Stephanie, you're hired!

The first apprentice to get on the jobs ladder thanks to an Express & Star-backed campaign has started work.

Stephanie, you're hired!

Stephanie Lloyd signed up with Ladder For The Black Country just over two weeks ago – and has already started her apprenticeship with the administration and accounts department at Willenhall-based A F Blakemore.

"I went for my first interview on the Tuesday, I had an interview with the employer on Friday, and started for a week's trial the following Monday," she said.

The 20-year-old had been working at Millie's Cookies in Wolverhampton's Mander Centre for the past two years, but had always wanted to work in accounting ever since completing her National Diploma in Business at City of Wolverhampton College .

Miss Lloyd, who lives in Highbrook Close, Pendeford, added: "It's very different working in an office environment, compared to retail, but I'm really enjoying it.

"It's much more focused, and I see it more as a career.

"It's been very interesting. The trial week was more about being shown around the place, whereas this week I have really settled in properly."

The Ladder for the Black Country has now created 137 apprenticeships, had more than 250 apprenticeship applications, and 25 firms have pledged to take on apprentices.

A F Blakemore, which was established as a grocery store in 1917, is now one of the market leaders in retail wholesale, distribution, and supplying shop fittings. The company employs nearly 8,000 people, and Stephanie is based at its head office at Longacres Industrial Estate in Rose Hill, Willenhall.

Stephanie said she would definitely recommend the Ladder For The Black Country, which has the Duke of York as its patron.

Stephanie Lloyd with association of account technicians tutor Danielle Smith, and treasury supervisor Karen Tolley.

"One of the good things is you can have a week's trial to see if it is for you," she said.

"You can find out what you want to do and what you don't like doing."

A.F. Blakemore Head of Corporate Affairs Paul Cowley said: "As a business we are committed to supporting the local communities we serve and a central part of this commitment is to offer young people opportunities within our business.

"We are supporters of the Ladder for the Black Country programme and I have no doubt that we will be recruiting more apprentices through this scheme in the near future."

Miss Lloyd added: "The apprenticeship scheme has enabled me to gain real accounts experience which I hope will help me gain full-time employment and a career for the future.

"Before taking part in the programme I had no accounts or office-based experience or qualifications, so it would have been incredibly difficult for me to get a foot in the door without it."

At the end of the work placement, there will be opportunities for permanent, full-time employment within the company's accounts department.

Ladder for the Black Country is a partnership between the Express & Star, the Vine Trust, training provider PTP, and the Black Country Chamber of Commerce to address the region's high levels of youth unemployment which have twice the national average.

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