Luke Johnson

Luke Johnson was a Modern Apprentice with the Procurement team at Hull City Council.

Luke started the apprenticeship programme in June 2016. This finished in July 2017. The apprenticeship was facilitated through DR UK.

Luke Johnson

My story

I am 23 years old. My current apprenticeship is giving me the opportunity to get a qualification. Finally having a job is great: I’m picking up the kind of things that are best understood if you work out how to do them yourself, such as pivot tables and Oracle, and I finally have proper experience of working as part of a team—on top of which I’ve had the opportunity to work in several different places. Aside from the ever-valuable experience, I find gaining formal recognition of my skills to be pretty useful too.

Before doing an apprenticeship, I was on jobseeker’s allowance for roughly 2 1/5 years. At one point about a year in, I had to go to the jobcentre on a daily basis for appointments that served no purpose and didn’t honestly help me find work, and on another occasion I was accused of secretly being employed already and still claiming jobseeker’s allowance fraudulently—a claim they had no evidence for. This, needless to say, was not good for my wellbeing. During my final 18 months of unemployment, I was sent to another location that was much harder for me to reach on a weekly basis (at first; this later became twice weekly) for the work programme. When, on one occasion, I left the house in a hurry and forgot to take my medication, I requested that the appointment be dealt with as quickly as possible so I could catch the next possible train home and take it, which caused many problems.

My invisible disabilities were not understood by the Jobcentre staff, or by the staff on the work programme. They suggested impossible jobs, and I was required by the job centre to do one month of mandatory work activity, which was not paid and did not provide me with any skills—the company it was with seemed to merely use people in my position as a source of free labour, milling through us and assigning us any tasks the full-time employees didn’t want to do.

Prior to this placement they tried to provide me with one in a charity shop, but the shop had no idea who I was or why I was there when I arrived, and the travel time there and back—ten minutes by train and then almost an hour on foot, through an area I was wholly unfamiliar with—meant I missed a job centre appointment on the same day, and lost my jobseeker’s allowance for a month as a result. I have a long-term mental health condition and do not like travelling by bus when I can avoid it, on top of which I didn’t know the bus schedule for the area this was in (and the itinerary I was provided with had me catch a train five minutes after I was supposed to start work, rendering it utterly useless).

I am a 2nd generation apprentice– my father was a mechanical engineer, whereas I myself am in business admin. (The downside is that he occasionally doesn’t understand that life is different for apprentices these days—for example he could actually afford to own and maintain a motorbike on his apprentice wage in 1985 without having to take a second job).

I work 37 hours a week—although I’m on flexible hours, so I’ve the option to work more and take time off at a later date.  The downside is that I work for reduced wages.

As a disabled person I can discuss work and wellbeing issues with my manager: for example, if I become exhausted at work and my productivity drops significantly, my manager understands my needs for taking a break-- or if I have to take my medication, I am able to do this at my desk.

I have flexibility with my hours and can come early and leave later or leave early and make up the hours another day - these are classed as reasonable adjustments, a topic well worth discussing with both your training provider and your employer when seeking out an apprenticeship as a disabled person.

I also have the opportunity to work in a good environment, and in a space I feel comfortable in (both metaphorically and literally—my desk is next to both a window and a radiator). As well as this, I always feel appreciated and respected by my colleagues, and I similarly appreciate and respect them.

My advice to anyone looking into an apprenticeship is to cram in as many extra roles as possible—I myself took up the position of fire warden for the office after our previous one retired. Aside from this I also try and pick up new responsibilities when I’ve the chance: during departmental meetings I usually try and comment on at least one matter and take on one new task. As of recently I’ve also started on a distance learning course, handled via a trade union, to pick up a qualification in equality and diversity.

Doing this will, all being well, make you essential to the organisation. Even if you aren’t kept on, this is still useful– it will mean a great reference for future employers, along with plenty of material for your CV and a wealth of things to talk about in job interviews.

All in all, it has given me more motivation and a deeper understanding of what I’m capable of.

In February, Luke came to the office and presented a webinar on: Apprenticeships: Benefits and Challenges

Luke gave an overview of what an apprenticeship is, including:

  • Who can do an apprenticeship
  • Different levels
  • How much apprentices earn
  • Where to find information

Disability and Skills Unit