Apprentice Challenge: Sheffield teen Emily Brownell gives young people good name

Model employee: SwitchstanceIT manager Angela Cuff with new recruit Emily Brownell.
Model employee: SwitchstanceIT manager Angela Cuff with new recruit Emily Brownell.
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A HARD-WORKING teenager has repaired the damage for a small business who suffered a bad experience with a past apprentice.

Sheffield-based company SwitchstanceIT is the latest firm to benefit from Sheffield Council and The Star’s Apprentice Challenge, which aims to get on to the career ladder 100 teenagers aged 16 to 18 who are not in employment, education or training.

The business, which provides IT services to companies, began as a one-man operation with consultant Matthew Cuff. It has expanded over the last two years to employ three members of staff, one of whom is wife Angela.

The company then took on an apprentice, but the young person they hired proved unreliable.

The experience made staff reluctant to hire another young person - a stance shared by hundreds of employers in South Yorkshire, making it even harder for Sheffield’s 1,393 NEETs to enter employment.

But help was at hand when Sheffield Council found a model employee in out-of-work Emily Brownell, 18.

Through the Apprentice Challenge, she was given pre-employment training and will have her wages part-subsidised for up to two years.

Mrs Cuff, programme manager at SwitchstanceIT, said: “When we originally took an apprentice on it didn’t work out, they didn’t turn up for work. As a small business it can be quite a big thing deciding to take on an extra member of staff.

“The good thing about the council’s scheme is they found five young people who suited the role and allowed us to interview them. Now it’s worked out really well.”

The apprenticeship is in business administration, but Emily also carries out research for the firm.

Emily, from Woodhouse, said: “I’d done two years at college but I knew university wasn’t for me. There were some apprenticeships around but they were in environments I didn’t really want to work in, like engineering. I’m really enjoying my job. I feel proud for getting it.”

Email at or call 0114 229 6186 for information on the Apprentice Challenge.