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Featured Apprentice Story


Wolseley UK

Ryan Whitaker, over the course of the Covid-19 pandemic, Ryan went from being a team supervisor to branch manager - a position in which he thrived under potentially difficult circumstances. He played a key role in supporting the business in its strategy to remain open as an essential business, enabling us to, in turn, continue to supply and support essential workers and keep the economy and vital facilities going.

One of our many apprentices who has really taken Wolseley UK by storm this year is Ryan Whitaker of our Twin Valley Managed Services branch in Blackburn. Managed Services is a bespoke supply chain solution for social housing organisations, local authorities, national retail and supermarket chains, and the MoD. Clients select from a portfolio of services to match their individual requirements, delivering significant efficiency savings.

Ryan has been with the business five years, having started out as a team supervisor in Blackburn aged just 20. Since then, his career has gone from strength to strength, and he’s well on his way to completing one of our apprenticeship programmes through the Wolseley Talent Guild – established in 2020 to provide a clear development pathway to all employees across Wolseley UK.

These apprenticeships are carried out internally alongside full time work and are delivered by a training specialists Lifetime. Ryan, now a branch manager, told us: “When I was team supervisor, I mentioned in my performance review that I wanted more training to help me make that next career step. My line manager then put me forward for a trainee manager course, so that within 18 months I would be able to start applying for management roles in the area.”

However, opportunity knocked for Ryan much earlier than he had anticipated, and he was thrust into the position within a few months of embarking on the Team Leader/Supervisor Level 3 course in February 2021. He explains: “My Twin Valley branch here in Blackburn found itself without a manager, and so I stepped into the role on an interim basis before being given the job full time.”

While it was a great opportunity, it wasn’t without challenge, and he believes what he’d picked up on the course was instrumental in ensuring his first foray into management was a success, despite being just four months into the 18-month programme. He added: “I began learning about day-to-day scenarios you’re likely to face as a branch manager and how best to deal with them. I also learned a bit about how to problem solve and how to train staff – so this all came in handy when I was placed in these situations for real so soon after covering them on the course.

“For example, I had some difficult decisions to make regarding headcount, and I also had to find ways to raise standards and call out poor performance – the course provided me with some great techniques on how to do this, as well as developing new starters.”

In the post-pandemic economy, Ryan’s willingness to learn, make difficult decisions and lead, has been a shining example of why Wolseley UK has continued to excel in the market during that time. While he is only accountable for one of our circa. 550 branches across the UK, his impact has been profound – particularly given he is just 25 years of age.

Our financial year runs from August to July, and during the first two months of our new financial year, his branch had recorded strong improvements year-on-year. When asked how he achieved this, he told us: “It was difficult at first – juggling branch management with the apprenticeship - but I coped. The key was getting right staff in place. One of my weaknesses previously was being strong on delegating responsibility but that’s something I’ve definitely got better at, and I’d say that’s been reflected in our overall performance.”

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