Today’s blog comes from Sarah Fanthorpe, Head of Customer Service at British Gas. In her role, Sarah is responsible for overseeing the day-to-day operations at the Newbridge House contact centre in Leeds.
Sarah Fanthorpe, Head f Customer Service at British Gas:
I’m delighted to say that British Gas has launched a new Advanced Apprenticeship in Customer Service for young people at our Newbridge House contact centre in Leeds, which has dealt with around two million calls from customers over the past year. This is an important development because the pilot scheme marks the first time we have had apprentices at Newbridge House, so I very much look forward to seeing the valuable contribution they will make to our 900-strong team in delivering quality service to our customers.
Making apprenticeships areal alternative to university
The pilot is run in partnership with Leeds City College, who we’ve been working with to create opportunities that get local young people into full-time employment. And from research recently conducted in Leeds, we’ve seen a strong demand for apprenticeships from young people as an alternative to university*. For example, 35% of school leavers said they had considered taking this vocational route over university while 64% of 15-19 year-olds who plan to go to university have also discussed securing an apprenticeship with their teachers. This demand is further reflected by the 160 applications received for the nine places available on the scheme, who will join the 1,200 apprentices British Gas already trains throughout the UK.
This sentiment is brought to life by the story of one of our young apprentices, Elliott Wilkes. Elliott is 18 and having completed his GCSEs and A-levels in Leeds, he was keen to get his foot on the career ladder so applied for an apprenticeship in preference to university.
But instead of me telling you about Elliott, here’s what he had to say:
“I really enjoyed my time at college. But I knew university wasn't for me. I wanted to get a job rather than having four years of study and then not knowing if I had a job at the end. I have friends who are already in good jobs after starting apprenticeships when they left school. Knowing they were earning a wage and still learning made me realise an apprenticeship was a good career path.
The apprenticeship would let me help people and that appealed to me too. I'm really looking forward to starting training with other employees to learn how we serve customers. I'm looking forward to learning this year and hopefully positioning myself well for a career with British Gas in the future”.
So what training will our nine young apprentices receive?
The apprentices will gain a fantastic learning experience during the 18-month training programme that will develop the skills needed to provide a great service to our customers.
And at the end of their training programme, the apprentices will gain a Diploma in Customer Services and be a qualified Customer Service Advisor. We’ll also provide the opportunity for further progression through training at the end of the programme.
I very much look forward to watching the progress our apprentices make and we’ll be sure to keep you updated.
Read Centrica's 2013 CR Performance Review for more on skills.
* Independent research commissioned by British Gas in July, which surveyed young people (aged 15-19) in Leeds exploring their views of apprenticeships as an alternative to university