Vikki is a about to complete the first year of her apprenticeship with Devizes based Aster Group; landlord and developer of new homes. Aster Group build homes for open market sale and shared ownership, and reinvest their profits into developing the business, its people and local communities.

Vikki left school and went on to complete an NVQ in Motor Vehicle Maintenance and Repair however this was during a period of economic uncertainty for the country and she believed being a woman made getting a job in the motor industry even harder.

Vikki is 26 years old and has several years work experience prior to joining Aster Group, she spent 7 years working in a warehouse and she told us that it felt like a job with little opportunity for progression. Vikki is on a 4-year apprenticeship comprising of 2 years plumbing and 2 years gas installation training.

Her dad is a self-employer builder, she helped him to fit a new bathroom suite at her brother’s home and quite enjoyed it. She began to consider an apprenticeship given that it combined training with a paid job. Vikki’s parents were supportive and encouraged her to find a job which made her happy.

We asked Vikki what it was like returning to learning, she told us that it was a different experience to when she was at school or college. Being older has its advantages, there is more focus and association of learning to output on the job, Vikki is also building a portfolio of evidence to support her development. There were two females on the course but the other left. The oldest student on her course is 49-years-old, which goes to show your never too old to learn a new skill or trade.

Typical day on the job involves responding to leaks and blockages at customer’s homes and immersion and hot water cylinder tank repairs and replacements. Repairs to heating systems are undertaken by the Gas team and an area that Vikki will get to experience as her apprenticeship progresses. Vikki feels that she gets a good balance of experience and learning through her apprenticeship and gets the opportunity to shadow others which supports her in making decisions about her future career path.

Customer view; when Vikki arrives at a customer’s house with her tool bag she is often met with surprise but generally customers are welcoming of her and Vikki is proud that she is paving the way for other women to join traditional male industries. So much so that she is participating in an event Aster Group is hosting for local school children to learn about the different roles and entry routes available to them.

Vikki told us the best part of her role is providing a service and ensuring the customer has heating and hot water. She works with customers to show them how to use their systems more effectively helping them to reduce their gas and electric costs.

During our interview, we noticed that Vikki wore a medical alert bracelet and asked her about this. She told us that she is epileptic however it has been well managed for many years. Her employers are aware and provide support to her wherever possible to enable her to complete her learning and on the job activities.

We asked Vikki how she believed the apprenticeship route differed from direct employment. She told us that she has received core training right from the start, everyone is supportive across the various teams. Vikki would highly recommend an apprenticeship as she is earning and learning, gaining skills that will remain with her for life and can remain with the company, seek employment elsewhere or even take up self-employment. Once apprentices

complete their programme Aster Group do not insist on a return of service like many other companies, which gives employees the opportunity to take control of their careers.

Vikki is looking forward to qualifying as a Gas Engineer and the new learning opportunities this will offer her.

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