Charlie gets hands on at Wealden District Council

Charlie Haig and Chris Bone SUS-150403-092657001
Charlie Haig and Chris Bone SUS-150403-092657001

Charlie Haig has been getting first hand customer experience at Wealden District Council, handling the public’s recycling enquiries.

“It’s so different from being at college,” said Charlie. “You learn things first hand from watching colleagues take phone calls and respond to emails. You soon realise how important it is that you approach calls and emails in a certain way and take time to choose your words properly.

“You get to experience a whole range of different situations - a resident who is unhappy that their refuse collection has been missed – or helping another resident receive an assisted collection. And you learn so much from your colleagues. Everyone at Wealden has been very friendly.”

Charlie is one of six apprentices Wealden District Council took on last September for 13 months to learn Business Administration skills in conjunction with Sussex Downs College. They have been assigned to Wealden’s Waste Management, Housing, Finance, Revenues & Benefits, Legal & Democratic and Planning services and, like Charlie, have been given the opportunity to gain experience in several parts of the organisation and work together on joint projects.

Charlie’s work in Wealden’s Waste Management department has taken him out and about, visiting customers face-to-face, helping manage community refuse facilities and finding out about the treatment of medical waste. He has also been able to gain first hand experience of other workplaces in the Council including Housing and Elections, and been trained in data protection. At the same time Charlie studies for his Level 2 NVQ in Business Administration with Sussex Downs College.

“I find being an apprentice is more enjoyable than being at college. I prefer the structure of being at work and meeting people. I never knew the council did so much. Most people think they collect the council tax and empty the recycling bins, but there is also planning, building inspection, housing, economic development and food safety and lots more.”

I find being an apprentice is much more enjoyable than being at college

Charlie is one of the Wealden apprentices who is taking advantage of an innovative travel allowance the Council has set up to ensure becoming an apprentice is a viable option for young people living in the more rural parts of the District. It makes sure he does not incur extra costs in getting to work.

Chris Bone, Charlie’s line manager, is very pleased with the progress he is making.

“I was concerned that having an apprentice would require a lot of support and hand-holding but Charlie has been quick to learn and we soon found it was very worthwhile having him on the team. He has been a great help with customers.”

Wealden District Council is supporting You’re Hired East Sussex, a county-wide campaign to encourage 500 businesses to take on apprentices, and match them with work-ready young people who want to be apprentices.

“Apprentices can be a real bonus - particularly if yours is a small rural business,” said Councillor Roy Galley, Wealden Cabinet member for Economic Development and Regeneration. “As well as enthusiasm, they can bring a wide range of skills that small businesses require, and strategically it makes sense to nurture talent that may be very useful in the long term.”

Charlie is excited about the range of different roles involved in council work and hopes to continue working in public service after he completes his apprenticeship, and is looking to progress into management.

The You’re Hired East Sussex campaign will kick off on Monday 9 March during National Apprenticeship Week with simultaneous launch events at Eastbourne Town Hall, Stade Hall in Hastings and Lewes Town Hall.

The events, which run from 5.30-7.30pm, will give businesses an opportunity to find out first-hand about apprenticeships and talk to employers, young people and training providers who are involved with apprenticeships.