Thursday 30th March saw the celebration event for Warrington & Co.’s Linking the Locks project, a joint Warrington Borough Council and Halton Borough Council initiative.
Held at the Halliwell Jones Stadium and attended by a mix of local employers, apprentices and key partners from within Warrington and Halton, delegates were able to hear first-hand about the remarkable achievements of the project since its official launch in March 2015.
Funded by the Coastal Communities Fund, a UK-wide programme that provided funding for local projects that create sustainable jobs in their communities, Linking the Locks has so far supported over 100 small-medium businesses within Warrington and Widnes and produced the following outcomes to date:
- 51 apprenticeships across a number of frameworks and sectors – against an initial target of 12 – with all apprentices who have completed their qualifications moving into permanent employment
- 9 other full-time roles created
- Supported over 270 individuals with careers advice, interview techniques and employment progression options and developed employability skills
- Supported 6 community projects including Princes Trust and Duke of Edinburgh programmes, and generated 170 volunteer places with the Sankey Canal Restoration Society
Linking the Locks also provides eligible businesses with a wage subsidy, allowing them to pay above the apprentice wage for new apprentice recruits to assist with attracting top talent and to aid retention during their apprenticeship period.
Two local employers from Warrington and Widnes who had supported the project also spoke to delegates about the impact Linking the Locks has had on their business and the contribution their new apprentices have made.
Sandra Davies is Managing Director at D&F Associates located on Gorsey Lane, Widnes, a nationally approved laboratory specialising in analysis of compost and recycled waste products. With support from Linking the Locks she recruited two apprentices to add to their technical and administration teams and support their business development plans. Speaking at the event, Sandra says:
“As a small self-funded business Linking the Locks has been invaluable in the development and future growth of our company. We were lucky to hear about the scheme from our landlord and we were delighted to learn that we were eligible to participate. It would have been extremely difficult to accommodate apprentices without the scheme and we are very grateful for the continued support and assistance that Jonathan and the team at Warrington & Co. provided to us throughout.
Linking the Locks has been a wholly positive experience. It was well thought out, delivered at a very high level, and it has been an excellent source of support for local SME’s. Our apprentices have gained significant work experience and recognised qualifications, and we have gained two valuable members of staff.”
Also in attendance from D&F Associates was Danielle Welsh, their Business Administration Apprentice. On her experience, Danielle says “The event was very informative and gave me an insight as to how the Warrington & Co.’s Linking the Locks project has helped other apprentices and businesses.
Receiving my award was the highlight of my year so far and I am so grateful to have been a part of this amazing journey. Speaking about my experience at the event was a way for me to thank all related businesses and organisations for all the hard work and dedication that was put into ensuring apprentices and their companies have a more constructive future.”
Stephen Johansen is Managing Director of Warrington-based Indigo Technology Services who provide network engineering services to organisations throughout the UK, including a number of large-scale outdoor events including Creamfields and Download Festival. Having engaged with the project in its early stages, Stephen had recruited two apprentices within the company’s financial and commercial functions to help drive forward his growth strategy. Reflecting on his experience with the project, Stephen says:
“Having started off my working career off as an apprentice electrician I have total belief in the structure and benefits of apprenticeships, if it were not for the opportunity given to me those years ago then I am not sure I would be where I am now. Jonathan from Warrington and Co ensured that we had the correct format & training in place for these two diverse roles and we are hugely grateful for his help.”
Jordan Hartley-Kenyon, Apprentice at Indigo Technology Services also shared his experiences during the event. “When I first started at Indigo I had no previous experience working in an office environment. Within a few months I had adjusted to the role and built my confidence.
My role has diversified since I joined and I have new responsibilities, including negotiating with suppliers over pricing which is something I used to be terrified about!
I also manage the engineer’s plans which involves me having to research each job and any equipment that may be needed. Everyone at Indigo has been incredibly supportive and this has been a fantastic opportunity for me.”
The project has been delivered by Warrington & Co.’s Employment Development Team who work in close partnership with employers and voluntary/community bodies to develop and deliver a range of support options that lead to the creation of employment and progression opportunities for local residents and priority groups.
Jonathan Aghanian, Business Development Officer at Warrington & Co. and responsible for the Linking the Locks project shares his views on the project’s work over the past two years:
“I am extremely proud of this project and what is has achieved, and the opportunities we have been able to create for residents in Warrington and Widnes. We have worked with interesting, exciting and extremely supportive businesses who have completely bought into the project’s ethos which is to provide sustainable jobs for the area.
In addition to this we have also been able to set-up formal voluntary programmes with the Sankey Canal Restoration Society to provide younger people with the chance to get involved in restoration works and develop their softer skills whilst making a valued contribution to the area along the Sankey Canal.
None of this would have been possible were it not for our network of partners who have worked very closely with us and helped to drive forward the desired outcomes of Linking the Locks.”
Awards were presented to participating businesses and apprentices at the event to recognise their commitment to the project and to celebrate individual successes.
Steve Park is Managing Director at Warrington & Co. Reflecting on the achievements of the Linking the Locks project, Steve says “I am extremely proud that we have been able to deliver this much-needed support to SME’s in the local area. Individualised business support of this nature is something which we have always believed is needed and I’m blown away by the outcomes of Linking the Locks so far. I believe it is testament to the culture of our local employers and the mind-set of our partners involved in this work that has led to its success.”
The Linking the Locks project runs until 1st April 2018. To find out more about the project or to discuss how else the Employment Development Team may support your organisation, contact Jonathan Aghanian via 01925 444009 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.