Kimmie Wheatland

‘Plumb’ jobs in store for adult improvers

Date: 1 May 2018 

Sovereign Housing Association welcomed two ‘adult improver’ apprentices to its Basingstoke team recently, as the fledging tradespeople took their first steps to new careers.

The innovative apprenticeship scheme is aimed at women and older people looking for a change of career direction, rather than school leavers. Trades such as such as plumbing, carpentry, and electrical work are on offer to participants, as well as positions within the customer service team. Sovereign already has an extremely strong track record training youth apprentices - with more than 60 places offered over the last five years - but this programme offers something new.

Kimberley Wheatland, 29, and Harry Eagles, 24, were among 100 applicants who went for the prized places on the ‘Building for Future’ pilot, launched by Sovereign earlier this year. Those who complete the course successfully will be offered a job.

Operations Manager, Michelle Larkin, said: “The 30-month adult improvers programme sees trainees spend their first six months’ completing on-the-job learning within Sovereign Response; getting to know the business, the customers and the way that Sovereign operates. After that, they begin studying for an NVQ2 in their chosen trade.”

It was Kimberley and Harry’s attention to detail and passion for their future trades that won them a place on the scheme, rather than a focus on traditional qualifications.

Kimberley, who is training as a carpenter, said: “I went through a tough time in my life. My partner and I were struggling to have kids and that took over everything, I couldn’t find a way past it. The only thing that cheered me up was working with wood. I built a shed with windows and skylights from scratch just so that I could use my hands.

“Then, Lauren, an employment and training officer at Sovereign told me about the adult learners’ apprenticeship. When I found out I’d got it I was over the moon. This job means the world to me and my partner. It’s given me a new focus. Every day he says: “You’ve got this!” and I know that I have. Sovereign has been great, I’m learning everything by doing it hands on, and I’m bettering myself. If other women follow in my footsteps, then that’s even better.”

Harry, training as a plumber, wanted a change of career. He said: “When I left school I had to find a job quickly due to family commitments, but I’d always wanted to work in a trade. To show how passionate I was about becoming a plumber I took pictures of the bathroom installation I’d completed at home along to my interview. I told the team that I’d taught myself by watching YouTube videos and talked through how I’d made my decisions at each stage of the process.”

Ryan Garthwaite, a maintenance manager for Sovereign, was one of the interviewers. He said: “Kimberley had been out of work for three years, but I saw something in her that said she just needed someone to give her a shot, to show what she’s capable of. I believe the whole reason for the adult learner programme is to give someone an opportunity to excel that may have had to leave school early, had children or had some problems earlier in life.”

Liane Sheppard, Operations Director East and West, said: “Through our women in trades taster days and work experience we have seen individuals come along with basic trade skills and great values, behaviours and skills but traditionally, not the right qualifications.

“At Sovereign, we want to be able to attract a more diverse workforce and encourage our residents into employment, especially in our priority communities. We need the best people to deliver services to our customers and to do that we’re happy to challenge the norm and start to do things differently as a new organisation.”

For more information on the Sovereign apprenticeship scheme and other employment opportunities go to www.sovereign.org.uk/careers