Featured Apprentice Story

Leeds City Council

Keith Harker manages a Leisure Centre for Leeds City Council. He is responsible for the day to day running of the site, including staffing and budget management.

The centre that Keith manages was closed in line with government advice for a lengthy period due to the pandemic. During the closure, Keith coordinated the redeployment of some of his staff to support other key services within the council, including staffing of vaccination sites. Keith maintained contact with his staff to check on their well-being and provide local updates during this time.

He also maintained regular contact with staff who were not redeployed. As these staff were at home and unable to complete any work, he provided them with online training and activities to encourage their development and ensure that time away from work was well-spent. He also provided regular business updates and well-being advice to alleviate worries and concerns that these staff had around job security and safety.

Keith used his new knowledge and skills from the apprenticeship to help to plan the re-opening of the site when this was allowed. This required great resilience and a positive approach, as the changing government advice meant that plans often had to be amended or cancelled at the last minute. Keith leads by example and his agility and positivity helped to keep his team motivated and engaged during this time of change and uncertainty and ensured that as soon as they were able, the centre could safely re-open. This was key for the council, who were significantly financially impacted by the pandemic. The centre is income generating and Keith's actions meant that his staff were feeling motivated and were equipped with the knowledge and skills needed to hit the ground running on their return.

The centre is very important to the residents of Leeds for improving mental and physical well-being, with mental health being a key focus due to the impact of the pandemic. Hundreds of school children attend swimming lessons at the site each week and this important life-skill could begin to be taught again. For some centre users, a visit to the site is the only social interaction that they have in day, so it was vital that they felt safe returning and Keith's hard-work has supported this. By building a positive and well-trained team, the site has even attracted many new users since re-opening.

Prior to the pandemic, Keith was seconded into this role but applied for the role when it was advertised and was successful in securing the position on a permanent basis. Keith achieved a well-deserved 'Distinction' at End Point Assessment, despite the challenges and distractions of the last 18 months and having Covid himself, feeling very unwell when he sat his Knowledge Test and completed his interview.

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