A South Tyneside teenager’s search for a new career opportunity saw him go in at the deep end.
Antoni Hill, from Simonside, South Shields, is making a big splash after being recruited as an apprentice by Arbeia Diving in Portberry Street, South Shields.
The 19-year-old mixes helping customers in the club shop with making his own dives into the sea as part of his bid to become a fully-qualified instructor.
The teenager has proved such a hit that he scooped a runner-up spot in the Apprentice of the Year category at the recent South Tyneside Business Awards.
Antoni had endured a spell of unemployment since leaving college, before deciding to dip his toe in the waters of the scuba diving world.
He was given a foot up the career ladder by the Employment and Skills Group (ESG), which help match apprentices with employment positions.
One of ESG’s customers is Arbeia Diving School in South Shields, owned and managed by Rob Mackins.
Mr Mackins needed a new member of staff for his shop and ESG employer engagement manager Jo Norford suggested taking on an apprentice could give business a boost. When the diving school advertised for the post, Antoni jumped at the chance – despite having no previous diving experience.
Antoni said: “I had been unemployed for a couple of months. It was becoming frustrating and I needed money. I saw the apprenticeship advertised and thought it would be something different. I had never dived before.
“I applied and went for an interview in the morning, Jo took me to see Rob and by the end of the day I had the job!”
“The apprenticeship is great and I’m training towards my professional qualification. I have even dived on wrecks at the North Sea, which is pretty cool.”
Mr Mackins hadn’t been keen on bringing an apprentice into the fold until ESG’s approach changed his mind.
He said: “Jo really understood what I needed. The apprenticeship programme helped me find the right person.
“Antoni is honest, hard-working and has progressed quickly with both the diving and the shop.”