If his face looks familiar, it’s because for the last few years Josh Tapper and his family have been fixtures on Channel 4’s Gogglebox.
But he’s moved on from lying on the sofa watching television to a very different role.
The 20-year old is now working in the Cabinet Office, the government department responsible for supporting the Prime Minister and the top members of her team. And he got the position after successfully applying for an apprenticeship programme.
“Growing up I’ve always had a massive interest in politics,” he says.
He stumbled across the apprenticeship opportunity via a Google search.
“I applied for it, went through the application process, and I was one of the lucky 27 who got onto the scheme.”
There are several different apprenticeship schemes available through the Civil Service. The scheme Mr Tapper is on, which focuses on communications, is only in its second year.
“Some people are in the Ministry of Defence, some in the Cabinet Office, or the Foreign and Commonwealth office, it varies,” he says.
“The idea is that within your department, throughout the 18 months the apprenticeship lasts, you’ll rotate once or twice between different teams working in the area of government communications. So I’m in the campaigns team, and then hopefully going into the Number 10 digital team in the summer. Some people go to the press office, the visits team, external affairs. The idea is that it’s 80 per cent on-the-job, 20 per cent off-the-job learning.”
Mr Tapper says he has attended cross-government meetings on campaigns such as the Northern Powerhouse and the Global Britain projects.
“I love it, it’s really interesting and engaging. Every day is different. I’ve learned so much in the last five months.
“The thing with the Civil Service, and it sounds really clichéd, is that you feel you’re doing something that has a purpose to it, something that matters. So every day when you’re working, you feel like what you’re doing is going to make a difference to people’s lives.”
Mr Tapper took his A-levels at Yavneh College in Borehamwood and originally planned to study international relations at Birmingham University. But when he failed to achieve the required grades he sought an alternative. He is glad that he did.
“I already had doubts about going to university. Then when I didn’t get the grades I needed, I decided it wasn’t for me. So I spent the year discovering what I like, what I wanted to go into. I did bits and pieces of work experience, and then decided I might actually want to apply for this apprenticeship scheme.”
The government has strongly promoted apprenticeships, with around 28,000 positions available at any one time in over 300 different professions, including teaching, marketing and hospitality. Mr Tapper is concerned that young Jews might ignore the opportunities offered by apprenticeships in favour of the more conventional path of A-levels and university.
“I think that we all need to escape this bubble that there’s a set route of going to school, doing A-levels, going to university and getting a qualification, then going out and getting a job” he says.
“There seems to be a stereotype that apprenticeships are just technical, but they vary. You can get creative apprenticeships, even academic apprenticeships.
“So it’s not a matter of ‘if you’re an electrician or plumber, you do an apprenticeship, and if you don’t want to go into the construction profession then you should go to university’. I think it completely depends on the best way that a person learns.”
As far as Mr Tapper is aware, he is the first Jew on this apprenticeship scheme. He praised the Civil Service for being “really flexible” regarding religious requirements. “I’ve already had that conversation about time off for religious holidays,” he says.
Although his family are still on Gogglebox, Mr Tapper has taken a break from the show.
He says that his family is “very proud” of his new role. “They’re thrilled for me that I get the opportunity to work in the Prime Minister’s office.
“I got business cards printed off, which I gave to my grandparents — my grandmother wanted one so she could show all her friends. They love it.
“What I’ve done is not the typical route, especially from in our community. I feel like Jewish parents have the dream that their child’s going to go off to university and become a doctor or a lawyer. But I think it’s really opened their eyes to the other opportunities there are out there.”
Mr Tapper praises Yavneh as “a great school which gave me a really good education”. However, he says that schools could do more to publicise the benefits of apprenticeships.
“I had to go out and look for myself, and I think that all schools can do a lot more to put apprenticeships on the same level as universities, to make sure that all the options are there for all types of students.”
Find out more about the Government Communications Service apprenticeship (which has now extended the deadline for applications until 25th March) here
Find out more about the Fast Track Civil Service apprenticeship (also still open for deadlines) here