INTERNATIONAL corporate lawyer Sheikh Bilal Khan has taken time from a busy life promoting the City of London and British business to be a judge at the Asian Apprenticeship Awards.
His other work includes being an adviser to an All Party Parliamentary Group and a Board member of the Middle East Association – a Foreign Office body that works with 24 Arab countries to promote business and trade.
In the past two years he has visited 62 different countries promoting the City of London.
His other work includes involvement the SIRUS programme to promote entrepreneurship and the Mosaic International Leadership Programme.
Although he has built an international career in law, business and diplomacy from a traditional law degree from the University of Leeds, near his home town of Bradford, he believes that apprenticeships provide a great opportunity.
“It is especially important in the current global situation where young people accumulate so much debt when they go to University,” he said.
“On the other hand an apprenticeship allows the person to learn and earn money at the same time.”
Earlier this year Sheikh Bilal Khan was recognised as a role model for Race, Religion and Faith at the National Diversity Awards.
It is one of the reasons why he wants more young people from the Asian community to take advantage of the opportunities that apprenticeships provide.
However, he is keen to stress that what matters in building strong communities is not integration but making a contribution.
“Integration can feel like losing cultural identity and this is not what is important but what matters is making a contribution to the communities in which we live,” he said.
He believes that one way to make a contribution is through an apprenticeship where the opportunities are simply not understood.
“It is possible for an apprentice to become a chartered accountant at an international company like KPMG,” he said.
“This may take a little longer but there is no debt and they are earning as they learn.”
Sheikh Bilal Khan is a religious scholar who had read and learned the Koran from the age of 11 but he believes that there is much that unites the great religions than that divides them.
He is a great believer in people from different backgrounds and faiths getting on well together.
“Diversity should be cherished and is not a cause for division,” he said.
“When we point a finger at others we point three fingers back at ourselves and when we criticise others we should take a look at ourselves.”