Famous for its own pottery and proximity to Wedgwood’s historic home in Stoke, Hanley is also where Interserve Learning & Employment delivers The Work Programme. Interserve Learning & Employment is a prime provider of the government’s flagship welfare programme right across the West Midlands, helping long-term unemployed residents of Hanley, through its local sencia division.

Interserve Learning & Employment’s Employment Relations Adviser, Lisa Birchall, contacted local pottery firm Dudson to promote their free recruitment service. She spoke to Dudson’s HR Manager Sarah O’Hanlon and while she did not have any vacancies at the time, Sarah did express an interest in taking on an apprentice but had concerns about the financial implications. As Interserve Learning & Employment delivers both employment and skills contracts, Lisa was able to give advice on the benefits of taking on an apprentice as well as the Youth Contract Wage Incentive available to her to help with initial costs. Lisa also explained that Interserve Learning & Employment provides a dedicated recruitment service which includes pre-screening and selection to ensure Sarah would only see candidates that were right for Dudson.

To give young unemployed people a better chance of finding work, the government created a wage incentive scheme earlier this year. The Youth Contract aims to encourage employers to give young people a chance but supporting the costs of initial recruitment and wages.

Sarah tasked Lisa with finding the perfect apprentices for a number roles within pottery manufacturing ranging from dish maker, caster sponger, clay dipper, foot wiper and decorator.

Lisa commented: “I work really closely with our Case Managers at our Hanley centre so I knew we had lots of fantastic young candidates who were looking for work. We got together as a team and pre-selected people who would be right for each of the roles. The roles were very varied with some requiring attention to detail, others were more fast-paced, so I organised group assessment days to make sure that candidates we put forward for interviews with Sarah were really interested in working at Dudson and had the right skills.”

Following interviews with Sarah, 14 successful applicants were selected. The next step was to take them on a tour of the pottery and to give them a real insight into their roles, meet their teams and have taster sessions before they committed to their apprenticeships. By the end of September all 14 had begun, and everything was going well until three of them dropped out after a couple of weeks. Anxious to work out what was happening Lisa invited the 11 to a “praise and grumble” clinic at the centre. While they were very happy in their roles some felt that their apprenticeship wage was not enough compared to some of their colleagues who were doing similar tasks. To keep them committed Lisa and Sarah came up with an incentive scheme of their own. After three months their wage will go up and then again at six months. On top of this they are running ‘apprentice of the quarter’ and ‘apprentice of the year’ competitions.

Sarah told us: “Our new apprentice incentive has done the trick. They all now feel valued and they’re progressing well. I’ve been in touch with Lisa for more apprentices as Interserve Learning & Employment’s service from recruitment to in-work support has been absolutely fantastic!”

Kerry Deakin, 19, from Hanford had completed an arts and media BTEC at Newcastle-under-Lyme College. She is a very creative person but because of her lack of experience struggled to find a job where she could channel her talent. After being unemployed for some time she was referred to back-to-work specialists Interserve Learning & Employment, and her Case Manager Matt Brough got to work to find her the perfect job. Matt wanted to find her something where she could use her artistic training and the decorator apprenticeship at Dudson was ideal for her.

Kerry added: “I’m really happy at Dudson; it’s a great starting place for my career. I’m so thankful to Matt and Lisa for all their help!”

Callum Lord, 22, from Hanley had been out of work for three years. His previous job had been in the warehouse of a local dairy firm but this came to an end when it closed down. He was also referred to Interserve Learning & Employment and Case Manager Matt, who helped him with his confidence issues and employability skills. He set him goals to get his timekeeping and attendance up to scratch. After trying out a job as a warehouse picker he decided this wasn’t for him. But Matt didn’t give up on him and put him forward for the caster role at Dudson, where he is now really happy.

Callum said: “I was overjoyed to get the job at Dudson, I love my job and I feel like I have a progression plan in place because of the incentives so I can see a future here.”