Apprentices can be a great source of new ideas and skills for businesses, says Michelle Stevens, Risk and Compliance Manager at The Post Office. She tells us why Chesterfield’s largest employer is investing in its apprenticeship programme.
“It was realised that the average age of employees was 50 and the turnover of staff was incredibly low,” Michelle explained. “While this is a good reflection that the Post Office is a good employer, it did mean that we were in need of new staff that could bring something different to the place; a fresh pair of eyes and fresh talent.”
Having seen the benefits of introducing apprenticeships at their headquarters in London, it was decided to extend the programme into Derbyshire in 2016. The team approached Learning Unlimited and, with their support, recruited two Customer Services apprentices. A further three apprentices have since been recruited.
“Our first apprentices have brought with them new ideas, enthusiasm and a new approach and have helped us look at the things we do in a different way. This is essential for any organisation wanting to keep relevant in a changing market but they have truly amazed us.”
The apprentices have been given the opportunity to develop, while gaining nationally recognised qualifications in the process.
“It’s a fantastic opportunity for them and they have also been given exposure to wider areas of the business too so that they can experience different parts of the business and see locations up and down the country. We make sure they always have a voice at the table,” she added.
The first two apprentices, Megan O Grady and Cameron Scott-Briggs, have proved to be real assets to the business, she says.
“We have seen them both grow throughout their apprenticeship and have been amazed by the way they tackle their roles. They’ve developed in confidence and in their abilities and they are making a real difference.”
Megan, 19, is currently working on her Level 3 in Business Administration, and is hoping to progress further to gain further qualifications. Meanwhile, Cameron, who is 20, has gained an NVQ in Customer Services and has now secured a permanent, full-time job in the IT department of the Post Office and developing his skills in a new arena.
Both say that the experience has been a great way to learn, get valuable work experience and get their foot on the career ladder. Cameron said: “I’ve been given every opportunity to develop. An apprenticeship with the Post Office has given me the chance to learn, get valuable work experience and work towards my dream career.”
Added Megan: “I love working here and there are so many benefits working for such a large organisation. I have felt part of the team since day one and as an apprentice I get all the benefits that other colleagues get, such as flexi time and training. I also get more pay than I was expecting as an apprentice.”
It was after finishing her first year in the sixth form that she decided to apply for the apprenticeship at the Post Office. While she gave up full-time study, she says she now gains valuable work experience whilst also working towards recognised qualifications. She gets to learn lots of practical skills that she can bring back into the workplace straight away and is also able to draw on real-life experience picked up in the workplace to provide as examples in her learning modules.
“I’ve also been able to get involved with other things within the workplace too. As I’m an engagement champion, I get involved in events all over the country. This means going out to schools, careers fairs and parents evenings to speak to students and to parents and give them an understanding of apprenticeships. I can explain first-hand what it’s all about so that they know more when they’re making decisions about their own the future.”
As for Megan’s future, she is hopefully that she’ll be able to stay with the Post Office after her apprenticeship comes to an end. “It’s a great organisation to work for and I can see the potential to grow and develop my career here. I hope eventually to work in management and I’d love the opportunity to do that here.”