Since Sarah Watt made the switch from studying animal care to an apprenticeship in customer services for removals giant Pickfords, she hasn’t looked back.

“I guess there’s something in my nature of wanting to help and that’s a common element in both,” said Sarah, “Although it’s far easier when a person can tell you what’s wrong!”

Based at the firm’s Uddingston branch in Scotland, Sarah, 20, is among a number Pickfords employees currently benefitting from the company’s investment in developing its staff.

As we mark Scottish Apprenticeship Week 2016 (29 February-4 March), we teamed up with Pickfords to create opportunities for 25 apprentices within a range of roles including porters, drivers, team leaders and managers. More than 50 employees across the UK have also signed up to a dedicated learning and development programme called LEAP, which we've developed in conjunction with Pickfords.

One of their newest apprentices, Sarah is currently taking an intermediate apprenticeship in Customer Service, which allows her to study recognised qualifications while working as a trainee move manager in Pickfords’ busy customer care department.

The chance to gain an apprenticeship came after Sarah took a summer job as an admin assistant at Pickfords after finishing a college course in animal care.

“When the summer job came to an end, my line manager notified me about an apprenticeship position and I decided I liked it so much at Pickfords that I wanted to stay,” said Sarah.

What I really like about the apprenticeship is that along with real work experience, I’m gaining a qualification that I’ll have for life. It’s a great way to gain knowledge of different areas of the business and it has prepared me for everything I’ll need to handle in my job. There are also lots of opportunities to move up the ladder at Pickfords, so I hope that it will open doors for other jobs too.

In her current role, Sarah is the point of contact for customers who want to move house, whether it’s to arrange for boxes to be delivered or sorting out removal dates. She then takes Tuesday and Thursday afternoons to focus on her apprenticeship tasks.

Sarah explained: “Although there are a number of mandatory units which I have to complete as part of the apprenticeship, it really suits me because it allows you to pick units that are best related to your job. They’ve helped me get a better understanding of what’s expected by the customer.”

“As a Move Manager, I’m there for the customer every step of the way so it’s important that I get it right. They say that moving house can be one of the most stressful things you can do – well, my job is basically to take as much stress away from the customer as possible.”

Sarah is due to complete her apprenticeship ahead of time in March/April, and is looking forward to securing a full-time position at Pickfords. She added: “It hasn’t felt at all stressful – not like school. My assessor has been really supportive and helpful. You get the impression they almost want you to succeed as much as you do. Then I’m really hoping that there will be a move manager position at the end of it.

“The people in my branch are great, and have allowed me time to get everything done. I like that Pickfords really do recognise people who are doing the hard work.” Mark Taylor, Network Director for Pickfords UK, confirmed the company’s continued commitment to investing in quality apprenticeships. He added: “I’m delighted to say that the apprenticeship programme is bringing real benefits. By using the PeoplePlus’s recruitment service, we have been able to source excellent candidates, who are bringing a fresh injection of talent into our established business operations. The scheme has offered young people the opportunity to take the first step in their careers, and we hope that many of our apprentices will be the managers of the future.”

We are supporting more than 2000 apprentices across the UK, working with nearly 780 employers. Among some of the most popular frameworks are the NVQ Diploma in Business Improvement Techniques, BTEC Diploma in Team Leading and the BTEC Diploma in Management – which demonstrate the investment that businesses are making in developing their staff.

Steven Winch, Head of Skills Operations at PeoplePlus said:

Apprenticeships are a great way for employers to improve the productivity and quality of their workforce through on the job training and learning. Designed specifically around the occupational needs of a business; apprenticeships are an effective way to deliver skills for new employees and experienced staff, encouraging loyalty to the company that invests in them.

Further details on Scottish Apprenticeship Week 2016 can be found here.