Ladder for Shropshire: How apprenticeships have provided first steps to great careers

The Ladder for Shropshire is celebrating Learning at Work Week by showcasing how apprenticeships have provided the first step to great careers for local people.

Apprenticeship schemes allow firms to train the next generation of workers so they are equipped with the necessary skills required for their specific industry
Apprenticeship schemes allow firms to train the next generation of workers so they are equipped with the necessary skills required for their specific industry

Despite the pandemic, last year there were more than 6,000 people in Shropshire following an apprenticeship and studying at levels two to six across a vast range of occupational areas.

As we continue to emerge from the latest lockdown, the number of vacancies is increasing and there are great opportunities for young people.

Apprenticeships are seen as vital to helping to rebuild the economy and provide the skills which employers need.

Some sectors such as construction, and health and social care are experiencing a skills shortage and changes to the ways of working has increased the demand for digital skills.

The Ladder for Shropshire is supporting more and more employers to offer apprenticeships and the case studies below show how learning at work through an apprenticeship can be the best route to a really good career.

Young people, parents and carers can follow the ‘Ladder for Shropshire’ Facebook page to see regular updates on the vacancies on offer all over Shropshire.

For more information about Ladder for Shropshire visit ladderforshropshire.org

Amanda Carpenter, project officer for Ladder for Shropshire, said: “I have been creating apprenticeships in Shropshire for over 10 years and not only do you build strong relationships with employers who offer these fantastic opportunities, but I get to see how successful the apprentices have become.

"An apprenticeship is all about learning at work. You learn the skills and knowledge to become more competent in your workplace but you will also learn the soft skills and behaviours including self-motivation, integrity, positivity, team work and personal drive. The case studies below are highlighting how learning in work reaps success.

“It is really exciting to showcase these successes as it is important that everyone can see the incredible outcomes from learning at work."

If an employer is keen on recruiting an apprentice, email Amanda at amanda@ladderforshropshire.org.

Alternatively, for more details visit www.ladderforshropshire.org/home.

Apprenticeships are seen as a fantastic way for employers to train new staff cost-effectively. Young apprentices make contributions to the workplace while they are learning, gaining skills on the job, and businesses can receive government incentives as well.

Here we feature some of the success stories in Shropshire where we hear what employees and employers have to say about their apprenticeship experiences.

Abigale Jones

Abbie Jones, a level two engineering. apprentice at Telford-based i2r Packaging Solutions

My apprenticeship journey started during 2020 lockdown. Initially I wanted to go to university and study physiotherapy but due to coronavirus we went into a national lockdown and my A-levels were cancelled. During this time, I decided to work on my car a little bit to pass the time. After doing this for some time I realised that I liked the hands-on work and enjoy getting stuck into problems. This made me realise that if I went to university, I would not really have the same opportunities as another career.

As well as this, due to the lockdown I was not earning a lot so if I did go to university, I might have struggled to afford accommodation and more. In this moment I started looking at apprenticeships and came across a few through Telford College.

After speaking back and forth with the apprenticeship team I had an interview with I2R Packaging Solutions Ltd. After a successful interview I am where I am today working there three days a week and attending college two days a week to complete my level two engineering.

At my work place we make foil trays that go to everyday shops such as Tesco, Asda, M&S and many more.

My job is to clean, service and help maintain the tools that go into press everyday in order produce these trays. I have been doing this since September 2020 and I have learnt so much and continue to do so every day.

Christopher Thomas

Christopher Thomas, an apprentice primary school teacher who scooped an Apprentice of the Year Award in Shropshire Council's Virtual Apprenticeship Awards in January

Christopher was one of the first apprentice primary school teachers in Shropshire, studying for his degree at the University of Wolverhampton's Walsall Campus one day a week, with his apprenticeship studies funded by his employer, Shropshire Council, through the Apprenticeship Levy.

He said: "Winning the Apprentice of the Year award was without doubt a real shock but a huge honour. Having reflected on it for a few days I have reached the conclusion that it is not a one-person achievement as, without the support, skill and nurture of my colleagues, it would never have happened.

"I feel very lucky that in these strange times that we all find ourselves in, not only am I in a job that I had always dreamed of doing (and I still find it strange seeing the word 'teacher' on my lanyard!), but that I work for a school community that I am incredibly privileged to be a part of. I owe a huge thank you to every single member of staff – particularly headteacher Angela Alkureishi and our the governing body for their 'go for it' approach to upskilling staff – at Norton-in-Hales CE Primary school for helping and supporting me throughout the duration of the course.

"I firmly believe that this is an award for all of them and their dedication to the apprenticeship approach.

Excellent

"I'd always wanted to teach from a young age but felt that, at 35, the chance to do so had passed me by and I was happy and content in my role at Norton-in-Hales, working as a teaching assistant in the morning and delivering PE across the school in the afternoons.

"When senior leaders at the school first mentioned the apprenticeship route into teaching however, I jumped at the chance to try and achieve a life long dream. I wasn't in a position to leave the school to return to university and also didn't wish to leave the school community so the apprenticeship route seemed an excellent course to take.

"Further to this, I much prefer to learn by doing, so by being assigned to our Year 3 and 4 class I was able to follow this learning style; learning from mistakes I made and being given plenty of opportunity to reflect and revise on my approach. This is where I feel my mentors were key in my development. They were available daily, even with the pressures of their own classes to run and I feel I benefited hugely from team teaching with them one day a week as well.

"I also spent four weeks across the academic year at the University of Wolverhampton at its Walsall Campus. These weeks were vital too as it was a chance to gain exposure to more experts in each individual subject, as well as meeting fellow professionals at the same point in their careers. Although I was in a cohort of just four, this bond – along with our mentor Karen Amos – was one of the highlights of the apprenticeship; we shared experiences, successes, failures and advice that got us all through the course."

Ffion Hobbs

Ffion Hobbs, a carpentry apprentice at Shrewsbury College

As an A-level student studying product design, I really enjoyed making things.

It was this creative interest that I wanted to pursue and so, having moved to Shrewsbury in 2016, I signed up at the college for a level one course in carpentry.

In many ways, I was following a family tradition as my mum had enrolled to a building studies diploma and my grandfather had been the head of building back in the day.

In the following March, Shrewsbury College advertised a carpentry apprenticeship vacancy which I successfully applied for. Focussing on bench joinery, this was ideal for me, offering a variety of work, assisting the technician at the college as well as making products such as window frames and staircases for the electrical department.

So that’s how I started, but that really was just the beginning. Having successfully completed my level two apprenticeship in joinery, I progressed to level three.

For most people that would be more than enough, but having seen the teaching side of things, I decided to explore this route as well, starting with the level three award in education, progressing to the level four and now currently studying the PGCE for full teacher status.

I have also completed level two site carpentry in the evenings and am currently working my way through level three.

Loving what I do and enjoying the sharing of my knowledge and skills, I would ultimately love to split my time between teaching and making products.

Matthew Fleming

Matthew Fleming, a data analyst level four apprentice at Shropshire Council and also winner of the council's Apprentice of the Year 2021

I was really looking to kickstart my career outside of retail and I wanted to make use of my education at college and make use of my HND course; and whilst I was on my college course I figured out quite early on that my favourite element of computing was data collection and analysis.

I knew then that this was the route I wanted to go down. It had been a few years since I had done my college course, and after hearing that the data analyst apprenticeship at the council was being advertised by someone I used to work with, I thought it would be the best shot at kickstarting my professional career in that field.

The process was very easy; it was just like applying for any other job. I needed to provide any previous employment or experience and also evidence of my previous qualifications and also why I’d like to work for the council, provide examples to questions such as 'can you say why you’re able to work well in a team' or questions which are similar. After my initial application, I had to attend a face-to-face interview so the process was all very seamless.

Variety

My job requires me to visualise a lot of data that I come in contact with. I really love the creative freedom I have in developing dashboards, as this allows me to show off my previous graphic design experience, that I gained as a hobby, which I took up during my previous job. I really enjoy the variety of data I come in contact with which I get to analyse.

I would really like to continue to develop my data analyst skills to be considered a professional in the field and earn the respect of peers.

I also want to develop in-depth data analysis so that I am able to support colleagues in making informed decisions which will benefit local communities. Those are my main goals, I just really want to get as far as I can within this field.

If the job required, or with computing as it is changing all of the time, there might be something in the future where I might need to take up another apprenticeship which I could be completely on board with.

Alex Whitby and Molly Dix pictured with Alex Stone and Rob Chadderton from Chadstone

Chadstone accountancy firm based in Telford

Both working for large accountancy firms, Alex Stone and Rob Chadderton knew they had the skills, knowledge and drive to make it on their own.

Now Telford-based ChadStone has a team of 11 people and developing the team through apprenticeships has been at the heart of this growth.

Alex said: “When Rob and I started our careers in accountancy we were both taken on as apprentices, essentially someone took a chance on us with no experience and we were sure that we wanted to pay that back in our firm. We really love having trainees in the firm and intend to keep going down this route in the future.”

The team includes Owen Hamblett who has progressed from AAT level three to complete the new AAT professional accountancy and taxation technician level four, and Molly Dix and Alex Whitby who are just completing AAT level three and are on their way to becoming qualified accountants.

Shrewsbury-based independent training provider SBC Training said: "We are delighted to be supporting ChadStone with its staff development. The management team is so supportive and the atmosphere is so relaxed and friendly.

"It is an ideal place for young people to learn and prosper and as a result those young people are able to make their own significant contribution to the business and take their places as qualified team members."

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