Burrows Motor Company proactively recruits young women into apprenticeships through Gaia Innovation’s Search for a Star programme

January saw Burrows Sheffield host their annual Open Evening for Gaia Innovation’s Search for a Star Programme, which seeks to recruit apprentices to work in all areas of the family-run business.

The evening was well-attended, with 51 students and their families coming along to learn more about the scheme, which includes employability skills workshops, CV-writing guidance and interview training, and which is run by Gaia Innovation. 

Burrows, a member of the Automotive 30% Club, is keen to grow the numbers of young women joining them as apprentices, as part of their wider commitment to addressing the gender imbalance in the automotive and related technology industries.

Georgina Thwaites joined Burrows as an Apprentice Vehicle Technician in September 2019, after completing her GCSEs at Ecclesfield School, Sheffield. She explains that she was one of two female students studying Engineering in a class of 30. ‘When I attended the Open Evening this time last year, I really enjoyed it and knew that I really wanted to pursue an apprenticeship, so I threw myself into the application.’ She is now working towards becoming a Level 3 service technician, doing services and learning how to undertake diagnostic health checks on hybrid vehicles amongst other things. Georgina offers her advice to some of the young women at this year’s Search for a Star event: ‘Be yourself and make sure to choose something you enjoy doing. There is no point sticking at something you’re not interested in!’ 

Whilst Georgina chose a more hands-on and technical apprenticeship programme, Chloe Howes, one of Inspiring’s Real Models, joined Burrows in September 2018 as Apprentice Customer Consultant. ‘I work with the most supportive people imaginable!’ she says. ‘I am a very sociable person and I get to talk to everyone. I am encouraged to make mistakes and learn from them, and it has helped me to have the confidence to put myself out there and take risks.’ 

Burrows staff are unanimous in their support of the Search for a Star programme. Sarah Cooper, Group Fleet Manager, explains that apprentices thrive in their business as they learn new skills. ‘Apprentices come to us straight from a learning environment at school and they are keen to learn and absorb information. Many of our apprentices have no preconceptions of the motor trade so they are open to discovering new things through a wide variety of activities in their work and study.’ Danielle Chappell, who works in After Care, believes that the apprenticeship scheme allows young people to gain a really in-depth knowledge and understanding of the business and to build character by being challenged and learning every day. ‘They find that no two days are the same, and they really enjoy the variety,’ she says. 

Steve Burrows, MD, speaks enthusiastically both about the Search for a Star programme, and about his company’s membership of the Automotive 30% Club. ‘The world has changed and Burrows has to reflect that,’ he says. ‘There is greater equality between women and men within families and the workplace. Women make decisions, women have company cars, and we absolutely have to understand the female perspective. Burrows has to have a female contingent on our staff to make sure that we do our job properly and that our working team reflects the needs of our diverse client base.’ He expresses pride that Burrows’ Communications Team Manager, Debbie Palfreyman, was one of our Inspiring Automotive Women Award-winners last October. Debbie herself is also a keen advocate of her company’s apprenticeship scheme. ‘You will get the best version of us if you bring the best version of you,’ she tells the young people attending the event. Vernon Tolson, Business Development Manager at The Source Skills Academy, which delivers the apprenticeships in partnership with Burrows, corroborates this: ‘I’ve worked with Burrow for several years and they are an absolute exemplar of how an apprenticeship programme should be run.’

Parents and students attending the event shared their feedback, too. Holly Boardman, currently in Year 13 at Sheffield Girls, says ‘I am holding two unconditional offers from universities but I am just not sure carrying on studying is for me. I want to be the best person I can be and it appeals to me to have more independence, and the chance to learn and earn at the same time.’ 

Kendra Young, mother of a Year 11 student at Brinsworth Academy, explains that Burrows links with Toyota appeal to her child, who is interested in the possibility of working abroad one day. ‘I’m very impressed with the evening!’ she concludes. 

Gaia Innovation’s Search For a Star apprenticeship scheme is featured as an Automotive 30% Club Enabler programme to assist members to ensure their apprenticeship recruitment is inclusive for young women. If you would like more information, please visit our Enablers page on the Automotive 30% Club website. For more information about the Search For A Star programme, please contact sophie@gaiainnovation.com

Article written by Cathy Walker

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