16 March 2016

Apprentices working with Streets Ahead have been sharing their experiences this week in recognition of National Apprenticeship Week 2016, showing that you don’t need to be a school leaver to take a new career path.

National Apprenticeship Week celebrates apprenticeships and traineeships and the positive impact that they have on individuals, businesses and the wider economy.

Street Ahead employ a number of apprentices each year and at the end of 2015 had an intake of 12 new apprentices, all working on the Streets Ahead project. This is to coincide with Amey’s (Street Ahead contractor) apprenticeship programme, which offers a wide range of challenging opportunities for people across over 300 locations in the UK.

Working in a variety of areas, including business administration, mechanics, highway maintenance, grounds and arboriculture and street cleaning, the intake of apprentices will gain experience in their chosen trades, in addition to undertaking NVQ training at Sheffield College. They will also work towards gaining the Duke of Edinburgh’s Business Bronze Award.

Apprenticeships are usually aimed at 18-24 year olds, but more and more people are beginning to realise that you don’t have to be a school leaver to start on the path to a new career. Sheffield City Council and Amey support and encourage this, providing opportunities to unlock talent across all age brackets. A number of the twelve apprentices that were taken on in 2015 are over the age of 24 and benefitting from the support and opportunities an apprenticeship can offer.

Cllr Julie Dore, Leader of Sheffield City Council, said: “It is great to showcase these apprentices this year showing that you don’t have to be 16 to 18 to take on an apprenticeship.

“As a Council we can see the value apprentices have in our economy and we know how important it is that everyone is given the opportunities that best suit them. As a city we need people with the right skills and apprenticeships are a key part of creating a workforce for the future.”

Rob Allen, Streets Ahead’s Business Director at Amey, said: “We are extremely proud of our apprenticeship programme and it is a fantastic opportunity for ambitious people of all ages, not just young people who are looking for a career straight out of school.

“Age shouldn’t be a barrier when looking for new opportunities or to retrain – it’s never too late to take on new challenges. We work closely with our apprentices to help them to develop specific skills and knowledge and to make sure that they achieve their ambitions.

“It’s always great to see our apprentices’ progress, move through the business and make a career for themselves.”

Helen Johnson, Streets Ahead’s Community and Employee Engagement Officer at Amey, added: “It’s great to see applications for our apprenticeship programme from a wide age range. Older apprentices often have work experience and transferable skills and can make a contribution to the work place very quickly. All of our apprentices are keen to learn and their enthusiasm is contagious – they are a great asset to Amey.”

Case study: Lianne Gale

Lianne Gale, 37, is part of the street cleaning team and joined Amey as an apprentice in September 2015 after hearing about the scheme through her Mum who works for Amey on the Streets Ahead project.

“I was working as a cleaner but looking for a new opportunity and new experiences. I never even considered an apprenticeship as I always thought they were targeted at younger people who had just left school and were looking to learn whilst on the job, not somebody like me who has experience and qualifications already,” said Lianne

“When I heard that Amey doesn’t have an age limit on their apprenticeship scheme, I decided to apply online. I was then invited to attend an open day, where we were given an introduction to Amey and took part in speed interviews, which lasted around 10 minutes. From there I was lucky enough to be invited to a more in-depth interview and then placed in a position in which I had shown interest – street cleaning in Sheffield.”

On average, the Streets Ahead team collect between 500 and 600 tonnes of litter that has been dropped on the streets of Sheffield each month. As part of a wider team, Lianne’s role involves supervising a team in an area of the city centre, picking up litter that has been dropped.

“Amey offers a variety of apprenticeship options, but I was keen to work in street cleaning and would love to grow my career within street cleaning.

“I was concerned that I wouldn’t be eligible for an apprenticeship as I have already completed my NVQ qualifications when I was younger. However, Amey is keen to help me to complete further study to develop me in my role, such as environmental courses.

“I am now six months into my two-year long apprenticeship and I have learnt a lot already. The best thing about my role is the diversity and opportunities available to me. I have been able to try different street cleaning roles on the Streets Ahead project to give me a taste of different areas of the business, which has been interesting and has helped me to develop my skills.”

Lianne has already decided that Streets Ahead and Amey is where she wants to build her future career and can already see a path developing. “I would like to stay within Amey, working on Streets Ahead when my apprenticeship comes to an end next year. I would recommend an apprenticeship with Amey to other people that don’t fall into the typical apprentice age group – there are still lots of options and Amey are very supportive.”

Case study: James Taylor

Twenty-seven year old James Taylor works as an Arboriculture apprentice on the Streets Ahead project. He joined the scheme in September 2015 after wanting to follow his dream working with trees.

“At the age of 27 and having worked in retail since leaving university, I thought that I had to stick in the career that I was in and I couldn’t ‘start again’, even though I knew that my dream career would be working outdoors with trees.

“I started by looking into retraining myself, but it would have been difficult to fund whilst not working and still supporting a family. I then came across the apprenticeship scheme at Amey and was really interested in working with the arboriculture team.

“I went through the application process and was lucky enough to secure a position within Amey, even though I wasn’t fresh out of school, which is fantastic as it has given me the opportunity to really follow my dream, train in something I have always wanted to do and still keep earning at the same time.

“My role so far has been very interesting and just what I hoped it would be. I’ve started learning to climb so that I can carry out maintenance in trees, which has involved attending training courses and there’s some tests to do. I am thoroughly enjoying it as I climb in my spare time, although it is very different!

“I’m also attending college every week and working towards earning an NVQ to help me with my role. My apprenticeship will come to an end next year but I hope that I’m able to stay in a role in the arboriculture team as this is my dream role.

“If you’re looking for a new career direction and to learn a new skill, but think you’re stuck in your current job, think again. I’m proof that there are great opportunities for people of all ages out there, whatever you want to do.”