Meet Ella Smith. Our youngest WM Everyday Hero so far at just 22 – she started working at Stafford Borough Council a week before her 17th birthday so a relatively recent recruit to the sector and already a valued asset.  Her Chief Executive Tim Clegg says , “I think Ella is a remarkable young person”, another colleague Will says “I know of three other managers who would gladly steal Ella if her present boss could ever be persuaded to let her go.” Praise indeed, and there’s more to come for this young person who’s decided to make her career in local government.

When Ella was in her first year of sixth form doing A levels she asked to do her work experience in her local council – Stafford. She liked it, so much that she decided to apply for an apprenticeship there. Ella says, “I just thought there’s no harm in applying, then I was chosen to be interviewed – I couldn’t believe I actually got the job, I was so pleased! It really wasn’t a difficult decision to leave sixth form and start my first proper job, earning a wage and learning too. I’m still loving it.”

Since her apprenticeship Ella has been promoted three times

 Like many council apprenticeships Ella gained experience across the council including the contact centre, communications and policy and partnerships teams in those two years. She’s since been promoted three times and is now a senior corporate business assistant providing administrative support to colleagues on a diverse range of issues from safeguarding, antisocial behavior to commissioning and the corporate plan. She’s also organising events including ‘Stafford in the World’ – a fair for the voluntary and business sector each May – and the community awards in November. This year’s awards will be somewhat different – with a virtual model being developed by Ella.

Ella co-ordinated the shopping delivery services for the most vulnerable

When the pandemic hit Ella became the co-ordinator for the shopping delivery service for vulnerable residents. She worked out timings, the rota and logistics. Dr Tracy Redpath, Ella’s manager is full of praise,  “I am so very proud of the way Ella has managed and co-ordinated an operation that has ensured hundreds of vulnerable residents in our borough didn’t go without food as part of our Community Hub support scheme. It is only through Ella’s meticulous organisation skills, mature attitude and doggedness that the scheme has been so successful. And the initiative is now being continued through Central England Co-op’s normal operations!

This was a completely new scheme for the council to be involved in at a very challenging time for everyone – but through it all she kept such a level head, far beyond her years, in the face of some extremely chaotic days. A very worthy nomination as a public sector hero.”

Like most of the council Ella has been doing all this while working from home, indeed her team were one of the early adoptors of home working. Ella really wasn’t sure how she’d cope without her colleagues around but, like many, has found the technology to catch up with people online has worked far better than expected.

Ella has chosen local government as a career and has felt supported by the council

Ella is so positive about her choice of local government as a career that she would make a great ambassador for encouraging others to do likewise. She’s felt supported throughout her time with Stafford Borough Council and encouraged to take qualifications and given a day a week to dedicate to those – she’s done level 2 and 3 in business administration and event management and functional IT skills, much of this online. But the biggest bonus is feeling like she’s making a real difference to the community. As Ella says, “I feel I’m doing something worthwhile for my community, I get variety in what I do and I feel really appreciated too.”

In a sector that’s ageing in it’s workforce profile more young enthusiasts like Ella are needed. It’s not a surprise she’s asked to contribute new ideas to council wide groups, for example the internal communications group that ‘meets’ every two weeks and comes up with innovations to share information.

As to the future Ella hasn’t got a definite plan, “I just want to take on more responsibilities and try new areas of work,” says Ella. She continues, “I’ve been lucky during my time with Stafford to pass my driving test, to get engaged and buy a house with my fiancé. The council has been there for me throughout these important life stages.”

Zorah shines at Apprentice Awards

Coventry apprentice awards imageTeaching assistant Zorah Lahrasab was one of the apprentice success stories highlighted at a recent awards night – where she was praised for the impact she has had on pupils’ lives.

Zorah, aged 18, works at Joseph Cash Primary School after successfully completing a Level 3 Apprenticeship in Teaching and Learning at the school last year. 

She was shortlisted in the top three of her category for the 2016 Coventry Freemen’s Guild Apprentice of the Year Awards.

And although she wasn’t the eventual winner, judges heard how she was a shining example to others and that her apprenticeship had given her a great start in what promises to be a long and successful career.

Zorah has been a valued asset to the school from the moment she started work.

She has learned to identify individual children’s needs and has helped to make a positive impact on pupils’ progress across Key Stage One.

She also supports a child with severe autism and her ability to speak six languages means she regularly helps out with parents who do not have English as a first language – often using her skills to support them after school hours.

Zorah said: “I have wanted to work with children from a very young age, and I was drawn to becoming a teaching assistant as they had really helped me cope at school when times were hard.”

“I’m really happy when I’m able to tell a parent who is a refugee that their child has done well, and see their face light up.”

Zorah is also able to use her creative skills to help the children enjoy after-school activities – helping with henna Mehndi and crafts.

On one occasion when  the school was having a pirate day, Zorah set up a craft afternoon so that all the children could make a hat, sword and eye patch as she realised that a lot of parents wouldn’t be able to afford a costume – although she thinks she enjoyed it more than the children did!

Andy Hyland, Cathy Pallister and Hardip Shouker who are the Apprenticeship Team say: “We value apprenticeships very highly at the Council and around the city – we along with Adult Education are committed to providing first-class opportunities to give people the opportunity to start their chosen career. 

“Apprentices are making a real difference on a daily basis, as highlighted by the Awards and by people like Zorah.

“Our congratulations to her and everyone at the awards for their success. They show why we have such belief in apprenticeships.”

If you would like further information on apprenticeships please e-mail apprenticeships@coventry.gov.uk.

Matthew's apprentice journey with Wyre Forest

Wyre Forest Apprentice

I started at Wyre Forest District Council in October 2015 undertaking the Association of Accounting Technicians (AAT) qualification at the same time at Kidderminster College.

Training as an apprentice I am fortunate to work with an experienced Internal Audit team, who are able to develop my audit skills and public sector knowledge and are always willing to take time to answer my many questions. The variation of work is the best attribute, each day working with a member of the Audit Team can involve recommending changes to systems, (as resources and money become tighter, we often have to find ways of doing more for less), internal control testing as part of the Internal Audit Plan to ensure processes and procedures are working well and collating and preparing detailed working papers. All of which has given me an insight into how a District Council works, and just what work is done often not seen by the public. I now understand that the role of Internal Audit is to protect the public purse. 

Internal Audit are often the team that colleagues will ask for advice if they are having problems or wish to change a process, and this can be challenging, but very rewarding as you feel you are contributing to how the Council functions.  Whilst being mentored by the Senior Auditor, I have been able to contribute to reviews of changes both at our Depot site and Tourist Information Centre. I have also had the opportunity to assist the Corporate Fraud Officer in raising awareness of the Wyre Forest District Councils fraud campaign.

In addition I have been able to observe the formal Committee process in action by Observing the Audit Committee, and attending the Treasury Management Training provided for Councillors. Working in a local government environment specifically Wyre Forest House with its open plan design has given me the ability to learn how an organisation functions as a whole and to interact with all levels of staff from Councillors, Directors, Managers Colleagues and fellow Apprentices.

2017 offers more opportunities   I am hoping to complete AAT Level 3 this June and will apply to undertake Level 4 in September.

 

Solihull Apprentice Matt on apprenticeships, uni and leaving school...

I have been with Solihull Council for 5 months working as an Apprentice Civil Engineer for the Highways Projects team and I can safely say it is the best decision I could have made.

I was 21 years old when I got the apprenticeship at Solihull Council and had previously attended College, been to University & had a full time job; however I was getting frustrated with myself at the lack of career progression for my age.

Being employed onto this apprenticeship has given me a new motivation for my career and has laid out a clear path that can lead me to better myself for years to come from level 3 education right through to degree level.

The team I have been placed in couldn’t have been more helpful and welcoming, I truly enjoy my job and working alongside my senior colleagues has given me an insight into what life could be like as a fully qualified Civil Engineer.

A career in the Engineering industry was something that had always interested me from when I left school so to be able to learn all the things that interest me at college and then take them into the workplace to apply them to real world situations is the most benefitting position I could be in.

In my opinion having that mix of experience and knowledge is unrivalled, especially in an engineering role; there is only so much a classroom can teach you about the varying and ever changing problems that a Civil Engineer can encounter from day to day so for me an apprenticeship is the best way to kick-start a rewarding career.

If I could go back to being a 16 year old school leaver, I would choose the apprenticeship path without a moment’s hesitation.

Solihull Apprentice George's apprentice journey

When I applied for the Payroll Apprenticeship at Solihull council, I did not know what to expect. I had a understanding of what payroll was, however I did not expect how much there was to learn till I got stuck in. During my apprenticeship I was working towards a Level 2 Business Admin qualification, I had the support of the team and managers to get me through the apprentice. On completing my apprenticeship, I have been selected to do the CIPP Foundation Degree in Payroll Management, this will enable me to progress further and gain the relevant knowledge needed.

I would recommend anyone who is unsure what to do when they leave school or college to look at an apprenticeship.

Solihull Apprentice Aaron gives his thoughts on Apprenticeships

When I first thought about applying to be an electrical apprentice, I was very hesitant and sceptical. But after being a part of an apprenticeship with Solihull metropolitan council for 6 month now. I can honestly say that it was best decision I have ever made.

I have been happily welcomed by the members of the SMBC Street Lighting department; I have found them to be very helpful and supportive not just in helping me in acquiring my qualification but in general life skills. Because of this, it has boosted my independence and confidence.

 When anyone asks what an apprenticeship is like, I readily encourage people to apply to join apprenticeship. It’s a great opportunity, not just to gain a good qualification, that will accelerate your career, but also to gain life skills that will help you though the future.

Apprentices meet Minister to talk about training

Coventry and Warwickshire apprentices had the chance to talk about their training with a government minister when he visited the region.

Robert Halfon, the Minister of State for Apprenticeships, visited Warwick Trident College to see how Warwickshire College Group (WCG) works with apprentices.

He was looking into how apprentices have been combining work, learning and education.

Mr Halfon toured some of the college’s training workshops and met apprentices working in a variety of areas, from farriery to accountancy and dentistry to horticulture.

He said: “It has been fantastic meeting some brilliant apprentices who have taken their first steps on the ladder of opportunity to securing highly skilled jobs.”

Billy Kelly, one of the Council’s apprentices, was among those who spoke with the Minister.

Billy, a Horticulture Apprentice at Bereavement Services, who trains through Warwickshire College, said: “It was a great honour to be able to share what I’ve done and to represent what the Council has to offer for the younger generation. 

“It was great to show off the skills and knowledge I have to give and what I’m able to gain with the Council’s apprenticeship scheme. It was a good experience to tell my story to an MP and attending a conference like this has given me skills for the future.”

His supervisor, Steve Cooke, added: “Billy was an excellent ambassador for the Bereavement Service and Apprentices at Coventry City Council. He showed no sign of nerves and enjoyed the occasion. I wouldn’t have expected anything less from Billy as he has a very positive attitude and is a great example of the benefits of the Apprenticeship Scheme to both young people and the Council as the employer.”

If you would like further information on apprenticeships please e-mail apprenticeships@coventry.gov.uk.

Apprenticeship success for looked after children

Looked after children are getting new skills and experiences thanks to apprenticeships at the Council.

Four young people are working as council apprentices in business admin, horticulture, job coaching and as a health and physical activity leader. Two more are due to start this month.

Natasha was working in a fast food restaurant before she met the Apprenticeship Team and was matched with the Employment Service.

“It’s been nine months now, I am still here and I absolutely love it.

“I support people with severe to moderate mental health issues and / or learning disabilities into employment. We offer tailored support around each individual as everyone that we work with is different.

“I have the most amazing team around me who have supported me with everything since I started. I was made to feel extremely welcome from the moment I took on my apprenticeship and still to this day I am seen as a very important and valid team member.

Natasha hopes to become a Police Officer or Family Liaison Officer when she completes her apprenticeship.

John Gregg, Director of Children’s Services, said:

“It’s so important that we give the children we care for opportunities to succeed and develop.

“Supporting and helping them into work and preparing them for life is what any good parent does – and that includes us as corporate parents.

“It’s great to hear Natasha’s enthusiasm about her job and how she is now making a difference to other people’s lives.”

Find out more about apprenticeships at www.coventry.gov.uk/apprenticeships