67-year-old Robert becomes funeral firm’s oldest apprentice

A former policeman has become one of the oldest apprentices in the UK, having launched a second career as a funeral arranger.

Robert Brown, aged a youthful 67, has been joined the ranks of Co-op Funeralcare in its Canterbury parlour, as the company’s 1,500th apprentice since the scheme started back in 2015.

He also boasts the title of the funeral director’s ‘oldest apprentice’, having signed up after finishing 30-year career with the Kent police force, latterly as a detective.

The Co-op has exceeded its target of taking on 40 to 50 new apprentices every month, with around 500 joining each year since the scheme started. It says it is on track to recruit similar numbers throughout this year, too.


Compassion in spades

According to the Co-op, former police officers make ideal recruits for funeral directors, both as arrangers and pall bearers, because of their experience in offering compassion to families in distress.

A spokesperson told Police Professional: “Police officers will have that within their day-to-day role of supporting families. We are not saying all possess this — but in Richard, it is certainly the case.

“It has never been about age, but down to individuals and their skills’ set.”


A career for all

Since its launch three years ago, the Co-op Funeralcare apprenticeship programme has attracted trainees from all walks of life. Managing director Richard Lancaster said: “Since starting this scheme in 2013 we’ve welcomed apprentices from all ages and backgrounds including plumbers, police officers and personal assistants.

“Our intention has always been to provide people from all walks of life with the opportunity to develop a worthwhile career in funerals.

“Providing they possess compassion, empathy, excellent service and organisational skills, we can teach everything else on the job.”

Robert added: “After a 30-year stint with the police, I did wonder how I would find working in funerals, but I love it. I only wish I’d done it sooner.

“My wife also recently started working at the Margate funeral home and hopes to become an apprentice in the coming months.”

Co-op Funeralcare is the only UK funeral director to offer an apprenticeship in funeral operations and services. It delivers the scheme in partnership with Learndirect, providing a QCF Level 2 and a QCF Level 3 in Funeral Operations and Services.