The Future’s Bright for Local Apprentices
Two teenagers from Tameside are building a brighter future for themselves as Apprentices at Brother UK (Brother).
The Tameside-based information, communications and technology company is already seeing the benefits of taking on two apprentices with both learners bringing enthusiasm and a fresh perspective to the business.
Aaron Hopkinson and Gemmer Crozier, both 18, joined Brother in summer this year.
The company, which has its European headquarters in Audenshaw, Tameside, wanted to provide local students with an introduction to the business as part of its community engagement strategy, championed by Brother UK Managing Director, Phil Jones.
A pre-requisite for the company was that, if possible, the candidates were from the Tameside borough.
After a process of assessment and interview, the pool of ten candidates was dwindled down to two – Aaron from Dukinfield was recruited as a digital apprentice in July, while Gemmer from Audenshaw joined as a business administration apprentice in September. They had both been enlisted from the Apprentice Academy’s Milk Round, a graduate calibre apprenticeship programme which sources the best local talent for employers.
On recruiting the apprentices, Sam Johnson, Brother’s Internal Communications and Engagement Coordinator said:
“In addition to having the relevant grades, it was important for the applicants to have the right character to compete with some strong personalities in their respective departments. Aaron and Gemmer fitted the bill perfectly. We have struck it lucky with them both – they are professional, motivated and proactive and are a joy to work with.”
In a work environment earning and learning
Gemmer Crozier has lived on her own since she was 16 and is no stranger to hard work, having juggled three jobs at one time to cover her living costs.
The former Loreto Sixth Form College student achieved three A-levels and 11 GCSEs and like many with impressive grades, was expected to go to university. She considered a number of courses including sociology, business studies and ICT but felt there was no clear career path for her.
What she did know was that she was a ‘hands-on’ kind of person and wanted to be in work environment earning and learning. She’d been offered a full-time supervisory position in retail where she worked for the previous two years, but craved something where there was the opportunity to better develop her skills. Gemmer wanted a career not just a job!
Furthermore, the social side of the ‘uni experience’ was not a big attraction since she had already spent two years away from home. She said:
“To be honest, when I first started my apprenticeship, I was conscious of people’s reaction to my decision – many have misconceptions and outdated attitudes towards an apprenticeship, that it’s something for students who can’t get their grades or who don’t have any other options.
“This was short-lived, particularly after joining Brother and I couldn’t be more proud now!”
At first, the experience, particularly within an office environment, was alien to her. Coming from a retail background, she was used to being on her feet all day, but she adapted very quickly to her new surroundings.
Gemmer’s apprenticeship will work on a three-month rotational basis throughout the duration of the 18-month scheme. By doing this, she will experience the full scope of the business.
She started in Procurement, taking an active role in the various functions of the operational team such as sourcing and purchasing products from as far as afield as Japan. She will spend the next three months in Account Management, then Credit Control, followed by a period split between Infrastructure, Customer Support and CSR. After gaining valuable skills spanning the business, the final part of her apprenticeship will focus on her the preferred work and department.
Aside from day-to-day work responsibilities, Gemmer has also enjoyed the high life by joining Brother’s Managing Director and a host of VIPs at the annual ‘Legends of Industry’ Awards bash at the Hilton Hotel. She continued:
“The whole experience has been amazing and I wouldn’t want to be anywhere else. It’s great to know we are so valued and get the encouragement, mentoring and training that we do. In all honesty, I really couldn’t have imagined myself doing this a year ago but I am so grateful that I’ve been given this opportunity.”
Been in the education system long enough
When Aaron Hopkinson finished his Level 3 Extended Diploma in Creative Media Production at Hyde Clarendon Sixth Form College, he automatically filled in his UCAS forms. After some deliberation, he decided that he’d been in education for long enough and wanted to learn on the job – not in another education establishment.
The opportunity at Brother seemed the perfect choice. He knew the brand – there was a printer in his classroom baring the name after all! He also knew that it was a big, reputable company nearby that could just be the break he needed. Aaron said:
“I was pretty apprehensive at first and didn’t know what to expect. I knew I wanted to work in a creative role but wasn’t sure exactly what that would entail in an actual working situation. But any uncertainties are long gone and Brother has opened up a whole new world of opportunity. It’s a dynamic environment to work in and learn, and every day is different.”
Aaron is getting broad experience by working across the digital and creative departments at Brother. Like any other creative organisation, things can change at the drop of a hat and he’s learning new things each day, from developing apps and editing videos to creating website pages and briefing external creative agencies.
Aaron has also recently won the ‘Work Together Award’, a monthly accolade chosen by the rest of the department that recognises exceptional performance and achievement. He’d been nominated three times but finally winning was a proud moment.
He also sights attending the ‘Digital Entrepreneur Awards’, the UK’s only national awards dedicated to internet entrepreneurialism, with Phil Jones as a very special occasion. He continued:
“At Brother, you don’t feel like an apprentice or someone just kick starting their career. It is a welcoming culture and you are treated as an equal.
“If I’d gone to uni for four years then got a first job, I just can’t see that I’d get the same practical experience and know-how that I’m getting right now. I’m grateful for the support I’ve received from both Brother and The Apprentice Academy – it has 100% been the right decision!”
In addition to the apprenticeship training and on the job experience, the apprentices have access to a broad range of additional training and academic courses. Gemmer has already signed up to do an NVQ in customer service while Aaron is doing training in sitecore, Marketo and sales force, the future of digital, and content writing.
Brother also has a staff recognition programme where staff nominations equate to pounds, which can then be used to purchase a choice of leisure and luxury products in a company catalogue – both apprentices have been nominated on numerous occasions!
Brother’s Sam Johnson is leading the apprenticeship programme, the first in nearly two decades, and feels that they have struck gold with the calibre of students they have. Sam commented:
“We are extremely committed to the Apprenticeship scheme and have been so impressed by the performance of Aaron and Gemmer. They are motivated, proactive and hungry to learn. They both have very different roles but their work ethic is boundless and they seem to thrive in having more responsibility, which is just so fresh and inspiring.
“I am sure that they will both have continued success with Brother and I hope to extend the scheme in the future to embrace and nurture young, local talent.”