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Apprenticeships: Why it’s never too late at Wolverhampton Homes

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Apprenticeships: Why it’s never too late at Wolverhampton Homes

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Published by Brian Church for 24dash.com in Housing and also in Communities

Wolverhampton Homes apprentice Shadrack Wolverhampton Homes apprentice Shadrack

Jamie Angus, head of communications and engagement at Wolverhampton Homes, writes:

You mention the word 'apprentice' in the workplace and for most people it’s a hark back to the days of YTS with young fresh-faced teens starting their working life – or the sight of egotistical business wannabes under the watchful eye of Nick, Karen and Lord Sugar.

But for some apprentices at one ALMO in the West Midlands, apprentice life really begins at 40.

Wolverhampton Homes, the company responsible for managing more than 23,000 council houses in Wolverhampton, launched its Learning, Employment and Achievement Programme (LEAP) back in 2012 and have already helped more than 120 tenants and their families to get work experience, new skills, and training. Last month it celebrated its 50th apprentice coming through the scheme.

But it’s not just about giving recent school and college leavers a break in the world of work; in fact three of the programme’s leading lights all have one thing in common…they’re all aged over 40.

Michelle, 41, left school with no qualifications and was a mother of three by her early twenties. At the age of 40 she’d never worked. "I spent many years raising my children and didn’t get any qualifications at school, because of this I had never worked," Michelle said. "The fact that I had never worked made me feel unworthy of employment and my confidence was at rock bottom."

But she plucked up the courage to enrol on LEAP’s initial eight-week work experience placement. Within two months she’d been offered a 12-month apprenticeship and before long she’d landed herself a full time role. Michelle now displays with pride in her home her very first pay packet. Her transformation was complete when last year she was named West Midlands Apprentice of the Year. She told reporters: "Because of my apprenticeship I’m learning more about myself and feel like a new person. I now have the chance to guide people that are a mirror of my own past and I can finally pay my own way in life."

But Michelle is just one in a long line of older apprentices who are excelling as part of Wolverhampton Homes’ double-award winning LEAP programme.

Shadrack (photo), aged 41, was recently named Apprentice of the Year at the NFA Awards in Manchester. A father of three, Shadrack worked long hours in warehouses doing manual labour on a zero hours contract basis. He wanted to change his life so enrolled at university in a bid to improve his chances of getting a better job. Amidst all this, he barely had time to see his children. But despite graduating with a degree in social policy, nobody was willing to take a chance on Shadrack when it came to full time work. He joined LEAP – and has never looked back. He’s now secured a full-time contract and is reaping the rewards of his labour, as are his family. Shadrack summed up his journey from zero hours contract to apprentice of the year by saying "my dreams have now become a reality, where the sky is the limit".

Last month, Wolverhampton Homes welcomed its 50th apprentice. Deborah, a 44 year old grandmother, joined the LEAP work experience programme earlier this year and has now been offered a 12-month apprenticeship, working as a handyperson – helping to do odd jobs around homes in Wolverhampton.

Deborah, who had been out of work for 10 years, had previously worked in various factory jobs but eventually decided to enrol at Wolverhampton College and become a qualified carpenter.

Deborah said: "I’m so happy to be back in work and putting my skills to the test. I’ve been out of work for 10 years and getting involved in LEAP has given me a massive confidence boost and I’m loving every second of my apprenticeship."

Summing up LEAP’s successes, Wolverhampton Homes Chief Executive Lesley Roberts said: "We’re so proud of our LEAP apprentices and what they’ve achieved. When you listen to people like Michelle, Shadrack and Deborah you realise that it’s never too late to learn, it’s never too late start afresh and if you give someone a chance, you really can help them transform their lives."

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