Apprenticeship schemes help Faiza cross career bridges


A couple of hundred metres behind Faiza Khan the outline of a 1,000 tonne bridge looms in the background. In the short space of a few hours in December last year it was gently moved into place as part of a £225m construction project to install a Direct Air-Rail Transit system from Luton Parkway train station to the town’s airport.

Apprentice Faiza is part of the team that is making it all possible.

Born and raised in Luton, Faiza attended Challney High School for Girls where she took ten GCSE’s. Rather than continuing an academic career, Faiza was anxious to get stuck into the world of work straight away. At the age of 16 she had already decided that hands on work experience was the right pathway to choose.

Faiza applied for a position specialising in digital marketing within the Communications team at Luton Council, while at the same time completing a Level 2 apprenticeship in Business Administration.

“Digital marketing seemed to be an up and coming area and I already had some understanding of its importance through personal use of social media,” says Faiza. “It was great to get stuck in from the word go. With the support of the team I learnt to handle so many new situations. Even something that might be considered basic, like having the courage to pick up a phone and talk to a manager, was a skill I had to acquire. With each new challenge my understanding and confidence grew.

“One area where I improved a lot was writing. I had to write tweets, Facebook posts and the occasional press release as well as continually writing clear, concise emails which sharpened up my ability to use the written word – something which has proved really invaluable.”

Much as she enjoyed her time with the council, Faiza was itching to work in an environment that wasn’t simply office-based. The possibility of being involved in a major construction project in Luton afforded the perfect opportunity.

After a successful interview with Volker-Fitzpatrick Kier, VFK, that is delivering the DART project for the council’s airport company LLAL, Faiza began on a new apprenticeship in Level 3 Business Administration. She Initially worked in document control, administering the flow of vital documents between designers, engineers and countless contractors ensuring the smooth interaction of the various cogs in the construction process.

After five months she had become so accomplished that she was asked to train another apprentice so she could eventually move into another function of the project helping to support the vast scheme’s quality assurance.

“I absolutely love the flexibility that being involved in apprenticeship schemes has given me,” says Faiza. “To have so many people invest their wisdom and experience in me has been amazing. My mentors and managers are always looking for opportunities for me to develop and gain new experience while building on what I have already learnt.

“Being involved in two organisations that have my home town’s transformation at heart is a real privilege. The DART project, in particular, is not only huge, but it is such an interesting, technically challenging one. Everyone is so proud to be involved and I sometimes have to pinch myself that I’m part of it too.”

And the future?

“The construction industry provides so many interesting opportunities,” enthuses Faiza. “At the moment I’d love to be able to specialise in using my digital skills, but being flexible is key, so I will wait and see what lies around the corner.”

Sian Timoney, Deputy Leader for Luton Council, said: “Faiza’s story is a fantastic one. The council is thoroughly committed to giving young local people the chance to thrive as a result of the significant amount of investment that is transforming the town. We are delighted to have played a part in what looks like becoming an exciting career future for her.”

Phil Dobson, DART Project Director for VolkerFitzpatrick-Kier (VFK), said: “We are proud to have over 30 apprentices on the Luton DART project – they play a significant role in the dynamic and innovative spirit to be found in the Luton DART VFK project team.

“Our apprentices are integral to every area of our operations and can be found across a wide range of occupational areas. We believe that apprentices bring fresh ideas, boosting the vitality of our teams – for example many of our apprentices come from the local area and enhance and strengthen our vital community investment and engagement activities.

“After attending our Construction Skills Hub, Faiza impressed us in her interview and joined the VFK team in November 2018. Faiza is passionate about supporting our social value agenda and regularly volunteers in delivering careers-based activities benefiting local schools and colleges, sharing her experiences and inspiring our young people in Luton to aim high.”