Bradfords’ apprentices share success

Paul Carlisle
Paul Carlisle, business development director

To celebrate National Apprenticeship Week 2022, Bradfords Building Supplies is celebrating the ongoing success of its apprenticeship scheme, which continues to have a big impact on the company.

Jack Jones, a sales assistant at Bradfords’ Worcester branch who joined the company as an apprentice in March 2021, said: “From working in the yard to serving at the counter, I’ve had experience across the business here and now sit next to the Branch Manager in the sales office. I’ve taken any chance I’ve had to gain qualifications, including my forklift training, and I’m given so many opportunities to learn.

“Everyone I work with is really supportive and if I have any questions I know I don’t need to hesitate to ask. But there’s no hand-holding. I’m given the freedom to do things independently and on my own initiative and I end up learning a lot more that way. This is a busy environment and when our customers need help, they need it now, so I just have to get on with it and make decisions. I’m empowered to get on with my job.

“I’m often put into new situations where I’m doing something I’ve never experienced before. For example, I’ve been sent out to do charity work in the community, including providing facemasks for care homes, and have lots of chances to talk to people from outside the building industry, which really broadens my horizons and makes me more of a well-rounded employee.

“To be fair, I don’t really feel that much like an apprentice. I feel like I’m one of the team and treated as such. I’m not asked to do any ‘rubbish’ jobs. One of the things I’m most proud of is building strong customer relationships. There’s a customer who specifically asks for me – they come to us for all their supplies and I know they recommend us to others a lot too. I love having my own customers to look after and I make good money for an apprenticeship. I’m very lucky.”

Chelsea Bradford, a sales assistant at Bradfords’ Plympton branch, who began her apprenticeship in July 2021, said: “The best part about working at Bradfords is the team. They’re the most supportive ever and are always happy to help when you don’t know something. The customers are lovely and you get to know them so well. I always feel good about coming into work every day.

Chelsea Bradford 002 bradfords

“My current role is working on the till and keeping an eye on stock levels. I’ve also been learning lots about how the finances work with the admin team and will be working in the yard in March, when I’ll be able to take my forklift licence and learn more about how the deliveries work. After that I’ll be working in the tool hire section.

“Before I started my apprenticeship I had no idea what I wanted to do, but now I know I want to work my way up in the branch. I have a 10-year plan and my next step is to become a sales advisor and know everything I need to know. After that, it’s assistant branch manager. This is a career for me, it’s not just a job.

“Having started off knowing nothing about this job to being able to having customers come to me and trust my knowledge in the products they need is just a great feeling. Lots of tasks can be given to me and I can just whizz through them without any help.”

Harvey Nash, an apprentice sales assistant who joined the Bradfords Apprenticeship Programme after working part-time at the Ross-On-Wye branch, said: “The branch manager told me that Bradfords offered an apprenticeship programme, so after some consideration over the summer I decided to go for it.

“The multiskilling aspect of Bradfords’ programme is a huge draw for me, you get to experience so many different aspects of the business and you’re constantly learning new things. For example, today I was awarded my forklift truck driving license.

“Not only does an apprenticeship give you a defined career path, it also helps develop you as a person. You get to learn on the job as well and get paid a fair wage. The people you work with has a big part to play as well however; I’m very lucky to be surrounded by lots of colleagues who are always more than happy to help.”

Paul Carlisle, business development director, Bradfords Building Supplies, added: “It’s critical we ‘grow our own’ people in the business. A successful apprenticeship programme will only work, however, with the support of the right managers and also by providing a multitude of different options as a career path.

“As a valued part of the team straight away, the way we work with apprentices is to give them access to all aspects of the business, and much of the building industry as a whole. We find giving them a range of different skills not only makes them better employees but also better people for themselves too.  You can’t beat it.

“Relatively new to the world of work, apprentices generally don’t have any preconceptions about the workplace, they’re always willing to learn, are full of personality and there’s an infectious enthusiasm that rubs off on the wider business.

“Following a successful apprenticeship, we find many go on to climb the ranks and achieve some incredible things in the business. The programme has become crucial in providing an ongoing pipeline of new team members to help push the business forward. It’s also playing a part in the work we do to create and maintain sustainable communities wherever we operate.”

The Bradfords Group Apprenticeship Programme

Bradfords’ apprentices receive a focused training programme with the aim of allowing them to become multi-skilled in their role. As such, while Bradfords encourages the intake of apprentices across the business, only those managers who can commit and devote the time required to support a learner during their apprenticeship are given authorisation to employ one.

In the short-term, the focus is on ensuring apprentices are fully conversant with their role. Coming out of their apprenticeship, they are guided to become fully independent workers, able to build on their knowledge and experience and increase their competence.

As they progress in their role, the business offers continued development opportunities. Through reviews and regular one-to-ones, training needs are identified and programmes are put in place.

Bradfords offers a variety of opportunities, depending on ability and aspiration. For those who want to progress and become managers, there are specific management development programmes as well as a Fast Track programme, which aims to progress the ‘Managers of the Future’, by giving them a one-year intensive training scheme and mentor support.

Others may choose to become experts in their particular role and Bradfords helps them build their product knowledge and capability through online training programmes, learning from others and via external training courses. Throughout their career with the company, apprentices will be offered a wide range of training and will be encouraged to take responsibility for their own development.

Benefits for all

For Bradfords, the benefits are significant. For its learners, they’re guaranteed a permanent role on successful completion of the apprenticeship. Apprentices receive regular performance feedback, are paid well above the national apprentice rate and receive pay reviews every six months.

As well as the wider benefits of attracting a new generation of employees, Bradfords has also found the opportunity for development and to see individuals grow in confidence is highly motivational for its managers. The chance for existing staff to share their knowledge and experience with apprentices has had a really positive impact across the business.

About Anjali Sooknanan

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