SUNDERLAND City Council has taken on more than a dozen apprentices – just months after hundreds of staff were allowed to walk away with hefty pay-offs.
The Echo revealed in October that 536 workers had left their posts after taking up a severance pay offer worth up to £30,000 tax-free, after the council came up £5million short in efforts to trim its budget for this year.
But now the authority has taken on 17 apprentices to work in its customer service network, which handles thousands of calls and visits from the public every day.
Working alongside ITEC and contact centre professionals, the 17 have received professional training in all aspects of customer service and are studying for an NVQ in Customer Service.
One of the group is mother-of-two Donna Maven, who said: “I want to give my kids a better future.
“I’ve never really worked.
“I had my daughter when I was quite young and I’ve never had a job since then.
“When my son started nursery, I decided to try to get a job for my kids so I could make their lives better.”
She added: “I found this and I really love it. Everyone has been so helpful and friendly.”
Nineteen-year-old Rachel Reay, who had previously been on a pupil referral unit (Pru) programme, said: “Being on this scheme means everything to me because everyone labels Pru kids. I’ve been really lucky to get this apprenticeship.
“It has turned my life around, and I really want to succeed so I can make my dad proud.”
Councillor Celia Gofton, cabinet member for responsive local services and customer services, said: “Apprenticeships are a marvellous way of learning on the job.
“At one time, everyone began their working lives this way, so I definitely think it’s the right thing to do.
“It’s really good news that we’re able to provide training and employment opportunities for young people, in one of the region’s leading industries.”