Guest Blog: Apprenticeships for homeworkers

Nisai virtual academy logoToday’s guest blog is written by Bernie Emery, and explores an exciting and innovative way to help organisations offer apprenticeships to people who work from home. I think this is an amazing opportunity for both employers and disabled employees who wish to learn and work from home. Bernie discusses it here:

As part of our venture into exploring employment opportunities for our students, I came across Evenbreak.  Not only was I enthused by the fact that such a company existed but I was inspired by Jane who runs the company.

But to put this into context, we run the Nisai Virtual Academy which provides mainstream education for children and young people, who, for whatever reason are unable to attend school or college.  Our services are available to all, however, we have developed an expertise in working with Hard to Reach groups including those with Medical conditions, LDD, Emotional and Behavioural Disorders, Mental health issues, Excluded pupils, Young Carers, Teenage Parents, Travellers, Offenders etc.

Many of our students have a learning difficulty/disability and we’re keen, not only to provide them with an education, but also to encourage their progression into further education, training or employment.  Hence my link up with Evenbreak.

Many of our students are housebound for either physical or emotional reasons and therefore the concept of “going out to work” is a difficult one.  In order to find a way to address this issue, we have been exploring “Virtual Employment/Virtual Apprenticeships”.  This is where the young person undertakes their experience of work in the home.  Whilst many occupations do need to be situated at an employer’s location, others don’t.  Take for example Data input or Business Administration.

Employment opportunities are extremely restricted for those young people who are unable to leave their homes, consequently we are keen to work with innovative employers to create new ways of working so that the valuable talents available within this group can be utilised.  To effectively compete in a global economy, UK companies need to harness the best skills and talents available.  Using technology, skills which were previously unavailable to employers can be made accessible and can lead to benefits such as reduced costs and increased labour flexibility for the future.

In addition to providing access to previously untapped skills, employing this group of young people ensures that diversity is inherent in the workforce leading to a greater understanding of diversity across the customer base.  Likewise policy makers need to support initiatives that provide opportunities for disabled young people to get a job and support themselves rather than being consigned to a life on benefits.

The concept of a Virtual Apprenticeship is straightforward in that all the usual “apprenticeship” activities (training, working, mentoring, and learning) take place, but the difference is that they take place in the Apprentice’s environment rather than the employers.  Whilst this approach may at first sight, seem unworkable particularly for traditional apprenticeship occupations such as construction and engineering, it is more appropriate for occupations that are predominantly computer/telephone based e.g. Call Centres, Virtual Assistants, Software engineers, Designers, etc.  Alongside this, it is much easier to overcome the barriers to delivering the mentoring and support normally provided in the workplace, with online classroom technology.  Using the live, real-time space allows the mentor and apprentice to communicate, share documents and work jointly on information and is the next best thing to “sitting next to Nellie”.    The added advantage of using this approach is that every mentor session can be recorded so that the Apprentice/Mentor can revisit the information if they need to clarify points discussed.

This approach is not designed to replace traditional apprenticeship programmes but is an attempt to enhance them.  An opportunity such as this can enable those currently excluded from the workplace due to their disability/condition and who want to work, to engage and become successfully employed.

There are numerous benefits to employers including the recruitment of loyal and flexible staff, not to mention the reduced need for office space.  There is financial support from programmes such as “Access to Work” that can help to facilitate this type of approach plus the added bonus of proving innovation and creativity credentials.

We are keen to talk to employers who already have home working processes in place and occupations that can be undertaken on line/telephone (e.g. call centres, virtual assistants, software technicians, business administration, designers etc.).

If you are interested in discussing Virtual Apprenticeships, please contact Bernie Emery at the Nisai Group on 07834 350875 or


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