Laura Cunningham-Clarke is a mature, female, BAEM apprentice working in a male dominated environment, who has overcome a series of obstacles to be crowned Leeds City Council’s Development Apprentice for 2018, beating eight other finalists.
In October 2014 Laura started working for Leeds City Council, through the “Re-make Leeds” scheme. The scheme was funded through the national lottery heritage scheme and was designed to offer 12 months’ work experience to individuals who would usually find their opportunities limited.
When Laura left school with no formal qualifications, she started studying painting and decorating at college and became a carer for her grandad, which meant she found employment opportunities hard to come by.
She was excited when the opportunity to gain some vital work experience came along and with the blessing of her grandad she grasped the opportunity with both hands.
Once Laura’s 12 months with “Re-make Leeds” were complete, she took a job with the council, within Building Services, before applying for an apprenticeship six months later. Although Laura managed to secure an apprenticeship, there were still multiple challenges ahead.
Due to Laura having already studied painting and decorating at college and completing a Level 2 Diploma, but not the full Level 2 NVQ, there was uncertainty around what work and evidence Laura would have to complete, to achieve the full qualification. This, along with multiple changes in Assessors/ Tutors resulted in a delay in getting started for Laura who finally commenced as an apprentice in September 2016, but wasn’t allocated the correct units to give as evidence for her portfolio until February 2017.
With the support and assistance of her colleagues and the Union she managed to complete her portfolio in June 2017 and more importantly, on time. Laura received support and assistance from Neil Fullerton, the apprentice support co-ordinator for Leeds City Council Building Services department, as well as from Robert Blackshaw Unite ULR and other local Unite Officials.
Their support and interventions enabled Laura to complete the qualification and address the breakdown in communication between the college and employer, without this support, namely from Neil and Robert, Laura said she would have probably walked away and given up.
Moving into her second year, Laura said she feels more at ease and ready for the next set of challenges, following on from the issues she faced in her first year.
Unite Union Learning Organiser, Chris Muscroft, said:
The apprenticeship through Leeds City Council was an opportunity to gain formal qualifications and training that Laura previously hadn’t experienced and didn’t believe she ever would.”
Laura is thankful for the opportunity as it has changed her outlook and opinion on life in general and is now looking forward to the future and completing her NVQ level 3 with her new-found confidence.”