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Building an ‘apprentice community’ with support from Combined Authority skills service


Building an ‘apprentice community’ with support from Combined Authority skills service

A fast-growing Peterborough business has said unlocking young talent through apprenticeships has been crucial to its success and highlighted how a dedicated Combined Authority skills service is supporting its goal to build an ‘apprentice community’.

Ahead of National Apprenticeships Week (February 5-11), Evolving Networks, which provides pioneering internet connectivity services to other businesses, has described apprenticeships – blending on-the-job learning with gaining qualifications – as transformative. The business also pointed to the role the Combined Authority’s specialised Growth Works with Skills service has played in making hiring apprentices easier.

The Combined Authority is working to increase apprenticeships in Cambridgeshire and Peterborough by working with both employers and individuals to support growth in the ‘earn and learn’ route into the workplace.

Watch: Ben and Amber’s story at Evolving Networks

Growth Works with Skills supports local employers to navigate apprenticeships, including helping them receive up to 100 per cent of the funding needed, securing high quality training, and helping them link apprenticeships to their plans for growth. As the region’s dedicated skills brokerage service, it also helps employers with their skills needs generally, either through upskilling existing staff or helping them to secure the talent they need. Since launching in 2020, Growth Works with Skills has upskilled nearly 1,800 people, supported more than 800 new apprenticeships, and engaged with more than 300 businesses in the region. It is hosting a free webinar on February 6th for employers interested in the help on offer to make hiring an apprentice simple and effective. You can find out more and register here.

For Evolving Networks, the impact of apprenticeships has been transformative. Half of their senior Management Board are former apprentices, and a quarter of the staff are currently apprentices.

That impact is best demonstrated in the examples of Evolving Networks’ General Manager Ben Wright and its Head of People and Culture Amber Roberts. Both chose to start their apprenticeship journey with Evolving Networks as teenagers, instead of the more common pathway of college or university. They have not looked back. Their apprenticeships set them on a path to qualifications while also gaining promotions and, now in their late 20s, they both occupy senior positions.

Amber Roberts, head of People and Culture and Ben Wright, General Manager at Evolving Networks

Ben said: “My initial perception when I started my apprenticeship was that I was going to be the tea boy, but I was very wrong! It was hands-on, I was delivering orders and communicating with customers. The apprenticeship gave me a great platform to leverage skills I didn’t even know I had. I’ve really grown as a person over the last 11 years and now I’m the General Manager, which has been a big learning curve. I owe that all to the apprenticeship and getting that variety of experience from day one.”

Amber said: “Apprenticeships weren’t really spoken much about at school, and I initially thought they were a little bit old fashioned, but I quickly learned that wasn’t the case. I started my apprenticeship at 17 in accounts and I then moved to a management apprenticeship, which I passed and was given a seat on the Management Board, which I feel is a great achievement in the tech industry which is typically quite male dominated.”

Ben and Amber are now looking to take Evolving Networks’ growth to the next level by bringing through new generations of apprentices.

Amber praised the role of Growth Works with Skills in her goal to build more apprenticeships at Evolving Networks. She said: “Growth Works with Skills have been fantastic for us. Being a small business, we don’t pay into the Apprenticeship Levy, so every apprentice we’ve recently brought through the door they’ve helped us find funding, invited us to open days, run presentations with them, helped with my people strategy and helped to get the word out about the apprentice army we are looking to build. Their support has been vital in this growth period for Evolving Networks and I would recommend Growth Works with Skills to any employer.”

They are urging both employers and those thinking of doing an apprenticeship to find out more, especially through the information and resources available during National Apprenticeships Week. They are also sharing their insights at the Growth Works with Skills free apprenticeships webinar.

Ben said: “For businesses, there’s a lot of untapped talent out there, and it just takes someone to give them a chance with an apprenticeship. There are so many success stories I can point to which prove that it works.”

Amber said: “I would say to any hesitant employer to just give apprenticeships a chance. If Evolving Networks hadn’t offered an apprenticeship route into the business me and Ben wouldn’t be where we are now.

“I think National Apprenticeship Week is very important for both potential apprentices but also employer to really understand the benefits of the scheme.”

Cllr Lucy Nethsingha, Chair of the Combined Authority Skills Committee said: “I would urge any employer or individual thinking about apprenticeships to get involved with National Apprenticeship Week. There are many myths out there about the apprenticeship route into the workplace, but with apprentices now able to study up to degree level, in a wide variety of careers, their potential should not be underestimated.

“Ben and Amber’s example exactly shows how apprenticeships can change lives while also supporting growth of our businesses, and that’s why the Combined Authority is working with employers and individuals to increase numbers of apprentices across Cambridgeshire and Peterborough.”

To find out more about how Growth Works with Skills can help you, visit: www.growthworkswithskills.com