Students studying at a North Wales college have gained valuable work experience thanks to an apprenticeship scheme set up by the local council.
Wrexham Council's Housing Repairs Service, part of the Housing and Economy Department, has taken on 13 trade apprentices who are completing practical training courses with Coleg Cambria.
The apprentices include 5 plumbers, 2 plasterers, 2 electricians and 3 joiners. A further 3 apprentice-plasterers are also being recruited.
The apprentices typically spend 1 day-a-week in college and 4 days undertaking practical on-site work with the Repairs Service.
The Repairs Service carry out repair and maintenance work on council-owned housing properties. Work carried out includes emergency, urgent and routine repairs, as well as longer-term projects such as refurbishing properties which have become void - in preparation for the next tenants. The work is carried out in-house by council employees, rather than by external contractors.
Steve Davies, Wrexham Council’s repairs team manager explains: "With 94 operatives, 35 support staff and 11,300 properties to maintain, this is a very busy, reactive and varied department and a great place for young apprentices to learn their trade.
"Our call centre takes on average around 89,000 calls a year, and we are operational 24 hours a day, 365 days year. We typically complete around 30,000 responsive repair jobs a year, as well as bringing around 1,000 void properties back up to let-able standard.
“Providing training and learning opportunities is a huge part of what we do, and it’s important that as a council department, we are able to contribute to the local economy wherever possible.
"We are very proud to be able to offer apprenticeships, and of the work they carry out - mentored by our qualified operatives. We are currently recruiting 3 apprentice plasterers, which is further evidence of our commitment to providing opportunities for young people.”
Apprentice joiner Kirsty Hulme explains how the course has helped her...
“I’m just about to finish my final year in joinery and it’s been a really valuable and rewarding experience for me.
"The studying side of the course is essential, but being able to work with the repairs team has given me hands-on practical experience of the trade - going out every day, working in real properties, meeting our customers and learning from the other professionals around me.
"I’m hoping to gain a full-time permanent contract once I’ve finished my course, and I think the experience I’ve gained here will give me a big advantage.”
Lead Member for Housing, Councillor Ian Roberts, said: “The repairs team is responsible for maintaining our entire council housing stock and ensuring all our tenants have safe and comfortable homes to live in.
"It’s a massive responsibility and you only have to look at some of the figures to get a sense of the huge amount of work they carry out.
"They are a dedicated and hard-working team of professionals, and we are all proud of the work they carry out. Having an in-house repairs service also means we can maximise the benefits to Wrexham's economy through purchasing from local businesses and employing local workers.
"Its great news that the team of apprentices is once again being expanded, and that more young people will be able to benefit from these learning opportunities.”