Vikki is on a 4-year apprenticeship programme comprising of 2 years plumbing and 2 years gas installation training with Devizes based Aster Group; a 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 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.
When Vikki left school, she 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. Her dad is a self-employer builder, who 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.
A 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 Vikki participated in an event Aster Group hosted 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.
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 complete, Aster Group allow their apprentices to consider applying for employment with other companies as well as themselves, 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.