When the River Haven burst its banks, and homes were flooded in Boston in Lincolnshire, it gave 16 year old Emily Adlard the opportunity of a lifetime.
She was just three months into her role as an apprentice with estate agent Newton Fallowell. Appointed by branch franchisee Lorand Borbely to help build the fast-growing lettings business, Emily was going through her first on-the-job appraisal when she found herself facing a storm of frustrated tenants whose homes had flooded in December 2013.
The other team members were already out dealing with earlier reports, as so many houses had been affected, so Emily had to deal with the situation alone. Watched by her external assessor, she reassured and calmed the flow of tenants coming through the door and telephoning the office, earning herself a nomination for a national apprenticeship award and a very happy employer.
“I was thrown in at the deep end, as you might say,” she laughs, “and it was a real eye opener in the importance of getting customer communication right.”
That’s backed up by Lorand’s account of what happened: “Emily was so patient, listening to everyone, and responding positively to their worries. It was very impressive how she handled herself – and how she represented the business.”
Now 18, Emily has been with Newton Fallowell ever since, and has notched up an impressive range of qualifications and awards. She has achieved NVQ Level II in Business Administration and is just awaiting sign-off for her Level III Diploma. She has won a national Star Apprentice Award, and was a regional winner and national finalist the year before. She has also been nominated for a local business award, where she was highly commended.
“An apprenticeship with on-the-job training was exactly what I wanted. I’d already had some work experience with an estate agent so knew it was the sort of work I’d enjoy. When I consider myself in comparison to other schoolfriends, I can see that I’ve achieved a lot, even though I didn’t choose to do A-levels or go to college,” she says.
Lorand is equally pleased with how it’s worked out. “We were a relatively young business when we decided to look for an apprentice. We could see the benefits of home-grown talent, and the financial incentive meant we could contain costs whilst we did it. The returns have been priceless.”
He added: “Apprenticeships are a great way to train and bring on talent, and can bring a lot of value to the business, but it requires commitment on both sides; from the employer to give the opportunities and the right training, and from the apprentice themselves to make the best use of that.
“I think it’s also a great thing to be able to give a chance to young people like Emily through apprenticeships. For many, there may be no other way to break into the office world. Certainly we will look to take on another as the business continues to grow. ”
For the future, Emily’s is keen to keep on learning and take on greater responsibility. “I would like to think that one day I could be in a position where I’d be able to take a stake in the business if the chance ever came along,” she says.
Newton Fallowell is the largest independent estate agency across the East Midlands, with branches from Burton on Trent to Boston, and from Retford to Bourne, and is now part of the AIM-listed Belvoir property group. Branches offer residential sales, residential lettings, conveyancing and mortgage advice.