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Apprenticeship case studies

We are proud to say that many of the businesses we work with have given us great feedback on Bedford College apprentices. Below are a selection of case studies on our customers and how we have been working with them.

» Axis Electronics

Axis has had Apprenticeships in place for around 8 years. When we first started with them, we had an ageing workforce. We were conscious that young people weren’t necessarily interested in working in electronics manufacturing, we wanted to inspire them to work their way up through the company and become our managers of the future.

Axis Electronics

Over the past 8 years we have employed around 20 apprentices. We currently have 4 apprentices on programme, all in production roles. In order to give them an idea of the range of career opportunities at Axis and a thorough understanding of how the business works, they will spend 6 month periods working in different departments.

Our Apprenticeship programme lasts for 3 years. By the end of this period we will know which departments and positions the apprentices have been most successful in and which they have enjoyed the most. All of our apprentices are offered a permanent job role on completing their Apprenticeships. We work closely with Bedford College as our training provider and the support we receive from them is excellent. They advertise the roles for us through

Apprenticeship vacancies and on their website. Bedford College also carry out the first sift of the applicant applications. We then review these, compile a shortlist, invite them in for an interview, and carry out a dexterity test with them to see how well they follow instructions.

Although the nature of our work limits the number of applicants we generally receive, we have always been pleased with the quality of the applications to our programme.

For us, the most important thing is the apprentice’s attitude. We are looking for someone who shows an interest in the business, makes the effort and is going to be committed to working for us.

We build a range of different products, supplying Printed Circuit Boards (PCB) for high-end and high- reliability products - anything from Formula 1 cars to military vehicles and commercial airlines. Because of making life-critical products, reliability is key. For example, failure is simply not an option for the ejector seat in a fighter jet. To get a better idea of the products that we create, you can visit our website:

2 of our apprentices are now in team leader positions. It is part of our ongoing plan to continue to take on 2 new apprentices per year. We are also looking at the possibility of introducing a Purchasing Apprenticeship, dependent on finding the right Apprenticeship framework and provider.

The main business benefits for us of employing apprentices are:

  • Filling the gaps within our workforce
  • Boosting morale within the company
  • Developing leadership skills in our up and coming team leaders or managers
  • Enabling our more established staff to share their knowledge and expertise

In the first year, the apprentices are at College for 2 days per week, so there is a cost to the business. However, we do find that within about 6 weeks they will be working on real jobs and bringing some real value to the company.

We take on apprentices at 18 years of age after they have completed their A Levels. Our day starts at 7:30am, so we need mature individuals who are going be reliable and can demonstrate a level of commitment. In return, we create a mutually supportive environment, and will help to fund the training of an HNC and HND for our staff if they want to study and want to invest in their future.

New apprentices are buddied up with someone who has been through the Apprenticeship. They will have a line manager who will be their day to day contact, a Training Specialist who oversees their on-the-job training and also HR support for other needs such as travel.

My advice to other businesses in Bedford would be that Apprenticeships are a great way to get local young people interested and engaged in your business from a very early stage. With a proper support network in place, we have found that the more you invest in your apprentices, the more they invest in you – they will want to stay and work hard for your company.

The best thing about taking on an apprentice is the shared sense of achievement. As apprentices achieve their qualifications and learn new skills, it gives the workforce a real boost to share in their success. It makes us feel good about our business - we don’t take apprentices because we have to, we take apprentices because we want to. apprentices are not cheap labour; they are an investment that you make for the future.

Axis Electronics
Sarah Clough, HR Director

» Capello Hair Design

Rosa Raffermati from Capello Hair Design said:

"Working with Bedford College has been very straightforward. I took on an apprentice that had done her Level 1 and was near to completing her Level 2. I had been in discussions with the college to find me an apprentice and I felt they listened to my salon’s needs. My apprentice is now doing her Level 3 and is very content attending college which I think is a testament to the college”

Capello Hair Design

“Taking on an apprentice is a big decision to make as they are a valuable team member, they are a great support to all the team and the salon runs far smoother with them in it. I look on apprentices as future stylists to hopefully remain in my team. I believe in training and supporting them and passing on my skills. It is very fulfilling to watch them develop and blossom into stylists. Ultimately apprentices are our future in the industry and they should be trained to a high standard. College is very good at training the theory background to the industry and the salon to support the practical side.”

To find out more about how Apprenticeships can help your organisation face future challenges, please telephone 01234 291747 or email

» Dalroad Norslo Ltd

Apprenticeships help put Dalroad Norslo in pole position for expansion
Luton based Dalroad Norslo is a supplier of automotive components for manufacturers and companies such as Bosch, Sumtimo, TE Connectivity, Lear, Savoy, XB Components, Vignal and Valeo.  The business has expanded rapidly during the past three years including acquiring two new companies in the last twelve months.

Dalroad Norslo and Bedford College

Apprenticeships fill skills gap
With this rapid growth, came the need for more specialist staff, and it became clear to the management that they were facing a skills’ gap.  Candidates applying for the vacancies either didn’t have the skills Dalroad Norslo needed or they were over qualified.  Steven Carpenter, Operations Manager said:

“When the hiring process began we quickly discovered that candidates had problems fitting in with the specialist nature of our business, so we decided to try Apprenticeships.  Both David Chinn-Shaw, the Managing Director of the company and I had both been apprentices so we knew how good the scheme was, and, after initially being let down by our local apprenticeship provider, we turned to Bedford College. ”

Billy Gethin completed a Warehousing and Storage Apprenticeship and then moved into the office to deal with customers and account management as a Business Administration Apprentice.  Steven added:

“The beauty about Apprenticeships is that young people are able to earn and learn at the same time.  As a business we are investing in their future and giving them the chance to get a broad, in-depth understanding of how the business works and we can show them the Dalroad way of doing things.  They can start off in the warehouse dealing with fulfilment, then move into the commercial side, dealing directly with customers or specialise in the electronic, technical side of the business. It provides both parties with options and flexibility.”

Getting paid to learn
From Billy’s point of view, the Apprenticeship has provided him with the best option to advance his career, he said:  “I didn’t want to go to university so this Apprenticeship seemed liked a great opportunity for me to go to College and learn while I’m getting paid and gaining experience in the workplace.  On a typical day I can be sending quotes to customers, entering orders on our internal computer system, dealing with customer queries and liaising with suppliers. I’ve really enjoyed my time as an apprentice so far and I have found it extremely rewarding”

Moving forward, Dalroad Norslo needs to consolidate their recent acquisitions and taking on more apprentices is a key part of this strategy.  Steven added: “There’s no doubt that having the apprentices on board has given us the extra man power we’ve needed to support our business growth.  We currently have three full-time apprentices with Bedford College and we intend to take on another two very soon.  We’ll definitely use Bedford College again as they have provided us with an excellent service, including filling out all the necessary paperwork and regularly visiting us on site.”

To find out more about how Apprenticeships can help your organisation face future challenges, please telephone 01234 291747 or email

» General Motors (Vauxhall)

Industry:  Automotive

Vauxhall apprentices and Bedford College

Apprentices:  Nasar Khan, and Jessica Snook, IT Apprentices

IT apprentices Nasar Khan and Jessica Snook are helping to drive success at Vauxhall in Luton. Both apprentices are currently completing their Advanced Level 3 Apprenticeship and will then move on to their HNC and HND higher education qualifications.

Nasar is an IT Site Services Apprentice for UK, Ireland & Nordic dealing with internal customers within the business functions such as Human Resources (HR) and Marketing. His job involves him assisting users with any hardware or software faults to ensure there is minimal disruption to the business. Nasar said: “I really enjoy troubleshooting hardware and software faults and interacting with different customers everyday trying to resolve their IT problems.”

Jessica is also an IT Apprentice and is currently with Global Finance document warehousing where she makes legal and regulatory changes to a financial application for approximately 30 countries.  Jessica explained that after getting her A Levels she decided that university wasn’t for her and that an Apprenticeship made much more sense: “I could have gone to university, but the Vauxhall Apprenticeship gave me a few years’ experience in the workplace as well as being paid to get my qualifications.” 

Jessica particularly values being able to gain experience in the different areas of IT at Vauxhall.  She said: “My first role was IT support at the Vauxhall warehouse and my second role was IT support at the Vauxhall Vivaro Production Plant. Next, I’m moving into IT Planning.  It’s really good to get an understanding of the different IT roles in the whole of the company.”   Nasar added: “When I first started my Apprenticeship I was an IT analyst providing users with remote support, I then moved into an IT engineering role. My next job will be classified under IT Contact centres.”

Nasar finished school at 16 and he feels it’s important that, as an apprentice, he’s learning on the job dealing with different customers. Nasar said: “You can learn from a book but it’s completely different to when you’re faced with real life situations at work. Learning hands on skills at Vauxhall has allowed me to develop my technical knowledge and practical skills. It has been an amazing opportunity for me and one which I greatly appreciate.”

Jessica added: “I think the Apprenticeship has given me a lot of advantages.  I now know how businesses work and I also have the qualifications to back it up.” Nasar also believes that the IT Apprenticeship has allowed him to understand how IT is needed within large companies in order for them to operate effectively.

In terms of their time spent at Bedford College, both Nasar and Jessica have been impressed with the IT facilities available to them. Nasar said: “The College has provided us with great facilities to learn from.  In terms of hardware and software they’ve got all of the equipment we need in order for us to develop our IT knowledge and skills. The tutors are also qualified in well known courses such as Cisco and CompTIA A+.” 

Jessica added: “During our first year at College we did an IT maintenance course – when we learnt to take apart a computer and then put it back together again. The College has also been able to change and tailor the units to my company’s needs.  For example, Project Management was added in as a new module because we use this a lot in the business environment.  It’s great that the College is so adaptable.” 

» Luton Hoo Hotel

Luton Hoo Hotel, Golf & Spa has worked with Bedford College for 2 years, providing apprenticeship programmes, support and guidance to young people. From maintenance, to accounts and catering, Luton Hoo employs nine apprentices across the hotel’s varied departments.

Luton Hoo Hotel

Bedford College has been a fantastic apprenticeship partner for us, providing an excellent quality of training, ensuring an encouraging relationship with the recruits. Collaboration is key to our working partnership with Bedford College and the organisation gives a flexible and supportive approach to our business needs.

Apprentices arrive from Bedford College motivated, enthusiastic and eager to learn, and during their time with us, they gain first-hand experience, vital skills and the confidence to feel comfortable in their role. Working with both the apprentices and the College itself is a very positive experience and we take great pride in assisting the apprenticeship students to learn and develop within their chosen field of work.

As well as being a fantastic asset to our hotel, we understand that apprenticeships are a great portal to the wider hospitality industry for students and we ensure that our apprentices have every opportunity to gain experience in the field.

Millie Shaw Luton hoo marketing Apprentice

Luton Hoo’s Marketing Apprentice, Millie Shaw, joined the hotel in January 2017 from Bedford College and comments on her experience; “These passed two years at Luton Hoo have been amazing. I have learned so much from the team and my skills progress every day. The courses provided by Bedford College have suited me perfectly and I have enjoyed all the different units I have completed. I received great support from my training assessor and completed additional qualifications, like my ICT Level 2, which I can add to my CV. I have now been offered a permanent position as Marketing Assistant at Luton Hoo and can’t wait to see what my future holds.

Hiring talent for UK hospitality roles is renowned for being a difficult task and it is set to become a bigger challenge in 2019. However, through our work with Bedford College we are certain that the pool of recruits will continue to be strong and we have the outstanding support from the team. 

Bedford College has proven to be a very valuable partner and we would definitely recommend to students looking to gain a qualification whilst enjoying a hands-on education experience, and also to other businesses who are looking for the ideal apprenticeship provider to work with.

» Maydencroft

Maydencroft is an environmental consulting and contracting company based in Hertfordshire. With four divisions (consultancy, contracting, ecology and farming), the company covers many different land-based sectors. They have previously had arboriculture apprentices and currently have apprentices in horticulture. They have recently welcomed Holly Grant, their first Livestock apprentice, through Shuttleworth College. Holly is on the Agriculture Higher Apprenticeship programme, which is a new Level 4 programme for 2016.

Maydencroft Ashlea Lewis Bedford College Apprenticeship We Offer Today

Ashlea Lewis, Human Resources Manager at Maydencroft said: “The land-based industry is growing and there are still not enough skilled people, which is why we have started to employ apprentices in this area and have plans to take on more.

“Land-based skills are a dying trade and if we stop taking on new employees now, we will be missing the skills again in a few years’ time.  Our Managing Director and Founder, Tom Williams is passionate about the next generation.”

Maydencroft have found the apprenticeship scheme to be very successful and have been pleasantly surprised by the maturity of the apprentices. “Our apprentices have brought a youthful energy to the company and it’s helped other employees step up their game,” said Ashlea.

“The apprentices themselves gain a lot of confidence working here. When I see them for their reviews, I notice an inspiring change.

“Our objective is to keep our apprentices and to grow them.  We aim to make sure they get everything they need out of the programme so that they put back into the company. It’s about listening to them and adjusting as necessary.”

» Milbrook Proving Ground

Millbrook drives business forward with Apprenticeship succession plan
Millbrook Proving Ground is one of Europe’s leading independent technology centres for the design, engineering, testing and development of automotive and propulsion systems.  Set on a 700 acre site with 70 kilometres of testing area, Millbrook’s custom-built facility provides virtually every test, validation and homologation service necessary for today's demanding automotive industry.

Millbrook Proving Ground and Bedford College

Recruitment refuel
In 2011, Millbrook decided to make significant changes to its recruitment strategy by relaunching its Apprenticeship scheme.  “We started by taking on seven apprentices,” explained Vanessa Heesom, HR Advisor, “We were looking for a sustainable, long-term solution as an addition to recruiting university graduates.  We wanted to invest in the local community and give good career opportunities to young people from the area.”

Vanessa explained that one of the keys to the success of the Millbrook Apprenticeship scheme was finding candidates with the right behaviours.  They needed apprentices with a good basic knowledge of maths and science, and who had an interest in engineering.  In addition, it was very important for the apprentices to demonstrate a positive attitude to learning and take their College work seriously.  Good time keeping, an excellent attendance record, a mature attitude and good communication skills were also important attributes that Millbrook looked for in their apprentices.

College cruise control
Another reason for the success of the Millbrook Apprenticeship was the company’s partnership with Bedford College, who provided all the formal training.  Vanessa said:  “We’ve worked really well with Bedford College over the last few years, the partnership has run smoothly and worked well for us.”

Most of Millbrook’s apprentices spend four days a week in College during their first year.  This is quite unusual for an Apprenticeship scheme, but it works very well for Millbrook because their apprentices need to have a certain level of technical understanding and expertise before they can start to apply it to their day-to-day work.  

Joe Campion, Records and Release Engineer and one of Millbrook’s first apprentices, feels his Apprenticeship has been a great alternative to university, he said:  “When I left school I wasn’t sure exactly what I wanted to do, but I realised this Apprenticeship offered a great chance to get a good qualification in engineering and paid experience in the workplace at the same time. I particularly enjoyed my first year, which was hands on - not just reading books!”  He added, “An Apprenticeship is really worthwhile and a great alternative to going to university.” 

Vanessa added:  “From Millbrook’s perspective, the Apprenticeship scheme with Bedford College has been very successful.  The fact that we’ve taken on new apprentices year on year since 2011, not only in the core engineering areas, but also in support roles such as business administration, is testament to this.  Another key success factor is that on completion of their studies our apprentices take on roles within the company and continue to grow and develop.  We are looking forward to their long term career in full engineer roles as they complete their courses  It’s great to see such successful outcomes for everyone involved.”

To find out more about how Apprenticeships can help your organisation face future challenges, please telephone 01234 291747 or email

» Potton Pre-school

Potton Pre-School apprentice provides first class care
Potton Pre-School provides early years education for children between the ages of two and four.  This early years setting prides itself on maintaining high adult to child ratios and delivering first class care to the children they look after.

Potton Pre-school

Apprenticeship provided ideal staffing solution
Last year when Office Manager Zia Stoten reviewed the Pre-School’s registration numbers for September, she realised they would need another part-time member of staff to ensure high levels of care could be maintained.  Zia said:  “We had initially dismissed Apprenticeship because we assumed there would be a lot of paperwork involved and that we’d have to take existing staff away from their work to train the apprentice in-house.  However, when we looked into the scheme in more detail, and spoke to Keesha who was already doing work experience with us, we realised that Apprenticeships could be an ideal solution to our staffing issue.”

Keesha had enjoyed her work experience at Potton Pre-School so much that she was keen to become an apprentice and further her qualifications to Level 3.  Zia and her team were delighted as they had been impressed with how much responsibility Keesha had taken on and how she’d helped change the dynamic at the Pre-School, bringing a fresh approach to everyday activities with the children, so both parties were keen to continue the relationship. 

In addition to having key children responsibilities, Keesha has helped to provide more flexibility with staffing numbers by providing cover when people are on leave. Also, because she‘s already gained her Childcare Level 2 qualification, Ofsted requirements are satisfied and there’s no problem gaining the necessary insurance.

Excellent college support
Zia has been delighted with the support they received from Bedford College during the whole Apprenticeship process.  The College ensured all the appropriate Disclosure and Barring Service (DBS) checks were done, as well as completing all the necessary paperwork on behalf of the Pre-School. 

Real-world learning
From Keesha’s perspective, the Apprenticeship has been a fantastic opportunity.  It has enabled her to gain her Level 3 childcare qualification by learning on the job every day, instead of sitting in a classroom.  She said: “In the last year my confidence has grown so much. This Apprenticeship has been brilliant and I wouldn’t change it for the world!”

Keesha’s manager, Zia added:  “Moving forward, we are now in a much better position to meet the increased numbers of children registered at our Pre-School. We have several options available to us such as increasing Keesha’s hours and eventually offering her a full-time job.  We may even consider taking on another apprentice at some point in the future.”

To find out more about how Apprenticeships can help your organisation face future challenges, please telephone 01234 291747 or email

» Sharnbrook Academy Federation

Sharnbrook Academy Federation (SAF) is a Multi Academy Trust (MAT) in Bedford Borough and we currently have five academies in our Federation. We exist to provide an outstanding education for all our students, putting their progress at the heart of everything we do. We also strongly believe in continuous educational development and training for all our staff as well as our students. This includes within each of our academies and in partnership with Bedford College.

SAF logo

This year SAF have been actively working with Bedford College and have hired two Level 2 Teaching Assistant apprentices to join Great Ouse Primary Academy teaching staff. The training and delivery of the course has been very well managed and our liaison with the course managers and tutors has been excellent.

Teaching Assistant Apprentice Hannah, aged 17, said: “I have been educated in SAF schools since year 5 and decided to leave school at 17 to pursue a different career route to A Levels and University. I applied to volunteer in two SAF primaries and this inspired me to follow a career as a TA. The apprentice route through Bedford College has been a valuable experience. The College are very good at supporting my learning in a work based environment.

Second Teaching Assistant Apprentice Belinda, aged 34, said: “I originally started in a SAF school as a kitchen assistant and I was lucky enough to be supported in gaining a catering qualification. After continuing this work at Great Ouse, I was able to change career direction by successfully enrolling on the TA Apprentice programme at Bedford College. I have always worked in a school environment and the opportunity to work more directly with children as a TA and studying with Bedford College is a really positive step in my own learning and career journey.

The experience of our two TA apprentices currently working at Great Ouse Primary Academy illustrate the diverse nature of who the programme is relevant to and also who can benefit from the opportunity provided by Bedford College in partnership with SAF.

Peter Rose, Director of Education and Learning at SAF, said: “The partnership with Bedford College on the apprenticeship programme is going from strength to strength and we are now actively looking at how we can expand this opportunity across all our academies and in a variety of jobs. The commitment to support young people train and find a fulfilling place in a working environment and our commitment to existing colleagues to retrain is an important part of our continued investment in students and staff studying with and working for SAF.”

Sharnbrook Academy

SAF logos

» Split Enz

Industry:  Hairdressing
Apprentice:  Leah Groom, Hairdressing Apprentice 

Split Enz

Leah knew she was interested in becoming a hairdresser and her first step was attending Bedford College’s open day.  She said: “To be honest, I didn’t even know you could be an apprentice in this area, it was only when I was at the College’s open event that I found out about them.”  

Staff at Bedford College gave Leah a list of local hairdressers who were offering Apprenticeships and Leah visited each of the salons and handed in her CV.  The owner of Split Enz in Bedford, invited Leah for an interview which went well.  She then went along for two trial days. Leah said: “It was really busy when I went in for my first trial day and, (because it was my first time working in a salon), it was quite hectic, but luckily my boss asked me to come in for another trial the next day and this time I knew exactly what to expect so it went really well.”

Leah has been particularly impressed with all the support she has received on her Apprenticeship, both at work in the salon and from the College. She said: “My Assessor, Learning Advisor and Tutor have all been great – they’re so good at what they do.  At the start of the Apprenticeship I was finding it very hard to adjust to the workplace, after leaving school, but they really helped and supported me through it.  They knew I could do it and it did all turn out fine.”

Leah added: “An Apprenticeship is completely different to school.  With the type of work I do, you are on your feet all day and you have to deal with the general public.  You have to learn skills like customer service as well as hairdressing techniques. Overall, I have really enjoyed it and it’s gone really quickly. I’m so glad I’ve done it this way because, as an apprentice, I’m learning in two different environments, in the salon and at College.  There’s a lot more variety and it’s benefited me so much.”

» Springfield Lower School

Industry:  Education
Apprentice: Rhiannon Riccio, Teaching Assistant Apprentice

Springfield Lower School

When Rhiannon left school she started studying a Childcare course at College but quickly realised that an Apprenticeship was much better for the way she liked to learn.  Rhiannon said: “My College tutor gave me some information about Apprenticeships and she actually helped me to find the job at Springfield Lower School.  I’m a hands on person so an Apprenticeship is much better for me as I can learn while I work.  I also find it easier to do my assignments because, instead of reading books, I can use a lot of practical examples from my job.”

There are 26 children in the class that Rhiannon supports and she particularly enjoys learning new teaching techniques.  She said: “I’m always picking up new teaching techniques from the teacher. For example, if I’m helping a child during Maths, I will ask the teacher to help me teach a different technique.”

Rhiannon feels that she has benefited a lot from her Apprenticeship and that the experience has made her much more ready for the world of work than if she had done a College course. She said: “If you’re just doing a course then afterwards you’re thrown into the world of work and it can be quite a shock.  With an Apprenticeship it’s not as intimidating because you’ve been doing the work every day and studying at the same time.”

» Stevenage Borough Council

Stevenage Borough Council’s new apprentice takes root
As a local employer, Stevenage Borough Council offers apprenticeships in a variety of roles including, customer service, leisure, housing and environmental services and last year organised an assessment day to find new team members, including Suzanna Ginger.

Stevenage Borough Council and Bedford College

Suzanna Ginger is an apprentice Arboricultural Inspector in the Street Scene team, whose work includes helping with the management of 29,000 trees in the streets and open spaces of Stevenage. Part of the team’s responsibilities include looking after the tree preservation orders and the protection of other trees on council owned land as well as undertaking tree surveys, risk assessments and tree removal where necessary.

Stevenage Borough Councillor Joan Lloyd, Executive Member for Resources, said “It is a tough time for people trying to find jobs, especially those leaving school or college, which is why we’re committed to supporting people into work and developing the town’s talent with our apprenticeship scheme. At our assessment day, the Street Scene team were looking for someone who could help the team deal with customers and assess their arboriculture queries, which is the role that Suzanna is now in.

“Our apprentices have really excelled themselves so far and it is great to recognise them as a shining example of the talent and potential in young people in the town. I know from speaking to the Street Scene team that Suzanna was an ideal candidate for the role. Although she didn’t have a background in the area she now works in, she demonstrated a can do attitude and enthusiasm for the role.”

From Suzanna’s point of view, the apprenticeship has been a whole new experience for her, “My background is in restaurant management and as much as I loved my job, I was looking for something with more of a work life balance. When I applied for the council’s apprenticeship scheme, I originally thought I wanted to work in housing, but at the assessment day, the Street Scene team spotted me and thought I’d be good for the arboriculture role and I haven’t looked back.”

Suzanna enjoys the fact that her apprentice role is so varied. From answering residents’ telephone enquiries to going out into the town and inspecting some of the thousands of trees the team are responsible for and undertaking risk assessments.  She added:  “I also go to Shuttleworth College one day a week and take on practical training for my job, including how to use a chainsaw. I’ve learnt a lot on the course and would like to thank my tutors for the help they’ve given me over the past year.”

Work over the next few months looks busy for Suzanna and the team. They’ll soon be conducting a major survey of all the trees in the town, something that the team has to undertake every five years, looking at the condition of the trees. With Suzanna now on board, the team will be in a better position to carry out the survey more efficiently.

To find out more about how Apprenticeships can help your organisation face future challenges, please telephone 01234 291747 or email

» Vauxhall Technical Centre

Industry: Automotive
Apprentices: Harlan Todd, Service Technician Apprentice

Vauxhall and Bedford College

For Harlan Todd becoming an apprentice in the automotive industry after leaving school was an easy decision.  “I just thought it was so much better to earn while you learn.” He said. Not only do you get great hands on experience in industry, but you also get a qualification at the end of your Apprenticeship.”

Harlan works at Vauxhall’s Technical Centre in Luton and particularly values being able to work on real customers’ cars and dealing with technical issues that the Vauxhall Dealership technicians are not able to solve. “Every day is different and no two jobs are the same, so it’s really interesting. I’ve even had the chance to be involved in changing an engine on a new Chevrolet Corvette, which is quite a unique experience!”

Harlan also enjoys his time at Bedford College, which also focuses on practical learning in the motor vehicle workshops.  He said: “The facilities are great and the tutors are good at understanding that apprentices work full-time so they don’t have the holidays that other students have.  They bear this in mind when they’re asking for assignments to be handed in.”

Overall, Harlan has enjoyed his Apprenticeship so far.  It has given him a foot in the door in an exciting industry and a chance to mature because of the responsibility he’s been given at work. He added: “If you do well, your employer sees that you’re good and wants to keep you on for a full-time job.”

» VINCI Technology Centre UK Ltd

Apprenticeships help company through testing times
The Technology Centre is part of VINCI Construction UK Ltd, a national construction and facilities company.  It was one of the first companies to offer UKAS (United Kingdom Accreditation Services) cladding testing to the construction industry and is a leader in construction materials technology, large scale mock-ups and building components load testing both in the UKAS accredited laboratory and onsite.  Working across the UK and internationally, VINCI Technology Centre performs a wide range of tests on a vast array of different products, including: cladding and glazing; windows and doors; flooring; coatings; concrete samples; industrial vehicle cabins and large scale prototypes and mock-ups.

Vinci Technoloy Centre and Bedford College

Recruitment revolution
Dr David Kerr, Principal Engineer is responsible for the Technology Centre’s Acoustic Testing programme, which ensures building components perform to British, European and International standards.  He explained that the Centre’s old recruitment strategy of taking on many university graduates, was not meeting the company’s needs because the graduates would move on quickly, even though the company had invested in their industry training. 

David said: “We needed a stronger succession plan to ensure we had qualified technicians for the future.  So we decided to take a different approach, which focused on apprentice technicians with very specialised skills.  We wanted to employ a local workforce, so we looked for a local college to support our training and Bedford College provided exactly what we were looking for - a general construction qualification that covered everything, including design work, surveying and understanding materials.”

One of the Technology Centre’s apprentices, George Kiely, has taken to the job really quickly and already has some individual responsibilities – he’s very much part of the VINCI Technology Centre team.  George believes that the Apprenticeship route was the best path for his chosen career: “I didn’t want to go to university and I knew I wanted to get into construction because you can go anywhere with it and there are a wide range of jobs available.  I really enjoy being able to learn in the workplace and the fact that I’m getting paid. I also get to travel around the country to different sites and meet lots of new people.  There’s a great social side to the company too - I play football every week with my colleagues and even against other VINCI teams in the UK and France.”

Wider impact
David went on to explain that having apprentices in place has had an impact on the wider business. It’s freed up the time of some of their principal engineers and consultants who are now able to focus more on the client side of the work because they’ve got staff they can trust to do the hands-on testing, number crunching and reports.

David added:  “It’s been a difficult few years for the construction industry but we don’t regret taking on the new apprentices during this time.  In fact, quite the opposite, it now seems as if the economic situation is picking up and I’ve seen the amount of testing work rapidly increase over the past six months.  With excellent apprentices in place, we are in a better position to be able to deal with the upturn and continuing growing the business.”

To find out more about how Apprenticeships can help your organisation face future challenges, please telephone 01234 291747 or email

» Warren Childcare

Andrew Paul
Children & Young People Level 2 Apprenticeship at Warren Childcare

Andrew Paul was looking for work when he found out about Traineeships at a local Job Centre. “I decided to try a Traineeship mainly to boost my Maths and English skills”, says Andrew. “I was thinking about working in childcare and thought this would be a good introduction”. In September 2014 Andrew started on a 12-week Traineeship programme with a work placement at Warren Childcare in Kempston for three days a week.  

Andrew found the Maths and English tuition to be of great benefit, but also soon discovered that he had a natural affinity with the children. Manager Carolyn Robertshaw says, “He is such a natural with them; they enjoy having him around and Andrew will always be on their level, which I think is what draws them to him”. Andrew created such a great impression with his employer during the Traineeship that Carolyn offered him a place as an apprentice at the centre. He now attends four days a week and studies at Bedford College on the other day.

Andrew and Carolyn

Andrew was, nonetheless, a little nervous about entering such a female dominated sector. “It helps that there is another male in my class at College”, he says, “The tutors are great and I’m gaining a lot of in depth knowledge from the College sessions”. “He’s now learning about policies and procedures, and generally more detail that is not covered on the Traineeship”, added Carolyn.

Andrew would eventually like to teach at primary school level, “I really enjoy working with children and it makes me happy to see parents appreciate what input I am having into their children’s lives.” As Carolyn concludes, “With commitment and enthusiasm, anyone can work their way up in this rewarding sector”. 

» Wates Group

Industry:  Construction
Akbar Khan, Planner Apprentice

Wates Group and Bedford College

While studying for his A-Levels, Akbar took some time off to take part in a “Get Into” programme with The Prince’s Trust and Bedford College. The group worked on a timber frame restoration project on a historical barn at Kings Hill Farm, part of the Shuttleworth College site. “We learnt carpentry and joinery skills and it inspired me to enrol on the full-time Level 3 Construction course at the College,” explains Akbar.

During the first year of the full-time course, Akbar realised he needed to get back out on site in order to apply his new found knowledge and learn the trade on a daily basis. He says, “Woking at Wates Construction as an Apprentice Planner has given me the opportunity to understand the whole construction process and develop my skills.”

“I am getting the chance to understand the whole business from working with the production team, engineers, commercial etc. which is all helping with developing my skills and making me a better Planner. Everyone at Wates Construction is welcoming and prepared to answer any question you have which is very supportive.”

Akbar comes into College for lessons once a week. “The education and training given at the College is very good, as are the facilities,” he says. “There is an excellent library which is also good for group work”.

Doing the Apprenticeship has no doubt helped with Akbar’s career plans. “I now know I want to continue working in the construction industry. I’ve enjoyed my time at College too and may come back at the end of the Apprenticeship to complete a higher education qualification – either a HNC or a Foundation Degree in construction,” he concludes.  

» Bourns Ltd

Bourns Ltd has been in Bedford since 2000, although the Company’s history in Bedford dates back to the 1970s. Although staff retention is almost 100%, as part of our succession planning we identified that within the next 5-10 years, a high number of established employees (around 30%) will be reaching retirement age. A high proportion of these positions were for highly skilled engineers – roles which would require 4-5 years worth of training and experience to become fully competent in.


As such, we had 2 options. Either we waited for those vacancies to be upon us and advertised for highly skilled, highly experienced employees to fill those roles, or we started growing our own workforce.

We decided to invest in the second option. We were new to taking on apprentices so, having looked at what skills were needed, we started speaking to Bedford College about developing an appropriate Apprenticeship programme.

As we are a company with only 110 employees, finding the right person for any role is critical to maintain the team working culture – and finding our first apprentice was no different. Bedford College offered us excellent support throughout the process.

For Bourns Ltd, the main benefits of taking on apprentices have been:

  • Supporting our succession planning which is critical to the future of the business
  • Investing in the future of the apprentices and of our business
  • Boosting the energy and enthusiasm of the existing workforce
  • Established employees are enjoying sharing their knowledge and experience with those that are really eager to learn – it gives them a real sense of value

At Bourns Ltd we have a very strong continuous improvement culture – and it is a culture that our apprentices have quickly become a part of. We have a weekly forum where new ideas for the business are suggested and carried forward. One of our Engineering Trainees has been an absolute star in this respect and has made significant contributions towards improvements in the business.

Before we took our first Trainee, we knew we wanted to get it right for them. We wanted to implement a training programme that we knew would work. Through the recruitment process and in particular the 2 weeks of work experience, we were able to test out some of the areas that were important to us. We looked at their work ethic, communication skills and how genuinely interested they were in the business. They were spending time with the team that they would ultimately be working with. We asked the team for feedback on how they felt they had performed.

I would recommend Apprenticeships to other business in Bedford but I would also recommend a very thorough recruitment process to get the right person and establishing a robust support network for them. Our apprentices have fortnightly meetings with the Head of HR so that we can monitor how things are going and intervene if needed. This helps us to build a relationship with them, which helps with retention.

The best thing for us has been the injection of enthusiasm and bringing a different perspective to the workforce. We can all get stuck in our ways, so they challenge us in a different way to approach things differently.

I can definitely say that taking on young people has given our business a really refreshing boost. We are so proud of our employees and take great pride in encouraging them to improve themselves, and our business.

Before we advertised the position we spoke to local Engineering students to explain the opportunity and offered visits to those that were interested.

Following the visits, those interested in the role were offered a period of work experience following real work shift patterns from 6am – 2pm. We then invited their parents / carers in for an information evening so that they could learn more about our organisation and the role that their son or daughter could play in it. It was a good opportunity for us to showcase Bourns Ltd and also for us to look at the support that the young people would be receiving from home.

We recruited our first Engineering apprentice in August 2012. In August 2013 we took another 2 apprentices on, one in Engineering and the other in Business Administration. From September, our fourth apprentice will commence his role as a Product Engineering apprentice.

For us, recruiting apprentices is all about the individual. We look for someone who is passionate about the company, dedicated, who has a good work ethic and is punctual. Not all of our apprentices live locally – but all are willing to make the journey in, arrive on time and work hard once they are here.

Sherida Carter, Head of Human Resources

» Chartered Institute of Legal Executives (CILEx)

CILEx is a professional association and awarding body for Chartered Legal Executives, paralegal and other practitioners in England and Wales. CILEx offers a non- university route to qualifying as a lawyer and in 2013 CILEx launched Legal Services Apprenticeships. Not only does CILEx award Apprenticeships, they employ them too.


We took on our first apprentice in August 2011 and following their success, we continued to regularly recruit apprentices and have taken on six more. Our main driver for supporting Apprenticeships is to help local people into the workplace and into a career of their choice.

For our first apprentice we created a new role and ensured that they were mentored and worked alongside colleagues who were already knowledgeable in their roles - this allowed our staff to train them and pass on their acquired knowledge.

Since then we have recruited apprentices into a mix of new and existing  positions. We are immensely proud that all of our apprentices have stayed on at CILEx and have accepted permanent, full time roles on completion of their qualification.

All of our apprentices are from the local area and we pay minimum wage applicable to age rather than the standard apprenticeship rate. We ensure that our apprentices receive the same benefits as other staff including bonuses and pay rises in line with minimum wage. Once they have completed their qualification (approximately 1 to 2 years) they move onto the CILEx pay scale and they are encouraged to take the CILEx qualifications that we offer. We hold the Investors in People accreditation and are committed to developing our staff.

We recruit our apprentices into specific departments with the exception of one who has been a ‘floating apprentice’ and has spent time in each of the three parts of the business. Yasmin can now move around different departments to help out as workloads peak. This helps the continuity of the business as she can cover for staff absences. This approach also gives the apprentice the opportunity to try out all areas of the business and will help her to discover which career she might like to pursue.

Patience is key when recruiting for an apprentice. We set out clear expectations and will only consider people who have a good standard of written English and are able to demonstrate good customer service and an understanding of equality and diversity.

For CILEx, the main business benefits of employing an apprentice are that we have the opportunity to train and nurture an individual to our way of doing things.

Some of our apprentices have good qualifications but because they haven’t gained work experience they have struggled to secure employment. Although they are apprentices, they are doing real work and you can give them real responsibilities. Many new ideas beneficial to the organisation come from our apprentices including improvements to our processes.

All of our apprentices are very committed to the organisation and have stayed grounded in the way that they do things. One apprentice has become an Apprenticeship Ambassador and promotes the benefits of becoming an apprentice at schools and events in the area.

We feel it is a positive step that we have altered the demographics of the organisation having increased the number of 16-21-year-olds in our employment.

The Apprenticeship mirrors the CILEx way of working and earning at the same time. Historically, if you wanted a career as a lawyer, you had to go to university and then continue with postgraduate qualifications. The CILEx Legal Services Apprentices can earn as they learn and become qualified lawyers whilst avoiding large student debt.

Bedford College has continually  supported us and our apprentices from day one. There has always been good communication between us and the assessor visits at least once a month to see apprentices and other staff.

The best thing about taking on an apprentice is that it’s a win-win situation. You give an individual an opportunity to start their career but at the same time the organisation benefits from it. You can spot new talent and grow them as your own. There is also a cost saving when they are training. We follow a day release model, which enables our apprentices to go to college and network with others. They get lots of ideas about how organisations do things which benefits us.

Before you commit – think about:

  • Getting the right person in, don’t rush and take someone you’re not sure about.
  • Be clear about the skills you want them to come in with (that you can build on) and what they will be able to learn on the job.
  • Select your training organisation carefully – make sure you’re happy with the level of support and that the delivery model is going to suit your business working patterns.
  • Structure the induction process clearly and robustly so that the apprentice knows what is expected of them and that they are supported in the transition to your organisation.
  • Be prepared to deliver the initial on-the-job training, it is quite likely your apprentices will have little or no prior experience.
  • Expose them to other colleagues who can show them how to behave, the attitude that is expected and to lead by example.
  • Ask about Government wage incentives that you might be eligible for.

Janet Bishop, HR Manager

Engineering Apprentices

Watch the video below to see Bedford College apprentices and engineers at Hybrid Air Vehicles talk about their experiences in the aeronautical engineering profession.