The importance of apprenticeships
In recognition of this year’s National Apprenticeship Week, which runs March 4-8, Glazerite has turned the spotlight on two of its own team: an up and coming apprentice, and an employee who was a trainee when the original scheme was launched 25 years ago.
National Apprenticeship Week is designed to show the positive impact apprenticeships can have on those individuals undertaking it, as well as their employers and the wider economy.
Jason Thompson, group managing director of Glazerite, said: “By sharing the stories of our own apprentices, we hope we can raise awareness of the importance of the scheme, especially among those young adults who may be about to leave education and are looking for a route into work.”
Laura Rorke is one such Glazerite apprentice who is using the scheme as a springboard for her career. Having completed a Sociology degree, Laura joined the fabricator in 2017 as a human resources apprentice carrying out the customer services NVQ Level 2. Two years on, she’s studying for a professional HR qualification through the Chartered Institute of Personnel Development (CIPD).
“Being taken on as an apprentice by Glazerite meant I was able to gain valuable insight from working in an office environment,” Laura said. “I found it a brilliant way to get settled into my career, continuing my studies while being supported and guided by my manager. I’ve been lucky enough to work within the HR department which I love as I enjoy helping people and get real job satisfaction from my work.
“The great thing about the current apprenticeship scheme is that I’m able to study for a Level 5 professional qualification – the equivalent of a degree – and work on the job at the same time, something I wouldn’t be able to do if I’d done a masters in HR at university.
“Working for an SME means the range of work I am involved in is also far broader than it may be at a larger corporate, where they tend to specialise on specific areas. Though it’s early days with my CIPD, and it will take a great deal of commitment, the support from my manager has already been invaluable. I am really excited about building my knowledge and being able to apply it here at Glazerite, dealing with more sensitive situations and providing others with support.”
Glazerite has a number of current and former apprentices among its 270-strong workforce, including group marketing manager Michelle Wright.
Michelle was part of the first intake of the original apprenticeship scheme in 1994 and says that though the way the current scheme is delivered is a world away from her own apprenticeship, the fundamentals are still the same.
“When I was leaving school, modern apprenticeships were just being introduced,” she said. “I knew I didn’t want to go to university and the appeal of earning and learning while gaining some real and relevant experience was a real draw.
“My first apprentice role was in an electrical components company in a team of only 20 people, which gave me the perfect foundation on which to build my subsequent career. As part of my apprenticeship, I completed NVQ Level 2 and 3 in Business Administration and Level 4 in Customer Services, alongside typing qualifications (we used typewriters in those days).
“One of the most important things my apprenticeship gave me was an appetite for lifelong learning. I’ve since gone on to complete qualifications from the Chartered Institute of Marketing and an HND in Graphic Design, and have worked in B2B marketing communications roles in both global corporates and SMEs. I can truly say that it was my apprenticeship which gave me the foundation for the career I’m in today.”
Michelle admits the current crop of apprentices makes her feel ‘really old’, especially the way their course learning is delivered.
“When I started out in the world of work we were using floppy discs and were heavily reliant on faxes. The only mobile phones you saw were the bricks carried around by the sales team and I was sent on weekly day-release to the local college.
“The internet and business emails were in their infancy, and yet today’s apprentices like Laura makes use of an online portal to study, with a few face-to-face workshops throughout the year. It’s definitely light years ahead and makes the delivery of assignments much easier. The fact you can complete a professional qualification from a recognised body like the CIPD as part of an apprenticeship really takes the scheme to another level. The core values, on-the-job learning and what you get out of an apprenticeship are still the same however; it’s a valuable and effective way to start your working life.”
Jason said: “Seeing our apprentices develop is really rewarding. People like Laura and Michelle are real assets for us and for our installers, as they are able to not only provide us with marketing and HR advice and services, but extend those to our installer base who need the help too. We are always on the lookout for hardworking, proactive and diligent people who are passionate about what they do and we’re delighted to be able to offer apprenticeships across our sites in a variety of functions.”