Reach for the Sky

Article excerpt

Byline: David Cohen

ladder for london Evening Standard Campaign THE man in charge of some of the capital's top tourist attractions has committed his company to back our Ladder for London campaign and told potential recruits: "I was in your shoes once -- I too was an apprentice."

David Sharpe, 54, divisional director at Merlin Entertainments Group, has pledged to take four apprentices to be deployed at each of their attractions -- the EDF Energy London Eye, Madame Tussauds, Sea Life Aquarium and London Dungeons.

He said: "I left school at 18 on the Friday and went straight into an apprenticeship on the Saturday at the Marriott Hotel group."

Talking on board the London Eye to three potential recruits trained by our campaign partner City Gateway, he added: "Instead of going to university, I was washing glasses as a barman and worked my way up to food and beverage manager, front office manager, and then general manager.

"At 28 I went into opening hotels with the Hilton Group before starting at the London Eye in 2001. I look back on my career in the leisure sector and I can't believe how fast it's gone. I still feel 19 and, you know what, I wouldn't change a thing."

Lukki Lashley, 17, who left school with five GCSEs, said: "Do you mean that you achieved all this success from washing glasses in a bar on an apprenticeship?" Together with 18-year-olds Daisy Hamlyn and Amina Begum, Lukki was taking advantage of an exclusive audience with Mr Sharpe during a 30-minute rotation on the London Eye to grill him about his career. "It's important for us youngsters to hear personal success stories like this," said Daisy. "That someone can start off washing glasses and end up opening hotels and running the London Eye, well, it shows that if we keep focused, we can get there in the end." She added. "Watch out London, in 20 years, this could be my job!" The offer by Merlin Entertainments brings the number of apprenticeship places created to 324 since the start of our Ladder for London campaign six weeks ago.

It followed our investigation into rising youth unemployment in London, where 126,000 young adults -- one in four -- are jobless. So far more than 1,000 companies have inquired about taking on an apprentice. Organisations already signed up include Goldman Sachs, British Gas, Metro Bank and the Southbank Centre, as well as scores of smaller companies that have risen to our rallying cry of "just take one".

"Merlin has been hiring apprentices for a while but not in London," said Mr Sharpe. …