Two north east people in their early twenties who felt unsuited to their initial chosen careers have embarked on a different path in the diversity and inclusion sector after securing apprenticeships with eQuality Solutions Group (eQS).

Pavan Bhardwaj, 23, left a degree course in electrical engineering at Durham University to start an apprenticeship in business administration and Cate Weatherson, 21, has u-turned on her job as a carer to take-up a customer service apprenticeship.

Team leader at eQS, Jack Fisher, 25, appointed Cate and Pavan and he, himself, started at eQS as an apprentice, aged 16. He says apprentices are vital to a rapidly growing business:

“Apprentices bring a freshness and energy to the team. They have a lot of enthusiasm and curiosity to learn, progress, and impress. The skills we teach them are transferrable, of course, but they are also tailored to our company’s specific needs and values which is something you can’t usually get from an experienced employee who has learned their craft at a different business.”

eQS, which is a national company with a head office in South Tyneside, is a leading, global provider of diversity, equity & inclusion (DEI) services and products including consultancy, needs assessments, assistive technology (AT), training, e-learning, mentoring, coaching and inclusive recruitment – across workplaces and educational settings.

Pavan started looking into apprenticeships after realising his electrical engineering degree was too narrow a field for him and he was attracted to the concept of earning whilst learning.  Paven was involved in advocating and campaigning for disabled and LGBTQ students at university so the vacancy for an apprentice at DEI firm, eQS, piqued his interest.

He said: “Given my passion for improving student welfare, this role is perfect for me. Part of my job is helping students apply for Disabled Student Allowance and supporting them on that journey which can be tricky to navigate. I’m glad I made the move because business administration skills and qualifications open many doors, in many sectors and I’m enjoying taking on more and more responsibility.”

Cate worked as a carer in a care home for two years after completing a Level 3 Health and Social Care NVQ and although she liked the fundamentals of the carer role, she found achieving a work-life balance that worked for her, difficult due to shift patterns.

Cate, who lives in Hebburn, said: “I have always liked the idea of apprenticeships and a friend who is an apprentice recommended this route to me. Changing from a very active, hands-on role to an office position was scary because it’s so different and I didn’t know what to expect but to be honest it’s actually better than I imagined. I like the structure it brings to my life, I’m enjoying learning how the business works and how I can add value to it.”

Gateshead Council is delivering the apprenticeships on behalf of eQS.

Formed in 2006 in the north east of England, eQS has grown rapidly from a £6m turnover and 40 employees in 2020, to £15m turnover and nearly 100 people across seven companies, including four companies it has acquired. eQS aims to scale to £50m and 250 employees by 2028 and is actively seeking acquisition opportunities.