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Apprenticeships at The Donkey Sanctuary more than just ‘donkey work’

Swatpro Academy trains people on behalf of all sorts of different employers, the client base, and numbers of apprenticeships offered, is very diverse.

The Donkey Sanctuary is an example of a rather unique client. Based in Sidmouth in Devon, this caring equine charity is no small affair, as its Learning & Development Specialist, Louise Carter explains.

“We’re one of the largest charities for equines anywhere. We have around 650 employees and they work in many different roles from grooms and farm staff, to fundraisers, supporter services staff, comms and PR, learning & development, many, many different teams,” Louise explains.

When you realise that the charity currently cares for 7,000 donkeys at 6 public-facing sanctuaries and 7 closed farms that provide a refuge for rescued donkeys in the UK, that number of staff is unsurprising.

As a large employer, The Donkey Sanctuary pays the Apprenticeship Levy and is keen to put as many employees as possible through apprenticeships.

“We recognise the worth of having skilled, trained staff. We’ve put many existing staff through apprenticeships, as well as recruiting new staff to take on apprentice positions,” Louise notes.

“Even if we didn’t pay the Levy, we’d still be supporting apprenticeships. Learners bring new ideas and new ways of working back to their teams. Having apprentices working with them bonds teams, people take pride in helping them, as well as helping us network with other organisations. I can really recommend apprenticeships to any employer. They really do give people the knowledge, skills and behaviours they need to do their job well and that benefits you and the employee themselves.” Louise concludes.

As well as giving as many employees as possible the opportunity to undergo an apprenticeship, The Donkey Sanctuary is also exploring options to share unused Levy funds, looking at aiding apprenticeships at partner charities, vets and other animal welfare causes.

The charity has had a long association with Swatpro Academy, which has mentored and assessed many of its apprenticeships, particularly in catering (the Sidmouth site features a well-respected on-site restaurant, The Kitchen) and in business skills.

“I can’t speak highly enough of Swatpro Academy,” Louise says.

“We’d love it every trainer was like them! They are so supportive. Jen Scott has worked with many of our catering and hospitality apprentices; she is so passionate about her job, always finding solutions, inspiring learners. Amy Fenegan has been working with administrative apprenticeships and she’s also a highly supportive, inspiring trainer.”

One employee who has benefitted from Swatpro Academy’s supportive mentoring has been Rosa Hanley, who recently completed her Level 3 Hospitality supervisor role, working front-of-house in The Kitchen, as well as gaining a Functional Skills in Mathematics certification.

“It was a difficult road for Rosa, taking an apprenticeship when, for much of the time, The Kitchen was closed due to lockdowns, but with distance learning and then visits from Jen, she persevered and we’re very proud of her,” Louise states.

Rosa’s apprenticeship gained her distinctions, while giving her a confidence a boost, Rosa says:

“Doing the course has really helped with my confidence and helped me to gain better experience at work, I feel lucky to have been able to do the course alongside my job. The support from Swatpro Academy has been amazing. My trainer Jenny has been understanding and supportive with me throughout lockdown, I wouldn’t have been able to complete and finish without her. I was also able to pass my level 2 maths with her and very grateful for that. I would highly recommend to anyone who wants to achieve more in the hospitality industry to do this course, it covers a great deal in all aspects of what you would need to know to be a supervisor.

I’ve really enjoyed it, even when moments I thought I couldn’t complete, I’ve achieved better and overall finishing grades have been better than I expected’. Rosa added.

If you’re interested in working at The Donkey Sanctuary, they are currently looking to recruit a Level 3 Sous Chef apprentice. All apprenticeship posts can be found on our website.

Apprenticeships at The Donkey Sanctuary more than just ‘donkey work’