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What its like to work at the Ipswich firm where 40% of staff started as apprentices

PUBLISHED: 18:00 11 October 2018

Ellie Netzel of Clearfield

Ellie Netzel of Clearfield


Unlike her friends who are saddled with debt at university, at the age of 19, Ellie Netzel is making £13,000 plus bonuses. That’s because she chose to go down the apprenticeship route instead.

Clearfield office in Ipswich. Picture: ClearfieldClearfield office in Ipswich. Picture: Clearfield

While most people tend to think of apprenticeships as being manual trade work, Miss Netzel’s apprenticeship is based in an office - Clearfield, a recruitment agency in Ipswich that specialises in the construction industry.

After passing her A Levels at Suffolk One College, Miss Netzel, who is from Chantry, joined the company on Carr Street as an apprentice resourcer in March.

“I knew absolutely nothing about recruitment before I started,” she admits. “I felt an apprenticeship would be a good fit for me because I wanted to carry on learning, but still make money at the same time.

“A lot of jobs out there at the moment you need previous experience for, but not an apprenticeship.”

New apprentices at Clearfield are joining a rapidly growing company. When Miss Netzel joined in March, the company had just 18 employees. Now there are more than 30, and a fifth of them are apprentices.

But Clearfield’s eagerness to take on apprentices is very much bucking the trend in Suffolk, where there has been a 20% drop in the number of people starting apprenticeships since April 2017. At the same time, youth unemployment in the county has risen from 2.8% to 3.9%.

For Clearfield’s talent manager, Kath Sorrell, apprenticeships offer the advantage that employees can be moulded to suit the requirements of the company, right from the start. “Our apprentices don’t come in with bad habits they might otherwise have learnt elsewhere,” she explains. “I think people have the misconception that apprentices are manual positions, and school leavers think that too. But they don’t have to be.

“We have found the apprentice route to be very successful for our company. In fact, over 40% of our Ipswich team started their journey as an apprentice.”

Ms Sorrell claims that Clearfield likes to employ young people because they have more “drive, energy and enthusiasm.”

“They are happy to talk on the phones. A lot of our marketing is done on LinkedIn, and social media comes naturally to them because they’ve grown up with it.”

Miss Netzel initially wanted to pursue a career in acting when she finished college, after studying an A level in Drama. “I changed my mind, because I realised I would have been paid less money for something that wasn’t a guaranteed wage,” she said. “Some of my best friends are at university now, and I’m glad I won’t have that debt.

“I was never quite sure if I wanted to go to university, and I don’t feel like I missed out at all by not going.

“I absolutely love my job, and not many people my age can say that.”

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