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Debbie Williams

Wiltshire entrepreneur is appointed Apprentice Ambassador

Debbie Williams, co-founder of one of Wiltshire’s most successful small businesses, has been appointed an Apprentice Ambassador by the national Skills Funding Agency.

Debbie, who runs John Williams Heating Services in Chippenham with her husband John, was invited to take on the role as she has always been passionately supportive of apprenticeships.

She said: “I’m delighted to be asked to be an ambassador as it allows me to show how committed I am – and our business is – to supporting apprenticeships.

“We’ve been in business for over ten years and we’ve taken on apprentices since 2011. We strongly believe schools and employers should embrace apprenticeships more fully. It’s a fantastic route to a sustained and fulfilling career.”

In her role as an ambassador during 2015, Debbie will be asked to undertake a range of tasks including mentoring other employers to share best practice; speaking at high profile events and hosting employer engagement events supported by the National Apprenticeship Service.

Debbie set up John Williams Heating Services Ltd with her husband more than ten years ago. At the time, she was already an established businesswoman running her own beauty salon from her home, but she was happy to take on the administrative side of the new enterprise.

Over the months, John’s workload grew and it became necessary to take on another engineer. Debbie found her customer service skills were called upon frequently to answer the phone, manage the diary and ensure customers were given a first-class service.

She finally made the decision to sell her own business and devote herself full-time to John Williams Heating Services. The business grew rapidly and now has a bespoke showroom on the Bumpers Farm Industrial Estate in Chippenham and employs 18 people – of those four are apprentices.

The Skills Funding Agency works with employers like John Williams Heating Services and colleges of further education to fund apprenticeships with a budget of around £4bn a year. It claims almost every employer with an apprentice – 96 per cent – report a benefit to business including increased productivity, the introduction of new ideas or improved staff morale.

Apprentices are paid at least the relevant minimum wage and training costs are covered for many apprentices. Small businesses may even get a £1,500 grant for starting a new apprentice aged 16 to 24 years old.