Four years ago Natalie Tyler wasn't sure what career path lay ahead of her. She was working in a local job which didn't really interest her and she quickly realised it wasn't the right career for her long-term, so soon started applying for other jobs across various fields.
In late 2011 Natalie spotted an advert for a customer services apprenticeship with the Fortec Distribution Network. Until then she had never opted for a career in transport. But recognising the skills would be transferable across any industry she applied for the apprenticeship and was delighted when she learned she had got the job.
Fortec Apprenticeships Deliver Exciting Career Prospects for Chelsea Lightfoot (left) and Natalie Tyler (right).
She started with Fortec in January 2012 and today, with NVQ Levels 2 and 3 in Customer Services under her belt Natalie is a fully fledged Team Leader, managing a team of advisors who work closely with Fortec to ensure as much as possible that all internal systems run smoothly so that deliveries arrive on time and in full. Or, in instances where this isn't possible – for example when motorways are gridlocked or bad weather closes the roads - working closely with the customer to ensure they are kept fully informed and where possible working together on an alternative solution.
It took Natalie 18 months to successfully complete Level 2. She enjoyed it so much and recognised her potential of climbing the ladder at Fortec, that she immediately signed up to Level 3 – a much harder course but one which allows candidates to climb the career ladder.
Level 2 NVQ courses are commonly described as being the equivalent of four or five GCSE grades A* to C – depending on the choice of course - whereas Level 3 is often described as the equivalent of one to five A Level grades A* to C.
Natalie said: "When I started working at Fortec I hadn't necessarily thought of a career in transport. But the great thing about customer services is that the skills are transferable so you can work in any industry.
"That said, I would like to stay in transport and at Fortec. The last four years have taught me a lot and certainly in this environment every day is different and exciting which makes
the job all the more enjoyable and interesting."
Also completing Level 2 is 23 year-old Chelsea Lightfoot who has been with Fortec since the age of 17 when she started on work experience with the company during the school holidays.
Chelsea was only ever at first meant to stay with Fortec for a couple of days. But when an employee started maternity leave Chelsea seized the opportunity to take her place in purchase ledger and since then has never looked back.
She said: "I picked up various skills while I was on work experience so when Fortec offered me to study for an NVQ alongside Natalie I went for it and – like Natalie – I passed the exam in the minimum time."
Subsequently Chelsea too went on maternity leave and on her return to Fortec was offered the chance of studying for her Level 3 NVQ in customer services. Like Natalie she seized the opportunity and was over the moon when she qualified in February this year.
Like Level 2 the course is very focused on the customer experience but both Natalie and Chelsea admitted it's a lot harder, looking at more complex issues and encouraging more management and responsibility.
Chelsea said: "It was challenging to say the least but it was enjoyable and most of it could be completed in work time with the support of my mentor at Fortec so it didn't impact on home life too much.
"It was a real learning curve but it has stood me in good stead for the future but I'm happy in transport and happy at Fortec so am looking forward to climbing the ladder here in the future."
Three years ago Fortec was among 1,400 companies across the UK which teamed up with 140 schools to offer placements to 16 to 19-year-olds, giving them their first glimpse of the working world.
And parent company Geodis has also launched its own apprenticeship scheme as it seeks to nurture a pool of home-grown talent for the benefit of the long-term future of the company.
Chris Dennigan, Business Improvement and Performance Manager at Fortec, said: "Every company today has a responsibility not only to young people out there but also to their own businesses to work closely with the next generation of employees, ensuring that all skills, knowledge and experience built over several years is passed down for the long-term future of those companies.
"This is especially important for transport and logistics companies which, for many youngsters, would probably not be their first choice of industry.
"But in our experience, while many young people such as Natalie and Chelsea come to us not knowing what to expect, they end up staying with us because they find out for themselves that the challenges of the transport industry actually bring with them interesting and varied working days."
He added: "We are delighted to offer our services to the young people to encourage them in any way we can to find out for themselves how interesting transport and logistics can be and how over the long term it can provide them with a long and prosperous career."