John Hays established what is now the nation’s favourite travel agent in 1980 and began training apprentices in the following year – 43 years later and the Ofsted-rated training provider has announced record applications for its 2024 intake.

Designed to support the learning and development of young people aged 16 and above, Hays Travel apprentices achieve a nationally recognised qualification at the same time as earning a salary and gaining valuable work experience. For 2024 up to 500 apprentices will be recruited into branches around the UK and the company’s Sunderland headquarters.

Apprentices working in a retail branch follow an 18-month programme to attain a Level 3 Travel Consultant, while those in head office achieve a Level 2 Customer Service Practitioner qualification over 12 months.

Six months into the first year of his apprenticeship, 16-year-old Millen Jane works with colleagues in the product marketing team, he said: “I was surprised when I joined how big Hays Travel is, I thought it was just a few shops, but it’s much more than that and there are so many people here, working in departments within head office and in branches, all with different skills. I’ve learned loads – a lot of travel knowledge, but life skills too, like how to manage my time.”

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Inspired by the examples of Chief Operating Officer, Jonathon Woodall-Johnston, and Head of Retail, Paula Barrett, who began with Hays Travel as apprentices and have worked their way up through the organisation, Millen intends to stay with Hays Travel, he said: “I definitely want to stay here for a while, and ideally move up into management.

“When you’re at school, the first impression of what work is like is being stuck at a computer, but that’s not how it feels - the work is interesting, and everyone gets along and is supportive.

"What I like is that you get one-to-one time with your trainer and there are continuous development opportunities, even once you complete your apprenticeship. The workload has gradually built up as I’ve grown in confidence, but I feel comfortable enough to say if I have too much going on. My advice to future applicants is to just do it! You will meet new people, make new friends, and learn a lot.”

Jonathon Woodall-Johnston, Chief Operating Officer of Hays Travel, said: “Having started off as an apprentice myself, I know first-hand how effective an apprenticeship programme is in providing a rounded working and learning experience – one that is hard to find anywhere else. Travel offers a brilliant, interesting, and rewarding career and our apprenticeship programme makes it accessible to all with a positive outlook and the will to succeed.

“We recruit apprentices nationwide, and our programme puts participants at the heart of the action. We are a family business, and we value all our colleagues, none more so than our apprentices – everyone works together to support their development and celebrates in their success.”

In their 2023 inspection, OFSTED rated Hays Travel’s apprenticeship programme good overall and outstanding for Behaviour and attitudes and Personal development. Hays Travel was also ranked 11 in the top 100 apprenticeship employers 2023.

Hays Travel is the UK’s largest independent travel agent and was voted the nation’s favourite to win three gold awards at the British Travel Awards 2023: Best National Travel Retailer, Best Travel Agency for Cruise Holidays, and Best Retailer for Forex/Travel Money.

  • The BUSINESSiQ Awards will be held at Ramside Hall on Thursday April 25, where our keynote speaker will be Dame Irene Hays, owner and chair of Hays Travel. Click HERE to reserve your tickets