During the last 20 years, Incommunities has trained more than 125 trade apprentices, with 95% of those still working at the organisation.
Incommunities own and manage over 22,650 homes across Bradford and other parts of West, North and South Yorkshire. The social housing provider has a workforce of more than 900 and are one of Bradford’s biggest employers, they employ more than 400 people with practical trades, such as plumbers, plasterers, electricians, horticulturists, and multi-skills. It is this area where the vast majority of their apprenticeships are focused.
Here, some of Incommunities’ apprentices share their stories:
Emma, from Wibsey, Bradford, is the first ever Horticultural apprentice at Incommunities after joining the housing provider in August 2023. At 33 years old, Emma is not your stereotypical apprentice. She has spent the last seven years working as a dental nurse but has always had a passion for gardening.
Emma never dreamed that she could turn her passion into a career until she saw the ad for the horticultural apprenticeship at Incommunities.
Every day is now different for Emma, learning on the job with Incommunities in-house horticultural team, alongside learning the theory at college — including technical detail such as soil pH levels and the Latin names for plants!
Having always worked in customer facing roles, Emma is also really enjoying that aspect of her apprenticeship, as she loves seeing the difference that her work can make to people’s lives.
The relationship between customers and colleagues is so important to the housing provider that all the new intake of apprentices are doing an additional course in customer service in addition to their standard college studies.
Emma said: “I’m not your typical apprentice! I’m not a school leaver, I’m 33 and have been a dental nurse for the last seven years, but my real passion has always been gardening. So, when I decided to make the leap and look for a new job, I kept my options open and looked into less traditional routes.
“When I saw the ad for the horticultural apprentice, I thought it was too good to be true. I never expected to get the job!
“I’m now loving what I’m doing, gaining knowledge and skills. Overall, the thing I’m enjoying the most is seeing the difference that our work makes to people living in the community.”
A great example that apprenticeships aren’t just for school leavers is Shauna, who after 14 years working as an Income Officer at Incommunities, decided to retrain and learn on the job to become a fully qualified gas plumber.
Now at the end of her four-year apprenticeship journey, Shauna was named plumbing apprentice of the year by Bradford College in 2023.
Shauna’s career change was driven by a desire to do a practical job and learn skills that would help make a difference in people’s homes. She was given the opportunity to shadow some of the in-house trade teams before committing to her plumbing apprenticeship.
Shauna loves the variety of work, the relationship and feedback she receives from customers. She is incredibly proud of the progress she has made during her apprenticeship. Going from applying sealant around a bath on her first day as an apprentice — to now being able to do a full boiler install!
Shauna said: “I really fancied doing a practical job, I wanted to learn skills that would help me to make a difference in people’s homes.
“The support that I have received from my mentors and colleagues across the organisation has been invaluable, from helping me decide on my chosen path, to the on-the-job training. I also receive lovely feedback from customers on a daily basis, they are all pleasantly surprised to see a female plumber arrive at their home.
“The work is varied and challenging, no day is the same. When I look back on my development I’m so proud of what I have achieved.”
Harry, from Idle, Bradford, joined Incommunities in 2023 as an apprentice property maintenance operative. Since starting his apprenticeship Harry has already learnt a range of valuable skills, such as plastering, joinery, basic electrical skills, painting and decorating.
It was this multi-skill approach that really appealed to Harry, as he previously had a place on another apprenticeship scheme which he left as it didn’t offer him enough variety of work.
As Incommunities has a range of in-house trades people, they are able to provide a variety of on-the-job training. Under the supervision of his mentor, Harry and the other apprentices are given the opportunity to practice what they have learned within the empty homes that the trades teams are getting ready for the next tenants.
The combination of developing such a wide range of practical skills, supported by college learning, whilst also getting paid made the apprenticeship at Incommunities the obvious choice for Harry.
Harry said: “I wanted to do an apprenticeship because of the combination of developing practical skills and learning at the same time, plus getting paid.
“I was on another apprentice scheme before starting at Incommunities, but I left because it didn’t offer me enough variety of work. Since starting here, I have already been able to try plastering, joinery, painting and decorating — all with the support of my manager. And, the great thing is, I know there is so much more to come.”
Jai started his first apprenticeship in electrical installation and design (NVQ3) straight out of school in 2012. Jai chose an apprenticeship as he wanted to learn more about construction and develop his practical skills, but his long-term ambition has always been to give back to his local community.
Throughout his apprenticeship the thing he enjoyed most was the social purpose. Having the opportunity to directly help people through his work.
Following the completion of his apprenticeship, Jai chose to study for an additional qualification to become a qualified electrician, whilst also mentoring four new apprentices. Jai thoroughly enjoyed passing on his knowledge and skills, seeing the apprentices develop and go on to complete their apprenticeships.
Jai’s drive and commitment didn’t stop there. He went on to join the GEM programme to get a broader understanding of the housing sector and gained a level 4 CIH qualification in housing management. During this time, Jai was named as a young achiever in housing by the Chartered Institute of Housing.
He went on to complete a Level 5 apprenticeship in Management and Leadership and was also appointed as the Void Manager at Incommunities, responsible for getting the housing providers empty homes repaired and ready for new tenants within a tight timeframe.
That wasn’t the end of Jai’s apprenticeship journey, as he’s currently studying for a degree apprenticeship in Chartered Management (level 6), which he’s due to complete in early 2025.
Jai said: “I’ve set myself a big goal — my long-term ambition is to become a key leader in the sector who implements sustainable, positive change to the communities we serve. I aim to be a chief executive and potentially venture into politics at the later end of my career — whichever allows me to have the biggest positive impact.”
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