Newham Council is using the Communities and Local Government apprenticeship grant to fund two extra green space apprentices with Serco, the contractor who delivers their green space services.
The council has an ageing parks workforce (employed by Serco), with many staff due to retire within five years. This makes succession planning a priority. Apprenticeships are seen as the solution - many of Newham’s most experienced parks staff worked their way up from an apprenticeship.
Using the CLG grant
The council requires Serco to appoint two new green space apprentices every year, with the aim of employing them at end of the apprenticeship. The Communities and Local Governement (CLG) apprenticeship grant has taken this total to four.
In line with local policies to ensure local jobs go to local people, these apprenticeships were advertised via Workplace, a council organisation which focuses on the needs of long-term unemployed local people.
From 24 applicants, 10 people were selected for further interviews, and four were appointed. One apprentice dropped out of the scheme early, and will be replaced in January.
Lee Catterick had done some part-time and voluntary gardening, as well as a spell in prison. He had registered with Workplace for short building courses before being accepted as a parks apprentice at Newham. Lee wants expertise and to be multi-tasking. The best thing about the role for him is learning new skills, seeing the wildlife, and the hard work.
Sam Peters’ whole family are keen horticulturalists and he has had several gardening jobs before taking on the Newham apprenticeship. Sam is following his father, who works as a groundsman for Serco in Newham. He finds the best thing is being able to answer a question from a member of the public, such as how to mark a right angle on a football pitch.
Mehar Singh studied business at college. He did not complete the course, and subsequently worked for seven years in retailing. As he and his mother are passionate gardeners, Workplace directed him to the parks apprenticeship and now he enjoys the fresh air, the variety of work and learning, and the pleasure in achieving a well-kept place. He enjoys asking technical questions at college and work and gets up in the morning keen to come to work.
The apprentices received in-house training for numeracy and literacy so that they could be accepted for college training, and now study at Capel Manor College one day a week. Their work programme is planned for variety, to tie in with college, and to allow them to choose their interests.
Newham adds value to the apprenticeship by sharing the training with the Royal Parks and Corporation of London, swopping apprentices for a few days at a time so that they can learn in different environments. This range of experience also looks good on the apprentice’s CV.