Apprenticeships are taking off at First Central.

This is just the start... 

First Central and exceptional colleague experiences go hand in hand. We’re so serious about nurturing our people’s fulfilment at work we’ve made it a key part of our company strategy. Our commitment’s concrete! We enjoy an amazing, supportive culture, one that celebrates people and looks after them inside the office and out. Their wellbeing, their work-life balance and their growth. They might come to First Central for a job but they stay because we give them so much more; they thrive in an environment that encourages people to grab every opportunity to develop and keep on learning. Always. Continuous improvement runs through our veins. We’re a successful business because our people know what it takes to achieve great things. Their curiosity knows no bounds.

‌Let’s look at apprenticeships as an example. The UK’s 17th annual National Apprenticeship Week has just drawn to a close so the timing’s perfect and, fittingly, its theme was ‘Skills for Life’… So, what are apprenticeships and why are they such a big deal? Their roots in the UK go back to the Middle Ages when the idea of gaining practical experience alongside skilled craftsmen grew. They were common in trades like weaving, stonemasonry and carpentry, young people entering into a contract with a ‘master’ who’d pass on the skills of his craft through a structured training programme.   

Although very different now as society and industrial landscapes have evolved, the fundamental concept’s the same. We see them as a win-win for employers and their employees, offering an exciting way to boost skills, gain experience or even switch careers and get paid at the same time. In England, it’s a statutory requirement that apprentices spend 20% of their time away from their day-to-day duties to get on with their learning. There’s no cost as employers pick up the tab. The programmes really are a mash up of study and work with oodles of benefits (no ‘masters’ at First Central, though we’re sure a few would relish the title if we let them.) Our Careers Specialist Lauren Markham oversees our proposition and she made sure National Apprenticeship Week at First Central was buzzing with activity. We hosted virtual and in-person events so people could chat with former apprentices and find out what’s what. As ever, we made sure a cheeky cake or two was involved. 

Think apprenticeships apply only to young people entering the world of work for the first time? Think again. Though this is an important piece of the jigsaw and one we embrace, 2023 was our busiest year yet for enrolments onto apprenticeship programmes by existing employees. We’re thrilled we can encourage people to learn new skills, boost internal mobility and help our colleagues thrive. Apprenticeships inspire them to pick up the pace of their career progression. The opportunities for job-focused training are across the whole business and span a range of professional qualifications and tiers from Level 2 (GCSE) to Level 7 (masters degree) depending on the role. We know our people are special; we partner with the best training providers out there to make sure study programmes are current, relevant and stimulating. 

To give you a flavour, 14 eager employees have already taken their careers to the next level and graduated. 26 more have been bold enough to embrace the change and sign up for an apprenticeship. A variety of different career areas are involved, from accountancy, taxation and data to learning and development and operations. Some are involved in Level 3 programmes, kind of the equivalent of two good ‘A’ levels, with five aiming for the highest Level 7 qualification. It’s a real mix of superpowers. There are eight more colleagues raring to go already this year so 2024’s shaping up to be exciting. One of our success stories is Chloe Rose, PA to First Central’s senior leadership team. Not only did she challenge herself to get stuck into an apprenticeship alongside her demanding role, she rocked a Distinction! You can listen to Chloe’s reflections about her Level 3 Executive PA Apprenticeship here. Spoiler alert: she loved it! 

We’re so proud to be part of Chloe’s journey and the development adventures our other apprentices have enjoyed. We’ll let Lauren Markham have the final word:

"National Apprenticeship Week gave us the perfect opportunity to shout about apprenticeships to colleagues and managers across our business, and to break down some common misconceptions around the age and grade of colleague they're suitable for. With over 50 apprenticeship standards identified that align with work opportunities here, there’s something for everyone and we want to consider them as a first port of call when we spot a development want or need. It was also great to bring our current apprentices together to celebrate, network and share ideas!" 


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