More than 300 employees at Northumbrian Water are undertaking apprenticeship programmes to help further their careers. Here, we speak to Workforce Development Manager, Tracey Greener, about why they’ve decided to embrace apprenticeships in their many forms and how it’s impacting the business.
For the few readers that that don’t know, can you tell us a little bit about Northumbrian Water?
We supply 2.7 million customers in the North East with both water and sewerage services, trading as Northumbrian Water, and 1.8 million customers in the South East with water services, trading as Essex & Suffolk Water.
We’re so proud to have recently been named the UK’s most trusted water company and in 2017, we were also named the world’s most ethical water company for the seventh successive year and Utility of the Year at the Utility Week Awards.
What is Northumbrian Water offering to its existing employees?
We are giving people, including some who already have decades of workplace experience, a chance to continue their professional development by using apprenticeship programmes that allow them to continue working alongside their studies.
Currently, more than 90 employees are undertaking Level 3 Apprenticeships relating to Water Engineering, while more than 30 are working towards qualifications in Customer Service. Others are taking Apprenticeship programmes in subjects like Business Accounting, Human Resources, Laboratory Technician and Construction.
Why has Northumbrian Water decided to embrace apprenticeships?
We really value our staff and want to support them in their professional development, whether that’s progressing higher in the organisation or moving into a completely new role that is more suited to their interests and skills. Apprenticeships are the perfect route for us to do this as they are industry recognised learning programmes and a fantastic opportunity to expand or update knowledge relating to an existing career while still working.
Ultimately, we want the best qualified and most motivated employees working with us who enjoy their jobs and want to stay with us throughout their career. We believe that apprenticeships are definitely one way of achieving this.
Have you come across any misconceptions around apprenticeships in the workplace?
I think apprenticeships used to be thought of as an option solely for people under 25, people who are just starting out in their career and looking for a way into a particular industry. However, more and more we are seeing apprenticeships used for people of all ages looking to expand their skills or re-train so we definitely see it as something for people of all ages and not just those at the very beginning of their career.
Also, I don’t think many people realised that you can use an Apprenticeship programme to gain many different levels of qualification up to and including Masters. They are a fantastic option for people who simply are not inclined towards a purely academic route, so, again, they really are no longer just something for school leavers.
Will you share some stories of people who are undertaking an apprenticeship scheme while working at Northumbrian Water?
One person that springs to mind is Paul Walker, he’s an Area Manager in Customer Field Services and has been working for more than 20 years so is more than qualified and experienced in his field. He is now studying towards a Chartered Management Degree Apprenticeship with Teesside University while continuing in his role.
Paul recognises the importance of professional development and believed the next natural progression for him was a degree. Through Northumbrian Water, he is now able to work and study at the same time.
As well as career progression, some people are embarking on the apprenticeship scheme with a view to retraining and changing careers. After working with us for 9 years in litigation, our Production Operator, Aron Potter, started a permanent role in the Water Supply team and is undertaking his apprenticeship within that position.