February 23, 2024

SME BUSINESS NEWS

Small Business News from NTSI

The Challenges of employing an apprentice in a global pandemic

Bridge Leisure Parks, a UK holiday park owner and operator are marking National Apprenticeship Week by urging other employers in the industry to consider the benefits of bringing young talent into their organisation by employing an apprentice.

Despite a difficult year for the travel and tourism industry, the demand on customer service teams has massively increased due to the number of people needing to cancel or move holiday bookings. In need of additional help Bridge Leisure decided to contact Milton Keynes College to explore the possibility of offering an apprenticeship in customer service.

A few months later in December, Amy Chambers, aged 18 from Leighton Buzzard, joined Bridge Leisure as a Customer Service Apprentice to support the contact centre team in responding to social media messaging, live website chat and online customer reviews.

Director of Marketing for Bridge Leisure Rachel Mabbs said: “I think it’s fair to say we were a bit apprehensive about bringing Amy into the team at a time when we are all working remotely. The last thing we wanted to do was introduce an apprentice into the company and then not be able to provide the level of support they need, but in reality, it just meant moving what we would normally do face to face to online training and meetings instead.

“Despite those challenges, we have managed to integrate Amy into the team and provide her with all the support she needs online, and she is already bringing fresh ideas to the team as well as bags of energy and enthusiasm. The entire process from start to finish was made extremely easy by working with Milton Keynes College who do all the heavy lifting in terms of advertising the post, sifting applicants and providing guidance to us as we went along. We are absolutely delighted we decided to press ahead with the apprenticeship and to have Amy as part of the Bridge Leisure team.”

After finishing sixth form last year, Amy saw the role advertised by Bridge Leisure on the Milton Keynes College Apprenticeship website and decided to apply. Amy explains: “I had previously studied travel and tourism and have always wanted to be part of the industry, so when I saw this job advertised and read more about it, I thought it sounded like just the right role for me. I have also worked part time with customers as well which provided me with good experience for this role.

“As someone who just left school and wasn’t going to university, I was looking for something full time. The apprenticeship enables me to get a qualification at the same time as learning valuable skills in a full time job to take with me in the future. For me, the apprenticeship route gives me more support and valuable skills than going to university and studying 3 or 4 years then having to find a job by myself without any work experience. Doing this apprenticeship means that further down the line I can move up in the business or try out different roles within the travel industry with the skills I’ve been learning and developing.”

Amy works full time in her role with Bridge Leisure whilst working towards a Customer Service Specialist (Level 3) qualification which requires her to attend one day every 6-8 weeks in college (or via Zoom) with her college tutors.

Julie Jeffery, Employer Engagement Manager at Milton Keynes College, said, “We’re delighted to hear that Bridge Leisure, as a new employer partner, have had such a positive experience with their apprentice, Amy.

“It’s proof that with the right attitude and support, bringing in new talent to your business is still possible even during a pandemic, and we look forward to continuing to support Bridge Leisure with their apprenticeship programme in the future.”

She added, “At MK College we have a pipeline of high calibre young people looking for apprenticeship opportunities, so we encourage any other business interesting in employing an apprentice to get in touch with us to find out more.