Chris Starling, Head of Network Assurance – South West & Wales, shares with us his successes delivering new apprenticeship schemes and what he’s most proud of.
What brief were you given from the operation to deliver against with the introduction of apprenticeships and subsequent new schemes? How did you go about delivering against this?
Peter Van Den Broeck is best to provide an insight into the initial brief from the business. However, in regards to our new schemes, they were born out of the success of the initial field roll out. There were two elements to all the new schemes in the early days, firstly we ended up with apprentices who were keen to find the next opportunity and secondly areas of the business that wanted to get involved approached us. All intakes into planning and Headend were made up a blend of new external talent keen to join the company and around 60% progression from the initial field technician scheme. The key to a good apprenticeship program has always been to understand what good would look like at the end and work backward to ensure the education, experience, and exposure was available to get the apprentice to be as good as those currently in the role or better.
Were there any unexpected benefits of bring apprenticeships into Virgin Media?
Initially, the intention had always been to address an internal need but as the program development, we found ourselves sharing the stage at conferences with other work-based learning organisations, sharing best practice and even facilitating political visits. A part from hosting the then Prime Minister (David Cameron) at the start of Lightning we have over the years supported local schools and councillors with careers events, MPs and celebrities with government initiatives, we hosted the launch of “Traineeships” at our Nottingham offices with the then Minister for skills Matthew Hancock. All of these activities helped to put Virgin Media on the map as a provider of quality apprenticeships and the awards that followed recognised the achievements of all involved. One thing I had not expected was having the joy of hosting our first ever “OFSTED” inspection but the outcome of being classed as good with outstanding outcomes for our learners certainly made up for the sleepless nights.
It’s fair to say that every year at the apprentice graduation event I shared an immense sense of pride in the achievements of that year’s apprentice but the proudest moment for me was going to Africa with our Level 4 apprentice and seeing them installing solar panels at a school over 10km from the nearest shop in the middle of the bush only to find that there were parts of the kit missing. The easiest thing to have done would have been to do what we could and then arranged for someone to finish the job, however, the ingenuity and resourcefulness of the apprentice saw them borrowing screws from door hinges, whittling raw plugs from scrap wood and building a frame to mount the panel on the roof. I visited this school just last week and the system is still working perfectly and providing power and lighting for the teachers which has retained a full complement of staff as a result.