Apprentices – at the heart of our team
Darren Hill, Buildings Team Supervisor at Windsor
04 August 2016
Eight years after launching our building services apprenticeship programme, the results have exceeded our expectations – benefiting local young people and The Crown Estate.
We pioneered our apprenticeship programme largely to give opportunities to young people in the local community, helping them gain valuable knowledge and skills, and supporting the future workforce. What we’ve found is that it’s got even bigger benefits for us than we imagined.
For a start, each apprentice is an extra pair of hands, which makes a big difference for a busy team like ours. We have 17 people who look after buildings across an estate that covers around 6,400 hectares. This includes over 600 houses, the Savill Building, offices, the Royal Chapel and a biomass facility. Our apprentices all put in the effort; they’re an important part of our team.
Here at Windsor, the plumbing apprentices do everything from changing tap washers to installing boilers. They look after water systems on the estate, carry out drainage works, do maintenance on gutters – the full works. Our electrical apprentices also get very hands on, whether it’s changing light fittings or completely rewiring a building. Our current plumbing apprentices are approaching the end of their four-year programme and our electrical apprentice is just completing his second year, so they’ve got the skills and experience to do lots of jobs.
In addition, we’ve found that apprentices can add new ideas. They go to college one day a week, so they get trained in the latest technologies and bring these into our team. We get fresh insights and they get the chance to work with really experienced team members.
Seven local people have gone through our building services apprenticeship programme over the last five years, gaining skills and qualifications as carpenters, electricians and plumbers. There is so much to do on the Windsor estate, they get an incredibly broad experience and develop a diverse range of skills.
We also offer our apprentices opportunities to go out with contractors to get new experiences, working with other trades and teams. A few years ago, we put one of our electrical apprentices, Ashley, forward for the chance to be part of a team of apprentices from across the Thames Valley delivering a project in Kenya. He was chuffed to be picked for the two-week community project, which was a great life experience.
Two of our apprentices have joined us full-time after completing their programmes. Sam was taken on as a carpenter and has since gone on to become a quantity surveyor. Karl joined as a plumber five years ago and continues to be a real asset to our team today. Other apprentices have gone on to career successes elsewhere.
It’s a brilliant feeling, seeing someone who started straight from school with very little skills at all and then at the end of their programme, with a full range of skills – the finished article ready for the future.