• Ella Townsend


It’s an uncertain time for many; we hear of employers and employees all unsure of what to expect next for businesses. But another group that have been left in the dark are apprentices. Many have lost work due to the pandemic and are having to find new positions halfway through their courses. Are they getting the support they need? According to the Financial Times, ‘fewer than half of the UK’s manufacturers have plans to hire an apprentice in the next year.’

Here at Any Weld, we have understood the impact this could have on young apprentices becoming skilled workers within this industry. When the opportunity presented itself, we were happy to be in the position to be able to take someone on and offer them the training they need.

We recently hired Bella, a 19-year-old engineering apprentice who, due to the current circumstances, found herself in need of a new workplace in order to be able to carry on her apprenticeship. Bella was previously with another company when the Coronavirus pandemic started. This unfortunately meant the company having to postpone those bigger jobs it relied so much on. Despite this, they fought hard to try and keep Bella on, offering her different positions and tasks so that she wouldn’t have to leave. However, the training she needed she could only have gotten from the jobs that were no longer available. Regrettably, this meant she had to take the decision to leave, a decision her employers supported.

Bella told us that in the time between leaving her last position and joining us at Any Weld, she knew she needed a new job and was very dedicated to finding one. After a few weeks of CV distribution, Bella saw one of our social posts, advertising that we we’re looking for a trainee/apprentice. Despite this not being for a position she was after; she took the plunge to reach out and ask if there was anything we could do for her and her situation. We took Bella’s CV and invited her in for an interview one Friday; she was here working by the Monday.

The pandemic had quite an effect on Bella’s situation. Not only did it mean she had to leave a job she really enjoyed and find another position, but her experience with the college hasn’t been what she’d hoped for either. With the understanding that the pandemic is affecting not only the students, but the college and the teachers as well, we hope that by joining Any Weld Bella can catch up with her work and make up for lost time.

At Any Weld, we understand the importance of training skilled workers that we’ll need for the future of the industry. The Department of Education published worrying figures at the end of last year. These showed the number of new apprentices in England was 46% lower between March and July 2020 than it was the previous year. Despite the time frame, the drop in apprenticeships has also been said to be down to the apprenticeship levy (a UK tax on employers used to help fund apprenticeship training). This is payable by employers with an annual pay bill of £3m or more at a rate of 0.5% of their total pay bill.

When talking to Bella, we asked her about the support she has received outside of work, and what advice she would give to someone in a similar position. She answered saying that changing your apprenticeship isn’t as scary as it seems. Once you’ve found a new position, you tell the college and it’s out of your hands. She went on to say, ‘at the end of the day this is your education and what’s responsible for your next pay cheque, so it’s in your best interest to put everything into sorting the situation and finding work that suits you well.’

Bella continued, talking about how being female in a male dominated industry means you have to make sure you’re comfortable in the position you end up in. She told us that in the week that she’s been working at Any Weld, everyone has treated her exactly the same as they would each other. With a very positive outlook on her work, she is also very aware that there are going to be restrictions on what she can do, but that shouldn’t stop her from having the same opportunities as other people.

‘Here everyone’s been really amazing, they’ve been really helpful and supportive. They tell you to do something and trust you to get on with it, they don’t micromanage you. There’s been no issues in the workplace like I have experienced in previous places.’

From talking to Bella, it’s fairly clear that due to recent circumstances, the support she’s receiving from the college isn’t quite what she’d hoped for. Working remotely has meant parts of modules being missed and some work not being set. Bella explained, ‘there’s next to no support for students, or even the teachers. You do teach yourself a lot of the time. But at the end of the day, it’s a very difficult situation for everyone.’

We hope that by starting at Any Weld Bella can get the extra support she needs in these uncertain times. We have two other apprentices at Any Weld and feel it’s important to encourage their learning alongside their work. Any Weld’s Managing Director, Aaron, said “I’ve always strived on giving opportunities to new & existing employees through Any Weld. Rewind 15 years ago, I put myself in my apprenticeship boots. Without that opportunity given by my employer, I may not be here today. That is why Any Weld will always be an open door for apprenticeship placements, to offer the next generation a workplace environment to fulfil their career goals.”

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