Matt battles back in search for job
APPRENTICE Matt Gallows admits he's come a long way since he walked into the warehouse at Arpa UK almost 12 months ago.
Living with his nan in Bucknall, 20-year-old Matt was tired of being on Jobseeker's Allowance as he wanted to be able to save for his own home and car.
Originally he had hoped for a career in the Army or police, but a long waiting list for police vacancies and problems completing basic training for the Army meant Matt began to look at retail as an option.
"I didn't see me going into warehousing," he said, "but then the Jobcentre told me about the opportunity to take my forklift truck licences and that the training would be paid for, so I took it.
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"After that I found out about the apprenticeship scheme at Stoke-on-Trent College and that they had placements with Arpa, so I had to do a mini interview with the college and then one at Arpa where they showed me round and said I'd got the job."
Having begun as a warehouse and storage apprentice at laminate distributor Arpa, in Parkhall Business Village, Matt soon realised it would be a steep learning curve to get up to speed with the older and far more experienced staff on site, and both sides began to wonder whether he could cope with his new role.
Lee Stevenson, operations controller at Arpa and Matt's line manager, said: "When Matt arrived he didn't have any drive or ambition about him and he didn't really know what he wanted.
"His colleague Chris Doyle had to feed him all the information, but I can honestly say that now he's amazing.
"He's now at the stage where if his colleague Chris is away for any reason, he's quite capable of running the warehouse on his own.
"Matt does everything now in terms of the logistics and the operational side, and the biggest responsibility we've given to him is that of running the samples department. When Chris has been unable to manage the computer side of things, Matt has stepped in and taken this on and been able to show Chris how it all works, so he's also been able to learn from Matt.
"He really is a totally different person to the lad who arrived here, and if the company was in the position we could take him on full-time we would definitely do it, as the country manager is delighted with the progress he's made."
Matt has now been nominated in The Sentinel Business Awards in the Apprentice of the Year category, sponsored by Stoke-on-Trent College.
He now has a Level 2 Warehouse and Storage Apprenticeship qualification from Stoke-on-Trent College, his own flat, more confidence and more experience under his belt, Matt believes he's in a far stronger position to enter the jobs market.
Matt, who is employed by Real Apprentices Limited, Stoke-on-Trent College's apprenticeship training agency, added: "When I came here it was a whole new thing for me, but I slowly picked it up.
"Now, looking back, the year has gone so fast and I've really enjoyed it. I will certainly miss the team here.
"I've done everything from picking orders, loading, unloading and driving forklifts, completing all the paperwork, which was all new to me, and I started to run the sample department on my own – keeping it stocked, booking in deliveries for collection from couriers and keeping the samples up to date. We also have an automated database for the service now which came on the back of a suggestion from myself and Chris.
"That was vital, as with only two of us in the warehouse it desperately needed co-ordinating because we could have 20 or more samples going out every day, and those would need to be processed within 48 hours, so it was really busy.
"So I've got some great experience here and I will get a good reference, and now I'm hoping that will put me in a good position when I apply for jobs.
"The apprenticeship has really given me some confidence and independence, as well as experience, so fingers crossed, I can get straight into another job."