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Ian Coade, Five Star Maintenance

What can you tell us about your company?
For over 50 years, we’ve been installing, maintaining and repairing all types of automatic, industrial and garage doors, and window winding gear for commercial clients across the South West. We also support the Council in domestic conversions for disability access. I took over the business 20 years ago and we’ve recently expanded to new premises in Estover. Honestly, we couldn’t have progressed and grown the way we have done without our apprentices.

What was your first experience of Apprenticeships?
I would have to say when I was one myself. I did my carpentry and joinery Apprenticeship at City College in the 1980s. It was a great way to learn. That’s why I was keen to hire apprentices – there’s not enough of them nowadays, and it’s the best way to learn those practical skills. As an employer, you really see the value of training someone for your business with those skills – it makes sense to use your budget and resources to support that future workforce.

How many apprentices do you have working in your business?
We’re a small, family firm with only eight employees, but the majority of them are either current or former apprentices. My son completed his carpentry and joinery Apprenticeship with City College and he’ll soon be taking up the position of co-director of the company. We’ve also had electrical and mechanical apprentices, as well as a business administration apprentice train at the College over the years.

Why did you decide on City College Plymouth as your training provider?
From my own experiences, I knew that the quality, depth and range of training offered would be what I was looking for. Nowhere else could match that.

How did you find the recruiting process?
The guys at the College made it so easy. One phone call and things were being set in motion to get our apprentice set up and ready to go. They were also great helping us find apprentices to fill vacant positions as we expanded the team.

How has the College supported you during the Apprenticeship?
It’s been great. There’s been a lot of changes with ‘the levy’ and other things, but they’ve guided us through it all. They know all the financial support available, so are the best people to get you the most cost effective solution to your recruitment and training needs.

Apprentices often have to spend one day a week in College and the other four working for their employer. Did this cause you any problems?
Not at all. In fact, I’d be happy for them to get more College time because it’s that intensive training period that boosts their skills. Things have changed a bit from when I did my Apprenticeship: there’s more technology and other skills built in. Some weeks they know what they’ll be doing in advance, so I can give them some tips and then other times they’ll come back having learned something completely new. It’s great, because you can then say ‘OK, have a go at this’ and just leave them to it. For each day they spend at College, the more they can offer your business the next day.

Sounds like the whole Apprenticeship process has been a positive experience for you. Would you do it again?
Absolutely. We’re actually going to be taking on a new apprentice in the next few months and are considering putting our engineers through some NVQ training with them, so they [the College] can expect our call.