Wendy Griffiths, Assistant Director, Customer Services and Business Support Division and Simon Field, Head of Business Improvement and Support for Digital and Customer Services Directorate at Birmingham City Council wanted to accelerate the apprenticeship programme and increase the number of posts within the Directorate and across the wider Council. On becoming aware of a new business administrator apprenticeship standard, they decided to utilise the qualification during a recruitment drive across their customer services and business support division.
In May 2019, 12 apprentices joined the council. They were assigned to work for 18 months in service areas across the directorate. It became the council’s biggest apprenticeship recruitment cohort to date.
Seven of the apprentices have now secured permanent posts on completing their qualification.
“There’s no doubt these apprentices have added value to their teams in so many ways,” said Cheryl Smylie, Business Support Manager at the Council.
“Many of us have seen first hand how well the apprentices have progressed professionally, demonstrating further knowledge and skills; building on their experiences constantly.”
Examples of this include some of the apprentices become COVID wellbeing ambassadors. This involved contacting vulnerable citizens across Birmingham during the first 2020 lockdown to ensure they were adequately supported. Team members have also contributed to a more efficient complaint process; collating feedback and queries in a more coordinated manner.
Cheryl regards the business administration apprenticeship standard as a ‘worthwhile’ qualification for its ability to acknowledge off the job training and the apprentices’ individual contribution to the workplace.
“The end point assessment also helps to demonstrate how each individual becomes a more rounded professional,” she said.
Digital and Customer Services embedded a robust support programme in place for apprentices throughout their training. This includes induction days, mentoring and being involved in a buddying system with colleagues who provided dedicated daily support within their service area. This all supports their integration into the business.
Cheryl continued: “In addition to this, we factor in extensive support from Walsall College’s trainers/assessors. This collaborative approach has been phenomenal.”
Cheryl added: “As one of the city’s key employers, it’s so important for us to offer these opportunities. It means we can welcome a more diverse range of individuals. In turn, these different voices come up with new ideas and ways of working.
“Ultimately their contribution is something that benefits the business and the citizens of Birmingham.”