THIS week is National Apprenticeship Week, celebrating the achievements of apprentices and the impact they make to communities, businesses, and the wider economy.

Social housing provider Incommunities has a workforce of more than 900 and is one of Bradford’s biggest employers.

It employs more than 400 staff with practical trades, such as plumbers, plasterers, electricians, horticulturists, and multi-skills. It is this area where the vast majority of apprenticeships are focused.

Incommunities provide opportunities for apprentices to learn across various trades, helping them to decide on an area they’d like to focus on longer term. Many apprentices then go on to other roles within the organisation.

Over the last 20 years, Incommunities has trained more than 125 trade apprentices, with 95per cent of them still working there. Meet some of the current Incommunities apprentices:

Bradford Telegraph and Argus: Emma Thompson turned her passion for gardening into a careerEmma Thompson turned her passion for gardening into a career (Image: Incommunities)

* Emma Thompson from Wibsey is the first ever Horticultural apprentice at Incommunities after joining in August 2023.

Aged 33, Emma spent the last seven years working as a dental nurse but always loved gardening. She never dreamed of turning it into a career until she saw an ad for the Incommunities horticultural apprenticeship.

Emma says every day is different; she’s learning on the job with the in-house horticultural team, alongside the theory, which includes technical detail such as soil pH levels and Latin names for plants.

Having worked in customer facing roles, Emma enjoys this aspect of her apprenticeship. The relationship between customers and colleagues is important to Incommunities and the new intake of apprentices are doing an additional course in customer service.

Says Emma: “I’m not your typical apprentice! I’m not a school leaver but my passion has always been gardening. So when I decided to make the leap and look for a new job, I kept my options open and looked into less traditional routes. When I saw the horticultural apprentice ad I thought it was too good to be true.

“I’m now loving what I do, gaining knowledge and skills. Overall, the thing I’m enjoying most is seeing the difference our work makes to people in the community.”

Bradford Telegraph and Argus: Shauna Bramham re-trained to become a gas plumber Shauna Bramham re-trained to become a gas plumber (Image: Incommunities)

* Shauna Bramham: After 14 years as an Income Officer at Incommunities, Shauna decided to retrain and learn on the job to become a gas plumber. Now at the end of her four-year apprenticeship journey, she was named Plumbing Apprentice of the Year by Bradford College in 2023.

Shauna loves the variety of work and the relationship and feedback from customers. She’s proud of the progress she has made, from applying sealant around a bath on her first day to being able to install a boiler. She says: “The support from my mentors and colleagues across the organisation has been invaluable, from helping me decide on my chosen path to on-the-job training. I receive lovely feedback from customers on a daily basis, they’re pleasantly surprised to see a female plumber arrive at their home.

“The work is varied and challenging, no day is the same. When I look back on my development I’m so proud of what I’ve achieved.”

Bradford Telegraph and Argus: Harry Singleton has learned a variety of skills, including plastering and joinery Harry Singleton has learned a variety of skills, including plastering and joinery (Image: Incommunities)

* Harry Singleton from Idle joined Incommunities in 2023 as an apprentice property maintenance operative. He has learned skills, such as plastering, joinery, basic electrical skills, painting and decorating. It was this multi skill approach that appealed to Harry.

With a range of in-house trades people, Incommunities provides a variety of on-the-job training. Under the supervision of his mentor, Harry and the other apprentices practice what they’ve learned in empty homes that the trades teams are getting ready for tenants.

Bradford Telegraph and Argus: Harry practices his skills in empty homes that are getting ready for tenantsHarry practices his skills in empty homes that are getting ready for tenants (Image: Incommunities)

He says: “I wanted to do an apprenticeship because of the combination of developing practical skills and learning, plus getting paid. I was on another apprentice scheme before Incommunities but left because it didn’t offer me enough variety of work. Since starting here, I’ve already tried plastering, joinery, painting and decorating - all with the support of my manager. The great thing is, there’s so much more to come.”

Bradford Telegraph and Argus: Jai Kay was named Young Achiever in Housing Jai Kay was named Young Achiever in Housing (Image: Incommunities)

* Jai Kay started his first apprenticeship in electrical installation and design (NVQ3) straight out of school in 2012.

He chose an apprenticeship as he wanted to learn more about construction and develop practical skills, but his long-term ambition is to give back to his local community. Throughout his apprenticeship what he enjoyed most was directly helping people through his work.

fter completing his apprenticeship, Jai studied to become a qualified electrician, whilst mentoring four new apprentices. He went on to join the GEM programme, for a broader understanding of the housing sector and gained a level 4 CIH qualification in housing management.

He was named Young Achiever in Housing by the Chartered Institute of Housing. Jai completed a Level 5 apprenticeship in Management and Leadership and was appointed Void Manager at Incommunities, responsible for getting empty homes repaired and ready within a tight timeframe.

That ‘s not the end of Jai’s apprenticeship journey; he’s studying for a degree apprenticeship in Chartered Management (level 6). Says Jai: “I’ve set myself a big goal: to become a key leader in the sector, implementing sustainable, positive change to communities. I aim to be a chief executive and potentially venture into politics.”