Employer Focus: Arena, Plymouth City Centre

“I was an apprentice myself, so I know the benefits of this type of training in the industry – both for the learner and for the business hiring them”.

We caught up with Lara Wintle, the Director and Owner of Arena, to find out how apprentices have benefitted the boutique, stylish salon. Arena has gone from strength to strength, and is now regarded as one of the city’s most exclusive salons, using luxurious products and boasting a busy clientele.

“Apprentices are the backbone of the business – we’re lost when one of them are on leave. They get involved in a wide variety of tasks from washing hair and blow drying to welcoming customers at reception. We give them a lot of responsibility here.

“We currently have four apprentices through Skills Group; I wouldn’t use another provider. I trained with Skills Group myself, so know the high quality provision the company offers. They are always on hand to offer support and guidance. If an applicant comes directly to us, I recommend that they achieve their qualifications through Skills Group.

“Our newest apprentice, Natasha, has only been with us for six weeks but I am very pleased with her progress. She is mature, switched on and enthusiastic, and will be an asset to the business.

“My advice to learners who are looking for an apprenticeship is to go into the organisation and introduce yourself – get yourself out there. Offer to do a trial day so that the employer can get a sense of who you are and your work ethic; it’s the best way to make a strong impression.

For companies thinking about hiring an apprentice, I’d recommend interviewing as many candidates as possible. Always run a trial day – at Arena, we even run a trial week – and then ensure you have a probationary period. Go over the legalities of an apprenticeship carefully, and if you don’t understand, make sure you ask your provider.”

I just wanted to say the biggest thank you to Vanessa, my trainer. You have made my journey so much easier, I don’t know what I would have done without you. You have been amazing and helped me to achieve my qualification. You’ve guided me through every step of the way, I really appreciate it, Vanessa, you have been my rock.

Katie Shorland, Level 2 Hairdressing

I always struggled in school as I wasn’t very academic, so knew learning on the job would be a better option for me. I would find it difficult to get up for 9am but now I wake up and look forward to my day. I wanted to try a hair apprenticeship as I’ve always been interested in hairdressing, and by the end of the first week, I already loved it!

Jaimee Benson, Level 2 Hairdressing

I have developed a range of new skills through work including the technical, industry skills required for the job, to personal development such as ensuring I am always on time. The biggest change since leaving school is adjusting to the independence you gain from earning a salary. My advice to anyone thinking of doing an apprenticeship would be find what you like doing, and go for it!

Will Birch, Level 2 Bricklaying

Since starting the apprenticeship, I’ve become far more confident. In a classroom, you only interact with your classmates, but through working you develop your people skills as you interact with customers on a daily basis. At school, you are closely monitored and parented, however I am now more independent and feel grown up

Sam Collard, Level 2 Light Vehicle and Maintenance Repair

The most important thing I’ve learnt since leaving school is that there are other routes to success than just academia. I failed my GCSEs, as I never suited the school environment. Now though, I’m really enjoying my apprenticeship as I’ve discovered I learn more through hands-on practice.

Ben Freeman, Level 2 Carpentry

I would just like to thank you and your team for all the amazing work they do, you have provided me with the most invaluable experience which has helped to pave the way of my future. The work you do for young people is incredible!

Luke Kowalski, Teaching Assistant and former apprentice at Sir Robert Gefferys School