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‘I struggled at school but now I’m earning £330 a week, learning trade skills and have a full-time contract at 18’

School and college was always something of a struggle for Lewis Pidd-Hicks – but when he entered the world of work, he found he started to thrive.

Part of the woodshop team at leading Hull manufacturer Walker Modular, Lewis was given the perfect start to 2022 when he was awarded a full-time contract on his 18th birthday.

It comes nine months after joining the business as Lewis, of Bilton Grange, was first recruited for Walker Modular by specialists Staff Finders – a company looking to partner with more local businesses willing to give young people the chance to learn a trade and enter the world of work as part of its new ‘Career Starter’ programme.

“School wasn’t for me, and nor was college really. I was always the class clown at school, the one being cocky and trying to get a laugh. I didn’t like being told what to do so I ended up at a specialist behaviour school,” Lewis explained.

“I’d started a college course at 17 but what I really wanted was to be working, so I contacted Staff Finders and they helped find a suitable place for me. I’m really pleased they brought me to Walkers.”

After some in-house initial training in plumbing, Lewis was firstly part of a production line making bathroom pods which are supplied to customers across the UK – a challenge he admits was daunting.

“It was hard work, and I had basically 15 minutes to do my part of the job before the pod moved on and the next one needed doing. I just couldn’t do it fast enough and was worried I’d lose my job,” he said.

“However, when I spoke to my line manager they took me aside and found another role for me which I adapted to better in the woodshop. I can remember one of the managers saying to me ‘don’t look so worried.

“I’ve always had really good help and support here, from the people on the shop floor to my line managers. It was a really quick learning curve initially, but everyone has helped and you learn every day.”

Lewis admits one of the big attractions to the job has been earning, with Walker Modular paying him £9.21 an hour, compared to the minimum wage for under 18s of £4.62 an hour, and £4.30 an hour for apprentices.

“I love earning money, it’s what gets me out of bed in a morning and on my bike for 20 minutes to get to work, Lewis said.

“I’ve been taking home more than £300 a week at 17. I’ve not saved much, but it’s great to have my own money and to be learning a trade.”

Career Starter programme helps young people ‘earn, learn and progress’

Staff Finders’ new ‘Career Starter’ traineeship scheme is focussed on helping young people like Lewis ‘earn, learn and progress’.

It has been launched to bridge a gap in the recruitment of young people aged 16-23, offering more immediate earnings than apprenticeship schemes whilst also helping employers to meet high production demands and get the best value and output from their workforce.

Walker Modular was the first company to pledge to offer young people full-time jobs on more than the minimum and living wage, with a commitment to also offering real career progression opportunities.

Staff Finders is now keen to develop the scheme with many local employers, and General Manager Katie Connell says Walker Modular and Lewis are a great example for others.

“When Lewis first came to see us at Staff Finders it was clear he was a young man who needed to be in a working environment,” she said

“He came with a background of not really getting his head down at school, but as soon as he joined Walkers he found himself in an environment which suited him, where he is able to learn and enjoy the rewards of being paid for a job well done.

“The important thing to stress here is that in Lewis, Walker Modular have recognised that they have a very valuable member of their team, and so they have invested the time in him to find a role that suits and one he can be confident in.

“As an employee he is great value to them, and for Lewis he is being given the opportunity to learn great trade skills on the job, and earn and good wage for somebody of his age.

“Further education, university and apprenticeships don’t cover every young person out there. We need employers willing to take on and train young people in hands-on skills, and that is that Career Starter is about.”

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