Single mother of twin toddlers Carly started out as a part time Level 2 Customer Service Apprenticeship in Camden’s Swiss Cottage Library. Having been on benefits, Carly decided a part time apprenticeship would provide a manageable route back into employment. Juggling work and lone parenting was not easy, but Carly managed to adapt to a new routine of work and study, excelling in her role, learning new skills and successfully completing her apprenticeship qualification.
With newfound confidence and a wider skill set, Carly was offered a permanent job at Gospel Oak Children’s Centre as Administration Finance Officer. The centre had been running thus far with no administration support, so Carly faced eight months’ worth of data and paperwork to organise. However, Carly says her experience as an apprentice left her unfazed. She quickly introduced new systems and spotted issues that had previously gone unnoticed. Carly’s manager is delighted with her contribution, saying ‘Carly is well-known in the community and acts as an excellent advocate for the centre. She has been extremely supportive to the team, service users and partner agencies.’
Carly hopes her achievements will inspire other parents to consider part time/flexible apprenticeships. She feels strongly that the difficult journey was worth the effort, having achieved so much, so quickly.
I was in a difficult home situation and at 14 was under the care of Social Services Looked After Children’s Team. I faced lots of challenges and also found out I was pregnant. After having my baby I had to work very hard to prove I am a good mum.
I decided to move on to an apprenticeship because I knew it would enable me to gain a qualification at the same time as progressing my career. I am in my first year at Camden Council working part time as a Level 2 Apprentice Customer Service Officer. I work from 9am to 3pm, which allows me to meet both work and family requirements.
In so many ways. I have been able to put many different skills into practice. I need to ensure I offer a good duty of care and behave in a professional manner. I have had training in a range of areas including penalty notices, using the switchboard, universal credit and rents.
I have had three different managers and they have all been phenomenal and provided me with amazing support. After I complete my Level 2, I’d like to progress to a Level 3 Apprenticeship, and one day become a Councillor.
To those considering an apprenticeship, I would say go for it - get your foot in the door. Often if there is a will, there is a way.
K10 – an employer’s perspective on part time/flexible apprenticeships
Peter is the Apprenticeship Programme Manager for K10, a construction company and supplier to Camden Council. He recruited four business administration apprentices to his company on a part time basis, specifically targeting unemployed parents. ‘Being a single parent or carer comes with a wide range of pressures and responsibilities. It’s essential to ensure that talented individuals can kick-start their career whilst looking after their children’ he said.
K10 placed the apprentices with host employers, investing in HR resources and aftercare systems to deal with pastoral issues that arose. One of Peter’s apprentices explained, ‘Peter fitted my hours around my son’s school times so I could pick him up. Whenever I had a problem I went to Peter and he just sorted out it. He’s so helpful! This really assisted me back into work.’
Peter specifically chose placements involving work on major projects, enabling apprentices to glean the widest range of skills.
Peter’s diligence as a mentor in providing wraparound support enabled the apprentices to focus on their work and complete their qualifications, after which all four were offered permanent jobs having proven their value as loyal employees. This fantastic outcome serves as an example of best practice that has encouraged other employers to follow suit. Part-time, flexible apprenticeships are now part of our mainstream apprenticeship offer. ‘It has been a pleasure to see the apprentices develop their skills and knowledge. Credit to them for the effort that they have put in to reach this point’ he says.
Manager’s perspective: Customer Services Manager, Camden Council
Within our team, Richard decided to recruit apprentices having developed the philosophy ‘build you own’. He works in Contact Camden, which is the ‘face’ of Camden Council for residents. Richard explains, 'It’s good to get local people into roles and build bridges between service users and those who work for the service. Having apprentices has bought a lot to the team.'
Most recently he wanted to consider applicants wanting full or part time hours. 'We currently have 6 apprentices in the team and they all bring something different - fresh ideas, enthusiasm, energy and much more. We provide a supported environment where they can grow and learn from their mistakes. They experience a wide ranging of tasks as they will get the opportunity to deal with every type of query from the diverse population. They gain a lot of knowledge and develop excellent customer service, people management and project management skills.Virtually every apprentice we have had working for us has progressed to another job within the council or elsewhere.'
Richard has a flexible approach. 'When considering working hours, I think you need to be willing to rewrite the rule book a little and consider what your apprentices could bring to the service regardless of the hours they work. I believe if they have the right attitude and skills than it can work.'
Manager's perspective - Economic Development Officer, Camden Council
Chris was open to flexible working when he decided to recruit a Level 3 Business Administration apprentice to support the work of Camden’s Economic Development team, aware of the potential to attract a more diverse field of candidates.
Our apprentice had strong previous work experience and confident communication. However, the apprenticeship was her first job for a couple of years, having taken some time out to care for her two young children. With her continuing caring responsibilities she was only able to work term time and reduced hours so I designed her involvement in certain projects around her leave.
Our apprentice was a very conscientious and valuable member of the service. She supported a number of large programmes of work including the Camden Business Awards, the council’s work experience programme and the development of the team’s web and social media communications.
Balancing her childcare commitments with the requirements of the apprenticeship sometimes meant having to change her work pattern and to work additional hours to make up time. We had weekly catch-ups to assess her capacity and progress on particular tasks, and made sure she informed other managers in good time of the volume of work she was likely to be able to complete for them. On completion of her apprenticeship, has now secured a full-time role at the council.