London Borough of Hammersmith & Fulham Council is committed to making their borough one of the most inclusive places in the country. Apprenticeships are at the heart of how they are creating work opportunities in the borough. Lucy Robinson, the Strategic Resourcing Lead at the council, explains how they’ve been doing this.
In 2017, H&F council launched our Industrial Strategy ‘Economic growth for everyone’, setting out the Council’s ambition to seize opportunities for all, and the apprenticeship levy has been helping us to achieve this ambition.
Using our H&F Academy to work collaboratively with colleagues across the Council, we’re providing employment services and training packages and through H&F Works (the Borough employment services) we are supporting local residents to connect with work and learning opportunities within the Council and other local employers.
Apprenticeships are at the heart of our offer, and we have grown our apprenticeship programme from 16 starts in 2017/18 to over 150 currently on the programme at H&F (6.4% of the workforce) – well exceeding the Government’s targets over the last few years. We are delighted that managers across the organisation and our borough are seeing the benefits of hiring apprentices to bridge skills gaps and support succession planning for the future.
Our target is to continue to increase the number of apprenticeship opportunities we provide for our residents and for our existing workforce, working in key areas such as engineering and environmental health and building skills for the future alongside difficult to recruit to jobs in Social Care, Legal, Digital, Finance, Building Control, Planning and Highways.
We place a focus on promoting H&F Apprenticeships to residents and Care Experienced Young People with the aim of providing career pathways for young people.
We have initiatives aimed at all other underrepresented residents as well as targeted action for disabled residents. During the last 2 years we have continued to grow the programme and developed our Inclusive Apprenticeship offer for disabled residents in partnership with Children’s Services, Adult Social Care and West London College and we now have 13% of our apprentices who self-declare as having a disability.
The H&F Academy programme goes further than most employer programmes because it offers wrap-around support. We know from experience that careers do not just start and end with one apprenticeship. For some of our residents that belong to underrepresented groups we focus on the preparation for an apprenticeship and understanding the transition from education to the workplace, and our apprenticeships are supported by providing work experience, internships and work ready workshops for young people.
But we know that apprenticeships are not just for the young: we also promote the programme and the wide-ranging career pathways on offer at the Council and local employers to our mature residents aligned to our commitment to be an age friendly employer.
We are proud to have a diverse apprentice network. Two thirds of our apprentices are aged over 25 – our youngest apprentice is 18 but our oldest is 62 years of age!
We work hard to keep this success going. The H&F Academy team attend events throughout the year to promote the programme, including Job Centre Plus, schools and sixth form colleges as well as having a presence at housing estates and refuge centres across the borough and hosting our own events to reach as many residents as possible.
We’re also active members of several charters to ensure we are delivering best practice, from being a London Living Wage employer to the Race at Work Charter. These are embedded across the Council.
When our apprentices join H&F they’re assigned buddies, managers are provided with support and guidance on managing off the job training by the H&F Academy team and we encourage apprentices to join the H&F apprenticeship network, led by apprentices for apprentices.
Our apprentices have access to the Young Persons Network and other staff-led networking groups under the umbrella of ‘The H&F Way’ promoting our inclusive workplace initiatives. The Race Equality Groups are active in supporting and promoting our Get Ahead Programme highlighting the opportunities apprenticeships bring for staff to gain new skills and the benefits of recruiting apprentices.
We are passionate about ‘growing our own’ and enabling individuals at all levels to develop to their full potential. We support apprentices coming to the end of their apprenticeship to find roles within the Council and we also provide wrap around support from H&F Works.
We’re proud that many of our apprentices go on to secure roles within the Council and we can use ties with partners across the borough where there may not be opportunities to progress internally.
The Strategic Resourcing and Talent team here at H&F are incredibly driven and passionate and I believe our success is largely driven by the lived experiences that our team members bring with them to their roles. In particular, Asiya Mohamud, who joined H&F as a Resourcing Coordinator in April 2021 as a local school leaver. Asiya completed a Business Admin level 3 apprenticeship with distinction and now has a permanent role as a Resourcing & Data Analyst playing an integral role in data collation to support decision making across the Council.
Asiya is now enrolled onto a Data Analytics Level 5 apprenticeship and is spreading the word about our programme, leading apprenticeship network sessions and attending events to engage with residents, creating enthusiasm wherever she goes, and she is now a mentor to two new apprentices within the team. We were delighted Asiya won the London Councils Award for Best Contribution of a New Apprentice 2022 and most recently winning the London Councils Award for Best Progression by and Apprentice 2023.
We are proud of our apprentices across the Council who are making a huge impact in the services we deliver to our residents. Through our H&F Academy, we are committed to doing more work to increase our apprenticeship cohort.
And hot off the press, we’re delighted to have been successful in being shortlisted finalists for the London Regional Large Employer of the Year Awards due to be announced in October.