City contact centre on hunt for 60 new apprentices

A Sheffield-based national contact centre has launched a summer hunt for 60 apprentices to boost its 1,350-strong workforce.

Knowhow, the outward-facing services brand of Dixons Retail, is seeking apprentices for its customer service, inbound sales and technical support divisions.

Recruiting is going on throughout August and September, led by The Source Skills Academy at Meadowhall, who will be tutoring successful applicants towards a Level 2 Apprenticeship qualification.

The Parkway-based centre, which provides support to customers of Currys PC World, is part of Dixons Carphone, Europe’s Number One electrical and telecommunications retailer and services company, which has a 40,000-strong team across nine countries.

Contact centre head Jason Roberts said: “Usually we had recruited apprentices in the spring and autumn, but The Source pointed out we could best meet our needs by making all our apprenticeship vacancies available now. This is the peak time of year for people who are unsure about their next direction in life.

“We can get them into a supportive work team and give them a work-based education with a guaranteed job after 12 months if they have delivered quality and commitment and gained their qualifications. There are real career prospects at the end of it – successful apprentices could move into other departments, or work towards management.”

Jason, 45, is a prime example of career progression within the Dixons Group; he began at 16 as a sales assistant on a YTS scheme in a Dixons store. He worked up to store manager level, then gained managerial roles across the sectors within the company’s brand names Currys and PC World, then into their customer care divisions Tech-Guys and more recently Knowhow.

“I have had a diverse, high-achieving 28-year career thanks to that YTS job,” said Jason. “The same opportunities are open to any apprentice who has the right attitude and work ethic.”

The contact centre based at Nunnery Square began investing in apprentices in 2010 and 2011 in order to develop Knowhow’s leaders of the future.

Its 2013 programme for over 45 apprentices, run with the Source Skills Academy, won the company Newcomer Large Employer of the Year in the 2014 Yorkshire and Humberside National Apprentice Awards.

Apprenticeships have become fundamental to operations. “They have enabled us to grow our own talent, which has had a positive effect on our workforce and our customers, and enabled us to start changing the perception of contact centre work as a stop-gap job,” said Jason.

The 2016 programme will be entirely provided by The Source.

“The Source has successfully delivered with us; it’s very important that we work with a training company which understands our brand and business needs,” said Jason.

“In addition, the Source responded proactively to our need for technical apprentice-training, a service outside its range. It went out and found trainers, going that extra mile in a way that no other provider has.”

Franca Kelly, work-based learning team leader at The Source, which delivers training for approximately 700 apprentices every year, said: “We did our own search and recruitment to find new trainers so we could provide a seamless training service to Knowhow – a company it is a pleasure to work beside. 

“Knowhow are a fantastic employer of apprentices, they provide on-going pastoral support and a number of progression opportunities which have seen former apprentices’ achieve frontline management positions. The company truly value apprenticeships and celebrates each and everyone’s individual successes.”

Jason Roberts

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