Central heating and hot water on tap is, thankfully, something most of us take for granted; until it’s no longer there. During the Arctic weather conditions, the so-called ‘beast from the East’, the HomeServe call centre received the same number of calls they would normally manage in a week, in one day.
Given that the staff usually average around 3,000 customer inquiries a day, it’s clear there were a lot of cold and unhappy people struggling with frozen pipes and broken boilers! Meeting a group of apprentices at the HomeServe training centre in Nottingham, I’ve no doubt they were more than capable of meeting the challenge.
Liam Shaw and Reece Cookson are both 19 years old and eight months into their Level 2 apprenticeship in gas engineering. For Liam, ‘hands on is a good way to learn’ while Reece believes ‘apprenticeships are the best way forward.’ While the salary isn’t a priority – HomeServe apprentices start on £10,500 – they both appreciate the opportunity to ‘earn while you learn’ and can look forward to salaries of well over £30,000 plus bonuses once they qualify.
For Ebony Bunting, also 19, an apprenticeship wasn’t her first choice. She was studying health and social care and triple science, but after some of her course work was lost, she rethought her future career.
‘I’d had experience of caring for family members and I enjoyed that, but after a conversation with the careers advisor I realised I really wanted to do something with my hands. I studied carpentry and joinery and then plumbing really pulled me in.’
Ebony took to it so well that she was nominated as one of the best Level 2 plumbers in a year of 30,000 apprentices. Now in her second year, she says she really appreciates learning at her own rate and being able to put what she learns into practice. She says,
‘Being paid is just a bonus, an apprenticeship is just the best way to get into it. It’s more in depth than at college or university because you are learning how to actually do the job.’
Ebony clearly loves what she does and now uses the communication and empathy skills which first suggested a career in health and care, into delivering the best customer service. Given you are usually a stranger in someone’s home, she believes it’s important to make them feel comfortable.
But the challenge of the job is far beyond keeping customers happy. Gas engineers bear a huge responsibility for public safety and are required to retake exams every five years to make sure their skills are up to scratch, something not required of doctors.
Ebony is up for the challenge and ambitious for the future.
‘I want to be a good gas engineer; one of the best on the patch. I want to be at the top of my game and feeling confident in my job.’
All the HomeServe apprentices I met displayed a remarkable career focus, maturity and professionalism perhaps reflecting the values of their employer. Everyone described HomeServe as, ‘like a family’ where everyone is valued and appreciated. And finally, just because I promised, Reece [pictured right] is currently single so any young women in the North West looking for a date, please get in touch!