Sarah Harness, Apprenticeship Business Development Manager at the Apprenticeship Academy by HomeServe
As the first point of contact for every employer and apprentice who comes through our doors, Sarah Harness is an integral member of our team and her passion for providing the best support and education to both apprentices and employers shines through every day. In our first meet the team, we sat down with Sarah to find out a bit more about her and her role in our team.
Tell us a bit about your role at the Apprenticeship Academy by HomeServe?
Put simply, my role is to spread the word about the Apprenticeship Academy to employers in the heating and plumbing sector throughout across the UK, however in reality it’s a lot more than this.
It is a split role, that involves both speaking to small sole traders and businesses every day and supporting them in taking on an apprentice alongside working with HR Managers to make best use of the apprentice levy funds.
A key focus for me at the moment is ensuring small businesses in the heating and plumbing sector are aware of and helping them to apply for the current government incentives for taking on an apprentice – which at £4,000 are the highest they’ve ever been – and the onboarding of apprenticeship service systems and education and skills funding agency compliance.
What do you enjoy most about your job?
No two days are the same, we are a small friendly team working hard to change the landscape of apprenticeship provision to the trade sector one step at a time, and that’s incredibly rewarding.
I’m also passionate about being able to deliver innovative employer led qualifications.
All our trainers either currently work as Engineers when not training in the academy or have experience as an engineer so we can offer our student’s real-life advice and insight.
We guarantee all learners will leave our academy with new skills, knowledge and behaviours that will help them succeed throughout their career.
It’s amazing that we can offer programmes tailored to individuals that will meet current business needs. As part of this, we open the academy all year round and operate outside of term time, something that really suits our sector who are often extremely busy when the weather turns colder during the winter.
Our intense block training approach to apprenticeships means our client base is not only made up of school leavers but also those who want to retrain, or plumbers upskilling who are prepared to travel nationally for such high-quality new facilities all under one roof.
What’s something you enjoy doing outside of work?
In more normal times I love travelling to follow MotoGP and British Superbikes. I now can say I like crowds and live events the atmosphere this brings, and I will not take this for granted in future. I love the sound of the Ducati Panigale race bikes passing by on the racetrack and being part of team in pit lane, watching some of the riders is very scary, but the skill and commitment involved from riders is incredible, and the team ethos and competitive team spirit is what I really like being part of.
What job did you want to do when you were younger?
I really wanted to work with dolphins when I was younger, and marine life in general but being based in the midlands and getting homesick quite easily this never really progressed into anything beyond a few scuba diving lessons in my local swimming pool.
Where would you like to see apprenticeships in the next 5 years?
Having worked in the apprenticeship sector for just over twenty years it isn’t breaking news that we are facing a skills shortage across many trade sectors, which has now reached critical levels.
I believe apprenticeship opportunities need to be highlighted early on in schools, it must become a more recognised route to employment for young people, just as university is. I really welcomed the Baker Clause back in 2017 which made it a legal requirement for all non-academic routes to be shared with students around school leaving age.
The recent amendments to legislation will soon make it more enforceable and will give accountability to schools, which I hope will give training providers such as ourselves greater access to all students. It’s then easier to connect apprentices with local employers who can trial apprentices early on.
I also want it to become much easier to source applications from children who may be from less supported backgrounds. Relationships built early on between potential apprentices and employers creates employment vacancies in these same companies when individual employers don’t feel pressured but have made a well thought out informed choice.
And finally, if you had one piece of advice for someone looking to take on an apprentice, what would it be?
Do it – give someone a chance to begin their career journey and pass on your guidance and support. It can be a simple, easy process with the correct people, like us, involved and I know you won’t regret it.
Your business will benefit in so many ways, and it can often be life changing for the apprentice involved.