Hard-working Billy joined the job shop and he's never looked back
BILLY Simpkin knows all about the advantages of doing a college course.
As the school term drew to a close in the summer of 2011, he was uncertain what lay ahead of him after his studies.
He had worked on a building site and done a diploma through West Notts College.
He had applied to college but was yet to hear back.
That's when he joined West Notts College's Summer Job Shop, designed to give school-leavers work experience. Since then, Billy, now 17, has never looked back.
Over a two-week period Billy attended workshops to help prepare him for work, along with getting careers advice.
He also received motivational tips, help with creating his CV and met local employers looking to recruit new apprentices.
It was here he applied for an apprenticeship with the college's recruitment service – Vision Apprentices – for the position of bricklaying apprentice with Mansfield District Council.
He said: "I applied for a bricklaying apprenticeship and I was amazed that even though there were lots of people applying for them, I achieved one of the five positions. I was so pleased. So many of my friends from school still hadn't got jobs and I didn't think there would be anything out there for me."
Billy, of Mansfield, is one of thousands of young people across the country who have been helped into work by a college. And it is that which is being celebrated this week by Colleges Week, which runs until Sunday.
Recent research by those behind the week shows that 59 per cent of large employers who train their staff do so through a college, while employers view 17 and 18-year-old college leavers as better prepared for work than school leavers of the same age.
Billy says he is thriving on his apprenticeship.
He studies at the college one day a week and he is employed by the council in their maintenance team. He works on council properties in the district, using his new bricklaying skills to construct walls, work on roof repairs and other maintenance projects.
Billy said: "I'd like to think that I impressed people at my interview because of the attitude I have towards work. It's important to have that positive approach such as being a good time keeper and have respect for your employer.
"I felt ready for work having had the experience of being on a building site with my dad and learning the basic elements of the construction industry through the Schools Academy programme.
"I just knew that I wanted to be out there, working hard and improving my skills."
At college, Billy is currently working through a work-based portfolio of questions which covers different aspects of the construction industry such as health and safety, legislation and employment law.
He said: "I have set dates to complete these criteria and, although it means sitting down and focussing hard on theory, I find it worthwhile because I'm instantly putting it into practice when I'm working on the council properties.
"It's great having this training hand-in-hand with work – it makes me feel confident and ready to tackle new tasks and all of this will be beneficial when I apply for future jobs."
Billy's tutor Andy Wass said: "Billy is very committed to his studies as well as his job and has really developed his skills over the past year.
"He's very good at using his own initiative and works well with his teams both at college and work.
"These attributes together with his excellent customer service skills make him a very employable young man."