• Ray Jones – Group Managing Director of Liberty explains how Liberty’s Supported Apprenticeship Scheme puts young people on the path to success

At Liberty we believe that providing young people with the opportunity to gain new skills and experience through apprenticeships is vitally important.

We have long been committed to offering apprenticeship opportunities at Liberty as part of our goal of supporting local employment in the areas where we work. We believe it is vital to ensure that the property services sector continues to have the highly skilled workforce that it needs for the future.

We offer a wide range of apprenticeship opportunities including gas engineering, electrical engineering, building trades, finance and administration.

It’s always great to hear the positive impact apprenticeships make on people’s lives. One of our gas engineer apprentices who is a mum of four told us “it’s a rewarding career and the support I’ve received has been invaluable” while another apprentice said she loves “learning new skills in a great industry and getting paid for it”.

Another of our new apprentices that really stands out is Ali Merrouche in Crawley. He couldn’t believe his luck when a visit from an engineer to repair his parent’s boiler during lockdown turned into the first steps in securing his position as an apprentice with Liberty.

This National Apprenticeship Week, we are proud to commit to ensuring five percent, that’s around 50, of our workforce will be apprentices.

We are delighted to already be surpassing this target – we have 52 apprentices on board with us at the moment.

But there is always more we can do. Liberty is part of the 5% Club, a dynamic movement of employers committed to building and developing the workforce they need as part of a socially mobile, prosperous and cohesive nation.

Our Supported Apprenticeship Scheme in Salford is currently supporting nine of our 52 apprentices as part of our commitment to empowering young people.

We’ve been working with our client ForHousing and their Skills Centre, to provide construction training and the chance to gain qualifications for school pupils facing challenges or who have been excluded.

This has enabled us to support students to overcome barriers they may be facing to succeeding in an apprenticeship with Liberty.

There are many reasons why young people do not always complete their apprenticeships, such as educational needs that might not have been properly addressed throughout their school years, or difficult experiences they have had in their childhood that have impacted their behaviour.

So, to help ensure young people moving into apprenticeships stay on track, we have worked in partnership with ForHousing, Salford City College and Salford City Council to provide additional support through a Supported Apprenticeship.

Together we secured funding, paid to Salford City Council, of £45,000 from Greater Manchester Combined Authority’s Removing Barriers to Apprenticeship fund. This has meant a Project Coordinator at the council can lead the project and enabled us to work together to put in place support at every stage, from going through paperwork with young people before they start their apprenticeship, to continuous support while they are on the job.

By coming together to understand where each young person is coming from, their background and their perspective, we are in a unique position to provide them with a safe environment to grow and develop in a way that all young people should have access to.

Support includes weekly catch-up calls from Rachel Roberts, Programme Coordinator at Liberty, with the apprentice, their manager and regular contact with the college to identify any potential issues early on before they escalate.

Before lockdown we always met apprentices face to face and introduced them to their manager before they started their role. We’ve been working around this using Zoom and Microsoft Teams to maintain that contact and build that rapport.

Many young apprentices won’t be used to a structured routine so we have found introducing young people gradually to a full-time working week can help them settle in. We offer new apprentices the option to start part-time until they adjust so they can build up to full-time hours and not get overwhelmed.

We want to give every young person the best chance of success and the opportunities they deserve. We believe this extra support through our Supported Apprenticeship initiative can make all the difference.

One young person we worked with had not been in formal education since Year 7, he was a carer, had experienced trauma and had high anxiety about meeting new people and mistrusted people in authority. The Supported Apprenticeship scheme has given him a new start in life that might not otherwise have been open to him.

Before we set up this project, we saw a number of apprentices quit. But with the extra support we can now offer, things have changed for the better and more and more young people are thriving in their new roles.

We are looking forward to continuing to work with ForHousing, Salford City Council, Salford City College and Bolton College to support many more apprentices to pave their own way to a successful and rewarding career.

And we will always be looking for new ways to support people of any age into an apprenticeship to make their dream career a reality and build the skilled workforce of tomorrow.

For more information on Liberty’s apprenticeships visit https://www.liberty-group.co.uk/apprenticeships

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