opusCorporate gas and electricity supplier Opus Energy has been employing apprentices from Northampton College since 2012, offering students the chance to work in one of the most progressive companies in the UK.

The Moulton Park based firm has won plaudits for its commitment to staff development and has seen 44 apprentices come through its doors, with many working their way into senior management roles.

Melanie Berman said: “We are very keen on working with the local community and offering apprenticeships is a good way of offering opportunities for job roles to local youngsters.

“They bring lots of creativity, some fresh ideas, new thinking and lots of enthusiasm. If they have got the right attitude I think that goes a long way to making the decision to take somebody on.

“As long as they have got that sort of proactivity about them and want to learn, we can bring the rest to the party and work with them on that.”

Opus Energy have used the skills and knowledge of apprentices to quickly grow the company, becoming a force to be reckoned with in a competitive industry.

Mel added: “We are very lucky to have retained many of our previous apprentices. We like to ‘grow our own’ so we have them from the beginning and then the talent stays with us right through to senior management in some cases.

“We are refreshing the apprenticeship scheme now and looking at ways to grow it some more so this is a very much a part of our future.

“We work very closely with Northampton College and we are pleased with the relationship that we have.

“We meet regularly to discuss how the scheme is going and also the college come to us and have one on ones with the apprentices themselves to see how they're getting on.”

helen clifford.docxMature student Helen always had a passion for drama and had managed to find plenty of acting jobs over the years alongside full time and part time jobs in industry. Helen took the lead in the English film ‘Rose’ directed by Kemal Yildirim. She also featured in a comedy called ‘Surprise’ directed by Peter Hewitt based in L.A, that has yet to be released. On TV, Helen had a part in Vernon Kay’s ‘Wind-Up TV’ on BBC1 and also featured in a re-construction on the BBC’s long-running ‘Crimewatch’ series. On stage, Helen has taken roles in ‘Antigone’ at the Cockpit Theatre in Marylebone, as well as many productions at the Soho Theatre, London and ‘Colour Me Frances’ with local director Weekes Baptiste.

Throughout her career, Helen has juggled office-based work with her acting parts and used her holidays and days off to attend auditions. After 13 years on stage and in front of the camera, Helen decided that she would like to broaden her opportunities to work in theatre and found the HND Theatre Practice course at Northampton College. She said, ‘No matter how well I have progressed through the ranks, I have never been happy working in an office and always feel that the theatre is where I belong.’ The HND Theatre Practice course enabled Helen to study other aspects of theatre work including touring a theatre company, arts management, directing, writing, voice work and physical theatre.

As part of her college course, Helen helped lead on a project to deliver ‘A Day to Remember’ for families affected by the First World War including themed refreshments, an exhibition, and entertainment at the Royal & Derngate. Helen impressed the Royal & Derngate so much she gained an internship to work behind the scenes with the creative learning team at the theatre, learning about planning productions, workshops and events and sitting in on company meetings to observe early stage set proposals and agreements with the logistics and affordability of a range of stage concepts.

As a student representative at college, Helen took the lead for the student group as part of an inspection of higher education provision by the Quality Assurance Agency, ensuring that student feedback was heard as part of this successful review. Helen became pregnant during her second year and shortly expects to give birth to her first child. After taking a year out, she plans to top up her HND and complete her degree in drama at the University of Northampton. She plans to use the skills she has learned to work with applied theatre in corporate settings on team building projects after she graduates.

Helen said, ‘I really enjoyed my HND and it was nice to be able to give something back by working on the QAA review. I feel that I have really broadened my skills now and will be able to secure a greater variety of work in the future whilst continuing my acting career.’
ericWhen Erihs Janovskis arrived in Northampton from Latvia nine years ago, barely able to speak the language, he wasn’t sure what the future held.

With no real idea of a possible career, the hard-working student set about learning English and enrolled on an ESOL course, which he passed with flying colours.

He saved enough money to send home to help his mother buy her own flat, dramatically improving her quality of life.

“Latvia is a very poor country” he said, “it is difficult to earn good money. In England I knew that if I worked hard I could earn 10 times what I could in Latvia.

“The problem was that I didn’t know what I wanted to do.”

Erihs, or Eric as he has become known to his friends, found himself working at a local food manufacturer and quickly established him as a valued member of the team, earning a reputation for his problem-solving abilities.

He was recommended for an apprenticeship programme and begun an engineering course at Northampton College.

Eric impressed tutors with his insatiable appetite for learning, staying behind to ask extra questions or practice newly-acquired skills.

He was singled out by his employer as a shining example of a hard-working and committed worker and was put forward for a national apprenticeship award. Out of 470 entrants across the country, Eric won.

Eric continued his studies enrolling on a Level 3 BTEC Diploma course in Electronic/Electrical Engineering. Throughout the two years of this course Eric has consistently produced a very high standard of work achieving Distinction grades in all of the units.

Eric’s course tutor Ian Mundy said: “He hasn’t just produced enough work to satisfy the criteria he has consistently gone beyond what was required.”

For Eric’s final year project he chose to solve a real world problem that his company was having with the ultrasonic cutting tools used to cut the sandwiches they produce.

When the machine was broken down for cleaning, if the parts were not reassembled and aligned correctly the cutting tool would be broken, this problem was costing the company thousands of pounds a year.

Eric has produced a fully documented project that is so good it is going to be used as an exemplar of the quality of work required for a distinction grade.

Ian Mundy said: “This is the best project that I have ever assessed. Not only in terms of the level and detail of the documentation but also in the amount of work he has done to produce the solution in his workplace.

“It is a testimony to the quality of his work that it will actually be used by his employer once it has passed the stringent safety checks required.”

Eric, 28, said: “I am hoping to carry on my studies and progress onto higher levels. I enjoy it here and am very grateful for all the help and guidance I have received.”

lauren henleyLauren who studied level 3 Business said, ‘I had no idea about the alternative to school and A Levels and found that the style of learning at college suited me much better. In fact, I have got a place at a better university thanks to my studies at Northampton College.’

Lauren wanted to go to university but the first year of her A Levels in a school sixth form did not go well and she found herself with poor grades in her AS exams. Lauren was faced with the choice of re-taking the first year and staying on at school but she had doubts about whether this was the right option for her.

Lauren and her family hadn’t heard much about further education options at school and didn’t know that there was another route she could take to achieve her ambition to get into university. She came along to an advice session at Northampton College and found out about the BTEC option which meant she could study a Level 3 programme for two years that would be recognised for higher education. The difference was that the BTEC Business programme involved much more practical learning and would enable her to gain technical and professional skills rather than the theoretical knowledge of A Levels.

Lauren lives in Market Harborough and couldn’t drive when she started at college so she had an early start to catch two buses to get to the campus in the mornings. This worked out well as the course was not taught on every day of the week and she was able to engage in independent study on days when she wasn’t time-tabled in lessons. The journey become a lot easier when she learnt to drive and bought her first car!

Lauren also needed to improve her English GCSE grade for a university place on her chosen course and she was kept busy on her main programme organising events and completing other assignments as part of her coursework. At the end of her two years at college, Lauren achieve Distinction grades (D*DD) for her BTEC in Business and successfully achieved a grade B for her English GCSE. These fantastic results meant she was accepted by prestigious Russell Group University of Exeter to follow a degree in Business and Management. Since joining the university, Lauren has been awarded a £1,000 Aspirational Scholarship to help fund her studies.


diane mould resizedDiane Mould, aged 65, first started learning to read when her husband retired. Diane has overcome her battle with dyslexia passing her entry level one English course and has now progressed to entry level two English at Northampton College’s Daventry campus. She has even won an award for completing the national Six Book Challenge scheme.

She said: “Being able to read has made a huge difference to my life, not only in terms of reading books but just everyday life. I can now understand the signs in the shops and out in the streets, it’s transformed my life. I am very grateful to everyone at the college. It’s given me a new lease of life.”

Her teacher, Sara Mitchell, said: “I am extremely pleased for Diane and proud that she has achieved so much in a relatively short space of time. She found the opportunity to extend her reading while completing the Six Book Challenge a very satisfying experience and plans to continue with her classes at Northampton College through to next year. Reading is an invaluable skill, not just from a learning point of view, but for pleasure, information, and for the wider opportunities that naturally occur.”


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