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Colchester apprentices celebrate their achievements at Town Hall

Apprentices working in services across Colchester Borough Council and Colchester Borough Homes joined together today (Wednesday) for a special event to showcase and celebrate their work and achievements.

Organised as part of National Apprenticeship Week , the event at the Town Hall saw the 10 young people currently taking part in the council's apprenticeship programme share their experiences with a range of invited guests. These included Cllr Mark Cory, Portfolio Holder for Resources, alongside managers and their mentors.

They are the first cohort in a new comprehensive scheme developed last year after the introduction of the government's apprenticeship levy. They have been working across a range of services including Events, IT, museums, Leisure World, and Council Tax and Benefits as part of the council's new comprehensive scheme.

Under the scheme young people aged 16-plus get the chance to experience the working world through a year-long, full-time, structured training programme and get paid while they learn. They receive quality on-the-job training, training, job shadowing and support to develop professionally in return for their hard work. 

Among the apprentices on the scheme are Megan Ruff, who works in the Events Team, and Rachel Binnie who is in the Professional Support Unit team.

Megan said : "I have really enjoyed my time as an apprentice -- it has given me the best possible experience, which I wouldn't have been able to get elsewhere." 

Rachel said : "I have enjoyed being an apprentice here at CBC because it has given me many great opportunities which has given me many more skills and I have gained work experience which I can carry with me in the future. The apprenticeship programme has allowed me to experience things that I never thought I would do."

The 10 apprentices were also joined by the two Colchester Borough Homes' (CBH) current apprentices who are working in electrical and in painting and decorating to provide an insight into their workplace learning.

Tiffany Brown, who was an apprentice working in CBH as part of the Tradeswomen into Maintenance Project run by Mears and the Chartered Institute of Housing was also at the event. She joined the scheme as a trainee plumber, straight from school at 16, and is currently working as a plumber at CBH.

Tiffany said : "I think it's really important that girls come into the world of maintenance. They shouldn't be put off by being in the minority, and there is no reason why women can't do more. I have just returned from maternity leave and while it was difficult to carry on my role as a plumber through my pregnancy, I was flexible and worked as part of the office team."

As well as hearing from the apprentices, those attending today's event also heard from a number of guest speakers including Cllr Cory; the council's Strategic Director of Customer & Relationships, Pam Donnelly, and the chief executive of Colchester Borough Homes, Gareth Mitchell.

Entrepreneur Tom Everett also spoke about his personal journey, the work he does with local businesses and young people in the community.

Cllr Mark Cory said : "Apprenticeships are an opportunity for young people from all backgrounds to learn and develop skills that give them a head start in the modern workplace. There is also the added bonus that they get paid while learning

"Taking on apprentices has been incredibly beneficial for both the Council and our trainees and today's event was a wonderful way to highlight this.

"We help our apprentices to develop professionally and build responsibility, making them part of projects that make a real difference to people in the borough - benefiting them and our residents at the same time."

Gareth Mitchell, Chief Executive of Colchester Borough Homes, said : "It's a privilege to watch a young person grow and develop their skills during the course of an apprenticeship. I am delighted we can provide hard-working youngsters with a fantastic opportunity to start their careers in a supportive environment."

Nationally the take up of apprenticeships is at a record level, with over 15,900 people completing their traineeship last year. More than 90% of all apprentices go into work or further training after completion of their programmes.

Anyone wanting to find out more about job opportunities and apprenticeships at Colchester Borough Council and CBH can visit www.colchester.gov.uk/jobs