Sussexc Skills Asad Ali and Commercial Supervisor Robert Fitzpatrick

Sussex Skills Solutions, the Apprenticeship and Skills Training Provider for Sussex, is a joint collaboration between Sussex Coast College Hastings and Sussex Downs College. ACES Sussex meets two different apprentices who have both been given the tools to succeed.

A question many employers ask is who can be an apprentice? Sussex Skills Solutions has found there is no ‘one size fits all’ requirement. One of their recent successful apprenticeship placements includes 69 year-old Mark Ellenger from Bexhill-on-Sea. Mark has just completed his Hospitality Services Intermediate Apprenticeship, working for AMEY, the UK-based support service provider. He is a committed learner and a huge inspiration to others.

Mark’s assessor, Beth Funnell, says: “Mark’s story shows that apprentices aren’t just young adults looking to get into the workplace. Apprenticeships may be suitable for adult learners looking to change profession, upskill or return to work. Mark has been a joy to teach, with his positive, can-do attitude. Whereas many adults will probably say they are too old to learn, Mark has proven that this is not the case at all.”

Mark now hopes to progress to Level 3 in the apprenticeship programme with Sussex Skills Solutions.

Another recent success story is that of 21-year-old Asad Ali, from London, winner of the Transport & Logistics award in the Asian Apprenticeship Awards 2017. Asad’s employer, Alex Ward (Regional Manager, Certas Energy), nominated him for the award. 

“Asad came to Certas for an interview and immediately stood out as an honest and ambitious young man who could, commercially, hugely add to our business,” says Alex.

In the first six months of his apprenticeship, Asad was learning everything from product details and machinery, to the supply chain process. He also had the academic support of the apprenticeship programme from Sussex Skills Solutions based at the Sussex Downs College campus.

In the latter part of his apprenticeship, Asad introduced multiple new business accounts, placing him in the top 25 employees, in a sales force of 140, in terms of results and portfolio growth. Asad also played a role in allowing Certas Energy to increase its portfolio of vehicles from 22 to 90 in the greater London region.

Towards the end of his apprenticeship, Asad hosted a Ryder Cup Golfing Day for his customer base. Sussex Skills Solutions supported the event and assessed Asad’s behaviour and relationship with his customers, witnessing first-hand the commercial value he brought to the industry. Within a short time of completing his apprenticeship, Asad was promoted to a Business Account Manager within Certas.

“Asad has shown that whatever your educational and cultural background, you can cross commercial frontiers with a strong work ethic and a personality that understands the commercial needs of your customer base,” says Alex.

Asad finished secondary school with a D grade in GCSE Maths. He now works in a highly numerical profession where 0.1% per litre can make the difference between a company being viable or a company closing down. Through his apprenticeship with Sussex Skills Solutions and learning the Certas way of working, Asad now has the numerical ability any professional would be proud of.

The apprenticeship opportunity has also equipped Asad with life skills, including learning to drive. He is now helping Certas Energy to develop the next generation of  apprentices.

Alex concludes, “Asad is very deserved for winning this award! He is a credit to the fuel industry, an ambassador to Certas Energy and demonstrates the educational value that Sussex Skills Solutions can bring to the workplace.”

The Asian Apprenticeship Awards took place in Birmingham on Friday 3rd November.

How Sussex Skills Solutions can help

Mark and Asad’s stories are just two of the recent successes celebrated by Sussex Skills Solutions. Across its provision, Sussex Skills Solutions has seen a 15% increase in combined apprenticeship starts for 2016/17 for Sussex Coast College Hasting and Sussex Downs College. The colleges have actively engaged with over 40 levy-paying employers and this is growing on a daily basis.

“There has been an upturn in existing staff upskilling by training in middle management roles including team leading and accounting,” says Stephen Burkes, Director of Sussex Skills Solutions about their current portfolio. “We are also expanding our portfolio to include Level 4 Management courses, which we are now accepting requests for.”

This year, Sussex Skills Solutions has also seen a spike in trade apprenticeships, in line with recognised skills shortages in this sector. Recent placements include Colbran & Wingrove Building Contractors, James Collins Guitars and Cheesmur Building Contractors.

New offers from Sussex Skills Solutions include Level 3 IT and new standards in Adult Healthcare, Hairdressing and Motor Vehicle, with more coming soon.

Changes to apprenticeships this year means there are new incentives available to employers. Businesses of all sizes are encouraged to get in touch with Sussex Skills Solutions to go through any of these in more detail. Contact the team on 030 300 39777 or visit

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