When lockdown was first announced more than a year ago due to Covid-19, colleges and training providers had to close their doors, adapt immediately and move to remote teaching and learning almost overnight.
It was also a challenge for many organisations who had to get systems up-and-running for their staff, including apprentices – some of whom had only just begun their training when the pandemic struck.
This was the case for Yusen Logistics’ East Midlands office, near Annesley, Nottinghamshire.
Yusen has worked with West Nottinghamshire College for several years, employing apprentices across a range of programmes including business administration and accounting.
Amongst them is Michael Nock, 21, from Kirkby-in-Ashfield, who is studying a Level 3 AAT Advanced Diploma in Accounting – his second apprenticeship with the company, having previously completed a Level 3 Business Administration qualification.
He said: “Lockdown came as a bit of a shock for all of us. I don’t think anybody thought Covid-19 would have such a long impact.
“It was strange at first. We used Microsoft Teams and organised a daily call to make sure everyone was settling in okay. After a month or so these became weekly meetings and everything’s great so far. Maintaining regular communication has really helped to make everything comfortable for me – and knowing I had support was a great feeling.”
Michael soon realised he was gaining new skills.
He said: “I’ve become more resilient and better organised working from home. I can honestly say that lockdown has benefitted me in terms of becoming more independent and working hard to solve issues.
“I’ve missed the social aspect of being in the office, but you can still chat to colleagues from home using technology. The main benefit is having access to your own fridge at any time!”
Lauren Hampshire, from Sutton-in-Ashfield, is also on her second apprenticeship with Yusen. She joined the company in October 2019, on a Level 3 Business Administration apprenticeship. After successfully achieving the qualification she progressed on to a Level 4 Diploma in Procurement and Supply, which she studies in her role as an apprentice procurement administrator.
The 19-year-old said: “It took me a few weeks to adjust to home-working because I’d been in a really lively office and suddenly I was working alone and felt a little isolated. But I soon started to become more autonomous in my decision-making.”
Lauren quickly adapted to this new way of working – and her apprenticeship studies were not affected either.
She said: “My college tutor, Astrid, has kept in touch and I’ve been working on two study modules at a time. She’s always available on the phone or Teams to help keep me focused. I’ve also got access to online revision guides now that I’m a member of the Chartered Instituted of Procurement and Supplies, so there’s plenty of support.
“I’m managing to do all aspects of my job remotely. I’ve now worked longer at home than I did in the office. I do miss the lunchtime walks with my colleagues but I’m sure we’ll be able to do this again soon.”
Megan Yorke, 19, from Sutton-in-Ashfield, recently completed her apprenticeship while spending the last year working from home.
She said: “The regular Microsoft Teams calls and online training allowed me to successfully complete my apprenticeship in February this year, achieving a distinction in my Level 3 Business Administrator exam.”
Talent and development administrator Megan added: “When I started working from home I was still learning how to do things and was reliant on colleagues checking over my work, but I had to become more thorough and brave at dealing with things on my own.
“Now I tend to just do things without feeling like I need to ask. It makes you think more about your job when you’re at home. It’s very different but I like it.”
Level 3 business administration apprentices Taigen Fummey and Jack McConnell have also overcome the challenges of lockdown by performing their roles from home while keeping up with their apprenticeship studies.
Taigen, 18, from Pinxton, joined Yusen in March 2020 as a human resources administration apprentice.
She said: “Just one week after joining the office and settling in, the government announced lockdown. So pretty quickly the company began making arrangements for us to work from home. I think initially we thought it would only be for a month.”
Taigen had never worked in an office before, so adapting to remote working was pretty easy for her.
She added: “In terms of working on my apprenticeship assignments I’m doing well with that too. My tutor, Helen, keeps in regular contact and she’s always available online or on the phone if I need any help or advice, so that’s really reassuring.”
Operations admin support apprentice Jack is also adapting well. In fact, the 16-year-old has never stepped foot in the Yusen office or met any of his colleagues in person – even his interview was conducted online!
He said: “Everything that is involved in my job can be done from home. I work on raising invoices, logging in operations jobs, updating our fleet database, logging trailer locations and updating the monthly MOT list for the vehicles.
“It’s going to feel quite strange when we do return to the office as I’ve not met any of my colleagues in person yet – I’ll feel like the new team member all over again!”
Yusen’s talent and development manager Michelle Saunders said: “I’ve seen really effective remote working from everyone, especially our new apprentices – they’ve adapted very well and taken it in their stride.
“Yusen has excellent processes in place for getting people on board straight away with home-working. We’ve invested a lot of time to ensure everyone is comfortable using Microsoft Teams, which helps us work effectively and have productive meetings.
“Another area which I’m delighted to see Yusen investing in is our staff wellbeing – making sure everyone is working well at home, offering relevant support and providing training on how to balance work and life in this new way of working.”
West Nottinghamshire College’s apprenticeships executive Gregg Thompson said: “Yusen has shown there are large elements of the business that can successfully operate from home and we’re so proud of our apprentices who have been part of this success story.
“Over the last year many organisations have suffered because of the pandemic and a lot of apprentices have been furloughed. Maybe, in hindsight, some employers rushed to furlough staff when the working-from-home model could have been a viable route.
“It works well for certain roles and can be very effective, just as Yusen have proved with their office staff.
“As a college we are working very closely with all our apprentices and business leaders across various sectors to offer advice on how home working and home studying can be a realistic option.”