Creating opportunities through Apprenticeships and Traineeships

A new chapter to our sustainability story

25th April 2016

Chris Starling on creating opportunities and training more people for the world of work

The Virgin founder, Sir Richard Branson, has done many things to inspire others but one thing he said that sticks with me isn’t about being a challenger or changing the game but the value of the training you provide for your people.

This is core to our apprenticeship scheme where well trained and rewarded people can enjoy long and fruitful careers as well as help our customers get the most out of the great services we provide.

We recently announced another 120 new opportunities for young people across the UK to become apprentices and gain recognised skills and experience whilst earning. Earlier this year 116 apprentices graduated from the various programmes we offer and, since we started doing this, we have trained and given jobs to nearly 800 people who have gone on to do brilliant things for Virgin Media.

With youth unemployment hitting record levels in recent years, we wanted to do more, which is why we were one of first businesses to offer traineeships to young people who showed promise but weren't quite ready to enter the world of work. On this scheme, we give young people dedicated training and support, often one-on-one, to enable them to become apprentices.

Good traineeships should be about enabling young people to learn and find employment. It is not free labour. Our traineeships last around eight weeks during which trainees don’t serve our customers or work for the company in any way but do get a chance to see what a job would be like. Of course, we ensure the training comes at no cost to them, which is why we successfully argued trainees should keep their job seeker's allowance whilst putting the finishing touches on their skills. It is the same as someone looking to improve their prospects at a college or any other educational establishment, but with one of Britain's most exciting businesses giving them real world training instead.

This year, all our trainees became full time apprentices earning full time employment and salaries above the minimum wage, but more importantly they expanded the prospects and opportunities ahead of them.

Take, for example, Jake, who is now a field apprentice in Nottingham. During his school years Jake studied an engineering diploma and successfully completed this at Level 2. He had gained some work experience at a local sports centre and wanted to find an apprenticeship instead going full time to college. Jake had heard about the Virgin Media scheme through friends and applied for a position in his area. Jake went to the assessment day but found working with the tools and the practical boards a little awkward. He was instead offered the chance to try a traineeship to see how he would adapt and to help decide if it was something he would like to pursue.

As he says, "My Traineeship has given me the chance to improve my technical skills and show my determination to succeed. The support I have received has been brilliant with regular reviews and updates on my progress It's been great, I've had rejections following interviews before and that's where it ended."

In fact if you meet Jake or any of our trainees, I think they’ll say it was invaluable few weeks which have set them up for a great future. And that quote from Sir Richard that means so much to us? Well, he said; "Train people well enough so they can leave, treat them well enough so they don’t want to"!

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