Local apprentices in Wiltshire testify how they are taking advantage of the opportunities and business owners how young enthusiastic staff benefit them.
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Employer perspective: Rob Perks (Chief Executive, Inspire)
Selwood Housing Apprentice, Hannah Derrick (Customer Service)
Hannah joined Selwood Housing in 2013 as the customer service apprentice and hasn’t looked back since, going on to carve out a successful career with the organisation and even becoming an award winner.
Hannah has now completed her apprenticeship and splits her time between two teams learning all she can about housing as neighbourhood assistant and passing on her fantastic knowledge of customer experience by advising her team in her role as customer support scripter.
Hannah said: “I am really pleased I started my apprenticeship at Selwood Housing having changed careers from my job in a local pub, I haven’t looked back and am excited to see where my career will take me. I urge others to look at apprenticeships especially at Selwood Housing.
“My apprenticeship not only taught me job skills such as dealing with customer issues and coaching and advising my peers, it also taught me personal skills. I feel a lot more confident in my own abilities and extremely motivated to pursue my career in housing. There is a lot more to the housing sector than people think.”
Hannah was recognised for her hard work in 2015 when she won the prestigious award of South West Apprentice of the Year 2015 at the Chartered Institute of Housing’s annual south west conference. Hannah won the award for dedication to social housing.
Ria Bristow, group people director said: “We are all extremely proud of Hannah and her recent achievement. Hannah and our other apprentices has been a true asset to the organisation and many like Hannah have gone onto permanent positions with us.”
Selwood Housing Apprentice, Hollie Evans (Finance)
Hollie has recently been highly commended for her work as Selwood Housing Group’s finance apprentice at the prestigious Housing Association National Accountancy Awards (HANA).
Hollie said: “My apprenticeship has opened so many doors for me and given me experience utilising real life business examples. I found it quite scary as I was only 17 when I started at Selwood Housing but I think it was the best choice I ever made. I am making clear steps towards achieving my accountancy career. I was thrilled to be recognised at the HANA awards, it really means a lot and has given me more confidence in my current role.
Group chief executive, Barry Hughes said: “Hollie is committed to making a difference and is ambitious to improve with a clear idea of impact and future plans. She is an enthusiastic individual who is willing to learn and has made a good impression in a short space of time.”
Hollie has worked at Selwood Housing Group since January 2015 learning accountancy skills across The Learning Curve, Selwood Housing and Silcoa. As well as working in this very demanding role, Hollie is studying for her AAT accreditations achieving 100% in three out of five level 2 exams and successfully progressing onto level 3.
Hollie never thought she would be an apprentice having initially started off at sixth form however Hollie found the apprenticeship was perfect for her as she knew that she wanted to become an accountant. Hollie hopes to take her Level 4 AAT exams next year and go onto complete her CIMA in order to gain a degree in Accounting.
Megan was offered a full time position as a personal assistant to a Wiltshire Council associate director just nine months into her level 2 Business and Administration apprenticeship. Upon completing this in December 2015 her manager saw potential and passion for learning and has supported her in starting her level 3, in which she has already passed her first two exams. Megan helps manage high level meetings on major projects and is the main point of contact for all key projects within the department.
Megan said: “Getting an apprenticeship just fell on me, I was looking around for jobs as I didn’t know what I wanted to do in life, and my GCSEs weren’t great. I started in the cabinet office which was one of the most nerve-racking experiences in my life as I didn’t have a clue about politics or policies behind local government. This apprenticeship really brought me out of my shell and helped me overcome my mental health problems. It’s the greatest thing I have done in my life and it helped make me the person I am today. I hated speaking publicly and to anyone of a higher level but having to do this daily increased my confidence. I never felt the smartest so I was never outgoing for the fear of looking silly, but from learning team-working to a style that suited me and my managers making time to explain things I started to feel more confident in what I was saying. I was in a work environment where I was seen as an adult and they valued my opinions.”
“The apprenticeship gave me routine and a structure, and best of all it gave me self-worth. From suffering from manic depression It gave me a reason to get out of bed when I didn’t feel like it as I knew it wasn’t just me, I had a team relying on me, and this gave me the strength at the beginning to keep going. I had support from not only my tutor but everyone within my team and they saw me as a person- when things got too much, support was in place and from this it helped me grow and feel less worried as I knew help was there if I needed it, I didn’t have to feel ashamed. After two months I was loving what I was doing and was needing the help less and less. The work keeps you busy to stop your mind overthinking which also helps tire your brain out, so as the months went on it helped me feel like a stronger person and helped change my mind-set. Instead of saying I can’t do something or worrying about getting things wrong, I started to believe that I could do anything and take on new challenges. The apprenticeship helped me feel like I was useful and was making a difference to society. It taught me basic life skills which I had forgotten. On her own initiative
Megan has set up an apprentice support group to help the other 30 apprentices at the council. She is currently looking to expand the network to other organisations so more apprentices can be given the support they need. Megan has been in a variety of apprenticeship competitions such as the PPMA Apprentice of the Year Awards where she was a finalist. Her team won the Apprentice Business Challenge, where they had to present to employers the benefits of taking on an apprentice.
Megan’s innovation has now been recognised after she successfully reached the regional finals of the National Apprenticeship Awards, and will find out in November if she is through to the final stage.
Megan featured in The Wiltshire Times
Kieran is currently working with the Highway Structures Team, training to become a bridge engineer. Kieran says: "My course is a Level 3 Civil Engineering BTEC which I travel on day release to Bristol UWE University to complete. The level 3 course is two years long and with support from the council I hope to progress through to level 6 to in order to achieve a degree level qualification eventually.
This means that I will be earning while I get the same qualifications as many university students. If I was a university student I could be in debt without relevant experience. Experience is a major factor when applying for a job. My experience involved working on construction sites as a labourer which gave me skills that are useful when designing and having an understanding of construction.
I left school after my GCSEs and did a Level 3 Sports Course and left after one year. I then realised I wanted to get into construction. I did a level 1 in Carpentry to see if I would enjoy it. When my year was up, I looked to get on site any way possible and get some more experience in the construction industry. After a year, I decided to apply for an apprenticeship where I could work my way up to becoming the boss. This was not an easy process, with a few rejections and it’s important to keep trying and eventually you will get that yes. Now working with Wiltshire Council I have learnt new skills and the confidence to achieve my goals.
In March 2016 Wiltshire Council entered a team of apprentices into the South West Apprenticeship Business Challenge. I was part of this team of six taking on the challenge to come up with a presentation that would inspire businesses to employ apprentices. This took team work, leadership and confidence to present in front of an audience. We won our first stage against other companies including Nationwide, Wiltshire College, and Stroud Council. This put us through to the final at The Bath and Bristol Science Park. Then we went on to win the competition and became ambassadors for apprenticeships.
Since then I have spoken to pupils at St Augustine’s on their careers day, about apprenticeships and what benefits they can have. My advice would be for 15-18 year olds to look into apprenticeships as well as A-levels or university, think of the positives and negatives and if that path is right for you."
Luke is currently 18 months into a Level 3 advanced apprenticeship in Aeronautical Mechanical Engineering with QinetiQ, and says that so far it stands to be the best career decision that he could have made.
Luke says "I started the apprenticeship at the age of 20, after completing my A-levels. Despite having the grades and ability to undertake a degree at university, I chose an apprenticeship, and have several reasons for doing so. Firstly, I wanted to work with my hands and my head, allowing me to develop practical skills as well as my understanding of an industry. Secondly, I wanted to get my foot in the door with a company, so that I would have a much greater chance of being employed after training.
Not only have I learned skills which will allow me to excel in the industry, but I have also been given opportunities to represent the company at events and develop skills outside of engineering. I aspire to work as a Flight Test Engineer or in a management position; both of which are achievable after completing my apprenticeship.
Before applying for apprenticeships in engineering, I undertook work experience at a steel fabricator, which proved instrumental in securing a place with QinetiQ. I would recommend all those looking for an apprenticeship to seek work experience in the area which they wish to work in – it shows initiative and enthusiasm as well as giving you something to talk about at interviews!"
When asked about the void between employers and prospective apprentices, Luke said "Through the various careers talks, careers fairs and business breakfast I have attended over the past few months, I have gained an insight into the world of promoting apprenticeships.
As a young adult completing my A-levels, I was not fully aware of apprenticeships as an alternative career route to attending university. Many students are under the impression that university is the only viable option if they wish to be successful in life. I learned about apprenticeships through friends and investigated companies such as EDF Energy and Network Rail. At many of the school careers fairs I have visited as an apprentice, universities have been far better represented than apprenticeships.
After presenting at various business breakfasts, it seems inviting apprentices to talk at events is really beneficial in educating employers and getting them engaged. At the Trowbridge Pass the Torch event for example, Ryan and I were able to answer many queries related to the apprentice application process and speak about our experiences, which brought another dimension to the meeting. At the other end of the line; after speaking with young people at careers fairs and talks, it seems that local employer visits and talks leave a lasting memory. I believe it is this direct engagement which will get both employers and prospective apprentices fired up, especially with the growing prestige of apprenticeships."
Ryan is currently a year and a half into an advanced apprenticeship in Aeronautical Mechanical Engineering with QinetiQ.
Ryan says "I started the apprenticeship after doing my A-levels at Kingdown School in Warminster, deciding against university so I could get experience in a world-renowned company from the start. The QinetiQ apprenticeship is a great way to start a career for multiple reasons, but perhaps most notable is that all training is delivered at MOD Boscombe Down by QinetiQ – there is no external training provider, meaning that we have a high chance of employment at the end of the 4 years.
Since starting the apprenticeship I have not only developed my technical knowledge and skills, but also my soft skills such as leadership and communication through opportunities like the Brathay Apprentice Challenge, where I even did a job swap with our CEO and led the company for a day – a chance you don’t get at university.
If you’re thinking about applying for apprenticeships, my advice would be to think beyond just exam grades, as although these are entry requirements, employers are looking for well-rounded individuals to enhance their workforce. Activities such as the Duke of Edinburgh Award, volunteering in the community and work experience can go a long way at interviews and make you stand out against other applicants.
It is very easy to discount apprenticeships, especially when you are overloaded with information on university at schools and careers fairs, but apprenticeships can offer equal or greater opportunities compared to university. Whatever path you choose, you get out what you put in, and by taking an apprenticeship you can make an impact within a company straight out of education."
Marketing Apprentice Poppy James is delighted at how her apprenticeship is going at Inspire. “I have been working at Inspire for the past 6 months and have already gained invaluable experience in industry that I wouldn’t have necessarily gotten at university,” she said. “It is clear to me that, whilst learning on an academic level is hugely beneficial, putting it into practice is key to my development. I have already advanced my knowledge as well as my every day, personal and professional skill set greatly. Marketing is such a broad subject covering so many different topics. Since being at Inspire I have no doubt that I have interacted with the majority of the marketing spectrum in a matter of months, allowing me to learn on my feet. Not only have I gained a great deal of experience in marketing but I have also been able to gain an understanding of the working environment and people skills through working in the office, networking and communicating with different types of people each day.”
Early in 2013 and after 30 years working with clients searching for work at Trowbridge Job Centre, Rob Culverhouse set up his own recruitment firm, Rob Culverhouse Recruitment. Rob told us how taking on an apprentice helped him in the early stages of his new venture.
“Being able to take on an apprentice has, simply put, enabled me to start my own business. Being partially sighted I knew I would need help with certain aspects of running it. The incentives and support available to employers to take on a young apprentice, as opposed to traditional recruitment, allowed me to build my workforce from day one. The fact that an apprentice is an economical way of employing a member of staff is not the only reason that Will’s recruitment into the business is proving to be a success. “I am looking forward to Will completing his NVQ Level 3 in Business Administration,” said Rob. This qualification, combined with the recruitment skills he is learning on the job from me, will mean we have a well trained employee who has an emotional investment in the business. I would be happy if this means that Will stays here at Rob Culverhouse Recruitment for many years to come.”
“I am really grateful to Rob for giving me the opportunity,“ said Will. “The apprenticeship is allowing me to complete my NVQ Level 3 whilst gaining brilliant experience working in the competitive recruitment market. “When I tell people I am doing an apprenticeship in Business Administration they often say that they thought apprenticeships were only for the traditional trades, but I would encourage anybody starting out in a career, no matter what the industry, to consider the apprenticeship route. There are subjects available for just about any career you can think of. I think it would be great to see a lot more companies start taking on apprentices as we are the future for this country and you can’t gain valuable work experience through a workbook.”
So Cabelo is a luxury hair salon, based in Corsham for the last 5 year. In that time, business owner Gemma Rodrigues has taken on a number of apprentices.
“Ever since So Cabelo started up, I have employed apprentices. It makes sense to get young eager staff to work for the business. I find that if you give a person an opportunity to earn money while they learn a skill, they will repay you with an enthusiasm which is infectious with others including our customers. Lisa has been a brilliant addition to our team and I am sure that other businesses would benefit from using apprenticeships as a way of recruiting staff with a real drive to learn and improve themselves.” Apprentice Lisa Whiteford said.
“I previously worked in retail and was unsure how I was going to make the transition into my preferred career path in the beauty industry when I heard about apprenticeships. I am so pleased I took this opportunity because to be able to work in a salon like So Cabelo has allowed me to learn in the workplace. This gives me a huge advantage over people in any other industry who do their learning in the classroom, as I will have been gaining experience in a working environment for the whole period of my course.”
Inspire (the trading name for the Wessex Chambers of Commerce), is a not for profit organisation representing businesses of every size across every sector of the local economy.
Rob Perks, Chief Executive of Inspire is an advocate for apprenticeships and tells us how employing apprentices has helped his organisation. “At Inspire, we have engaged three apprentices in our marketing department over the last three years. They have each brought something different to the role and to our organisation. Careful recruitment with a thorough interview process is critical to ensure that the person is a good fit for the organisation and that the experience we can offer them fits well into their career plans. Setting aside sufficient time for on the job training as well as their formal training pays huge dividends, otherwise they will end up doing only menial tasks, will not develop and will become demotivated quite quickly.
All three have been hardworking, have appreciated the experience and have added value to our organisation. They have brought a young person’s viewpoint to a number of projects and have asked the simple questions that perhaps more seasoned employees might think are too basic to ask but need asking.
Our last two apprentices have gained valuable real life working experience and have gone on to do university degrees. Our current apprentice is likely to stay with us at the end of her apprenticeship and the benefit to us is that we have been able to mould her to adopt our organisational values and culture free from any preconceptions or bad practices learned in other organisations. We would happily repeat the experience again.”
Wiltshire Council and partners believe there are further apprenticeship opportunities to be maximised and are keen to see more employers take up the apprenticeship offer as a way to meet their current and future skills needs.