Apprenticeship excellence in Knowsley

Wed, February 20th, 2019

A Knowsley-based housing provider, which is part of a unique social impact...

A Knowsley-based housing provider, which is part of a unique social impact business, is continuing its commitment to supporting many young people in the region get on the career ladder and become qualified in a range of roles across its five community-focused companies.

Knowsley Housing Trust, part of First Ark Group, is the largest apprenticeship employer in the area and has helped over 120 young people secure apprenticeships, over the last seven years. Opportunities have been created in IT, HR, marketing, repairs and maintenance and lettings, and many recruits have gone on to achieve qualifications, gain hands-on experience and secure long-term employment. Last year the Housing Trust recruited 18 apprentices, of which 16 have gone on to full time employment either within First Ark Group or with other local businesses.

Mum of one, Susan Thompson, a Handy Person Accessor in the Care and Repair Team in Vivark, part of First Ark Group, said:

“I joined the First Ark apprenticeship scheme in September 2015, in the Facilities Management team. The division employs very few women, in fact I’m the only female plasterer.

“My dad, brothers and uncles are all in the building trade and I’ve always had an ambition to work in the construction industry. After enrolling on a plastering course and qualifying in 2010, I then gave birth to my daughter. I found it difficult to find a job without practical experience and had the added challenge of wanting to work around nursery opening hours.

“After discovering the First Ark apprenticeship scheme I was bowled over when I realised it offered the perfect opportunity to improve my skills, earn a fair wage and work flexible hours.

“I have been mentored by experienced tradesmen throughout my apprenticeship and started by working on day-to-day repairs, refurbishing empty properties and maintaining the Group's homes. I was then promoted to the role of multi-skilled apprentice and now I’ve progressed to the position of handy person accessor.”

Former apprentice, Adam Jackson, who is now a Performance & Quality Standards Advisor at Knowsley Housing Trust, said:

“I started a BSc computing course at Edge Hill University two years ago but left after my second year. I really learnt a lot but tuition fees and living expenses caused an overwhelming amount of stress for me at the time. I decided to look for an apprenticeship scheme, within an organisation, which would be able to support my ambitions and was well suited to the skills I had acquired. I applied for a Business Intelligence apprenticeship at First Ark and over the last two years I’ve been promoted to the role of Performance & Quality Standards Advisor.”

Leann Hearne, Group Chief Executive of Knowsley Housing Trust (part of First Ark Group), said:

“Apprenticeships and upskilling young people is very much on the government agenda and something we have supported for the last seven years. We are committed to investing in young people in the area and will continue to work with Knowsley Works, an employment support service, to create more apprenticeship opportunities this year.

“We’ve recently noticed how applications amongst graduates have shot up. Applicants have told us that an apprenticeship is now a way for a graduate to get on the career ladder, rather than applying through traditional graduate schemes. We’re finding highly qualified young people are using an apprenticeship as an alternative route into a role.

The cost of university is now a major factor to consider before applying and many young people don’t want to be burdened with debts of £40,000 after finishing.”

Knowsley Housing Trust recently joined the Apprenticeship Ambassador Network (AAN), a group which aims to engage new employers to commit to apprenticeship delivery across England. Two current apprentices – Beth Edge, who works in HR and Alan Ravenscroft, a member of the marketing and social media team – have been selected as Apprentice Ambassadors to represent the Group.

First Ark Group has also become the latest organisation to sign up to a Chartered Institute of Housing (CIH) qualification and has enrolled eight apprentices on the CIH Level Three Housing Apprenticeship.

The Group supports many apprenticeship schemes and partners with Knowsley College, the University of Liverpool and has developed a pre-apprenticeship programme and has established HYPE Recruit, a collaboration between One Ark and HYPE Manchester which looks at issues facing young NEETs.

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