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Learners travel on trip of a lifetime

Four ProCo learners have been on the trip of a lifetime, swapping their college life in Wigan for two weeks training in Malta.

Animal care learners at the Wigan-based training provider, Sarah Gartland, Rebecca Whitling, Derek Pitcher and Liam Ashcroft travelled to Malta to experience working in a different country.  

During the two weeks learners completed a work placement at a cat sanctuary where they feed, cleaned and groomed the cats and had the responsibility of completing health checks and rehoming the cats.

This work placement helped the learners experience handling different animals as well as develop their practical handling skills, which forms part of their qualification.

Nina Daly, Animal Care tutor who travelled to Malta with the learners said: “It was interesting for the learners to experience working in a cat sanctuary abroad with other young people from different countries.

“Not only did this help the learners develop their animal welfare skills, it also helped their communication and team building skills, which will help strengthen their future job prospects.”

As well as completing the work placement the learners explored the island’s beaches, visited tourist attractions including an aquarium, and had the once in a lifetime opportunity to swim with dolphins.

Whilst in Malta the learner had to cook, keep their accommodation tidy, learn how to look after themselves and use public transport.

Sharon Ashcroft, mother of learner Liam Ashcroft, said: “I am so proud of Liam for going on the excursion. It was an opportunity of lifetime for him to go and it has done him the world of good.

“This trip is the best thing that has ever happened to him; he has come back with confidence.”

This excursion is part of partnership work between ProCo and Everything is Possible, a non-for-profit organisation providing free international opportunities for young people via a European International Funded programme.

More international projects have been planned for ProCo’s learners. Three construction learners are travelling to Sweden at the end of April to work at a carpentry training centre and four animal care learners are working at a donkey sanctuary in Aruba for two weeks in June.


ProCo raises awareness of gender equality

Learners at ProCo helped raise awareness of equality and diversity by creating a short film highlighting gender equality. 

ProCo’s animal care learners worked with video maker Mark McLinden to create, act and film We’re all on the Same Team to raise awareness of gender equality.

The learners created a story about two females who were bullied by two males because they played football. The females challenged the males to a game of football and won. The males were impressed and arranged to play another match.

Helen Murphy, tutor at ProCo, said: “This project was an amazing opportunity for our learners to be creative and work on a project separate to their course.  

“They had a great time creating, acting and filming and it was important for the learners to understand about gender equality. They are now writing a story to raise awareness of racism which will be filmed in the next few weeks. ”

The film is now played at reception and during learner inductions.

To watch film click here: We're all on the Same Team


Motor Vehicle learners step back in time at the Museum of Science and Industry

Our motor vehicle learners visited the Museum of Science and Industry in Manchester to learn about the development of transport.

During the visit motor vehicle learners learnt about historical cars and planes and how transport has changed over the years.

Grant Partington, Motor Vehicle manager at ProCo said: “The learners really enjoyed the trip. It was useful for them see the development of different types of vehicles and how technology has impacted on the motor vehicle industry.”


Construction learners research into Liverpool's construction history

ProCo’s construction learners visited Liverpool to learn about the city’s construction history, in March.

During the day learners visited St. George’s Hall, Albert Dock and the World museum to research into Liverpool's history and compare the city's contemporary and historical buildings.

Alan Finnetty, construction tutor at ProCo, said: “It was beneficial for the learners to visit Liverpool; it broadened their knowledge of the construction industry and its past.

“Visiting the museum helped the learners to understand the constraints construction workers experienced in the past. There were no mobile phones to help with communication and all building materials were transported via sea.”


Veterinary Nurse Apprentice, Ellis Davis tells us how ProCo has given her a “light bulb moment”.

Ellis Davis has always had a passion for working with animals and she was given the opportunity to follow her dream when she joined Broom Cottage Surgery, Wilmslow, to start her Level 2 Veterinary Care Assistant Diploma.

Ellis said: “Completing my level 2 qualification introduced me to nursing. I gained a foundation of knowledge and it taught me the gold standard of being a veterinary care assistant.”

After completing the Level 2 qualification, Ellis enrolled onto a Level 3 Veterinary Nursing course in September 2014.

“I’m now completing a level 3 diploma, which I love. Studying the diploma is like put all the pieces together; it’s like a light bulb moment.”

Ellis works at Broom Cottage Surgery four days a week and has the responsibility of wake up patients and monitor recovery from surgery, she communicates with customer, she organises puppy parities, take x rays, admits small animals for ops and assists the vet during anesthetic and surgery. She alslo studies one day a week at ProCo.

Asked why she chose to complete an apprenticeship, Ellis commented: “Studying an apprenticeship is very practical. I’m not in debt by going to university, I have secured a job after training, I meet new people in the industry and I develop my communication and nursing skills whilst working learning.

“I like studying at ProCo; the tutors are very helpful they have the experience of being a veterinary nurse and they tailor the classes to support our individual learning styles. It’s good to be able to study with ProCo on a Wednesday and then take what I have learnt back to the surgery during the week so I can put what I have learnt into practice.”

For more information about our veterinary nursing apprenticeships visit:


Katie Miller, Animal Care apprentice at ProCo shares her learning journey with us.

How did your apprenticeship journey start?

My journey started in 2012, when I chose the option of doing my Level 1 Animal care, as one of my courses at Abraham Guest Academy. Every Friday afternoon I would go to ProCo’s Montrose site to and learn about all the different types of animals.  Loved the course and know this is what I wanted to do when I left high school.

I started to volunteer on the farm during the summer holidays. During this time there was a vacancy for an Animal Care apprentice and so I applied and was successful.

Do you think volunteering helped you gain an apprenticeship?

Yes – I think if you volunteer for a local employer or a community or youth group it will help your CV and application stand out from the rest.

What are your aspirations?

I am hoping to successfully pass my Level 2 apprenticeship and hopefully progress onto a level 3 apprenticeship so I can widen my skills and knowledge. One day I hope to be an Animal Care instructor. Since working at ProCo, I’ve realised that as well as working with the animals I also like working with young people  and this is something  I would like to continue to do once I have completed my apprenticeship.


Joinery Apprentice, Scott Simm works at Wigan company, SAM joinery and explains how doing an apprenticeship has helped develop his skills.

How did you get the apprenticeship?

Joinery was my favourite subject at high school, so I knew that I wanted to do a joinery course after I finished my GSCEs. Once I left high school I enrolled on a level 1 Joinery course at ProCo. Completing the course helped me develop my skills and build my confidence. When I was nearing the end of my course, ProCo set up a six week work trial with SAM joinery.  I impressed during the trial and so the company recruited me as an apprentice.

What are your day-to-day jobs as an apprentice?

I complete the first fix of construction jobs, which means I construct ceilings, floors as well as wall frames and boards so they can be plastered. I also fit doors onto door frames and fit skirting boards. I work with SAM joinery four days a week and I train at ProCo one day a week to develop the joinery skills further and gain my functional skills in Maths and English.

What was the biggest challenge when you started your apprenticeship?

I work all across the North West and the UK, so I have to wake up early –I usually start work at 6.45am. At first it was a shock to get up so early but I have got used to it now.

How has your apprenticeship helped you?

My apprenticeship has definitely developed my skills. My on-site skills have improved; it’s very different learning in a workshop and working on site in the cold. There is no better way of gaining the skills I need than by learning on the job.


Joinery apprentice, Darren Rutter: “ProCo is a good learning place”

Apprentice joiner at local company SAM Joinery, Darren Rutter explains how he became an apprentice and what his aspirations are after finishing his qualification.

Did studying at ProCo help you gain an apprenticeship?

Yes – ProCo helped me gain the apprenticeship at SAM Joinery. Before applying for the apprenticeship complete my level 1 joinery course with ProCo. I now come to ProCo one day a week to continue my training. I like coming to ProCo; its good learning place, the tutors give you more attention as the class sizes are small and they treat you like adults.

Do you like your apprenticeship?

I really like doing an apprenticeship. I’m always busy and my day is never the same, one day I might be constructing the basic structure of the building and another day I can be fitting skirting boards, doors and door handles.  I like learning a new trade as well as having the money.

What are your aims after finishing your apprenticeship?

I’m completing a two year apprenticeship, so I’m expected to finish my apprenticeship in October 2015. Once I’ve complete the qualification I’m hoping to become self-employed and set up my own business. Doing this apprenticeship has put me in the right direction.


Animal Care Apprentice, Laura Thorpe talks about her apprenticeship at ProCo.

My journey.

Before ProCo…

I studied my Higher National Diploma in Public Services at Wigan & Leigh College, whilst also gaining my GCSEs in English and Maths. As well as studying, I worked part time at the Disney store and gained my driving licence.

I always wanted to work with animals but never had the opportunity or knowledge about different courses available whilst at high school to allow me to aim for this dream. That was until I saw the opportunity for an apprenticeship in Animal Care at ProCo. I never thought I had a chance with no past experience, but I did my research and prepared myself for the interview and showed them how much I love and care for animals and I got the apprenticeship.

What I do now:

I am now doing a work-based apprenticeship in Animal Care Level 2.  Whilst learning all about animals and completing my coursework, I work 35 hours a week Monday-Friday, with the exemption of working every other weekend,  by looking after for all the animals we accommodate on the Urban  Farm, at ProCo’s Montrose Skills Hub.

Some of my daily tasks including feeding, providing water, cleaning, grooming, weighing, carrying out health checks, and assisting with classes – to name but a few!

We’ve recently had the opportunity to breed Guinea pigs and lambs, which was an amazing experience. I am thoroughly enjoying my apprenticeship and enjoy learning and being hands on with a range of animals every day of the week. When people ask what I do for a living, I usually say: “I’m a parent to 26 different species of animal” – it really does feel like that.

Where I want to be?

I am hoping to stay at ProCo whilst I do a level 3 qualification in Animal Care, as it will provide me with wider knowledge and a larger set of practical skills. After my apprenticeship, I hope to be given a permanent position in the Animal Care department at ProCo as I love the people, the animals and overall the working environment.

Wildlife conservation is one of my passions and would love to incorporate this it into the farm. I am travelling to South Africa in the summer, volunteering on a Great White Shark Conservation project for two weeks. It has always been a dream of mine to take part in a project like this and I cannot wait!  It is my dream to work with animals for the rest of my life and help conserve wildlife in any way possible.

How has ProCo helped you?

ProCo has given me the chance to reach my dream of working with animals. The staff are friendly and supportive and have provided me with the skills and knowledge to gain a career in Animal Care. I’m very thankful they saw potential in me and gave me the opportunity to be the best I can be.


ProCo marks International Women’s Day            

ProCo marked International Women’s Day by organising a company-wide poll asking whether 16 year-olds should have the right to vote.  

Inspired by the suffragette movement, the poll was organised to recognise the growing debate to make voting legal for 16 plus.  

Currently only 18 year-olds and above can vote in the General Election, however 16 and 17 years-old were given the opportunity to vote in last year’s Scottish referendum. Now there are calls for the voting age to be lowered permanently.

85 per cent of ProCo learners and staff voted for 16 and 17 year-olds to have the right to vote, whilst 15 per cent voted against 16 plus having the right to vote.  

Carol Halford, Chief Executive at ProCo, said: “It was beneficial for the learners to take part in the poll as it not only represents gender equality but it also highlights British democracy and values.  

“The poll also sparked debates amongst our learners and they began to discuss current political issues.”


Learners start rat training programme

ProCo’s Animal Care and Land-based department has welcomed three nine-week-old rats, Daphne, Willow and Poppy.

Our school groups will be able to handle the rats during practical lessons as well as observe their behaviour and understand their living conditions.  

Once the new additions settle into their new environment, our school groups will train the rats using a clicker. Clicker training is an animal behaviour training method which uses positive reinforcement to teach the animals.  The sound of the clicker tells the animal that it is doing the right thing.

Training the rats will form part of our pre-16 school provision.

For more information about our school provision visit: pre-16 provision


Learners visit South Lakes Zoo

ProCo’s Level Three Animal Care learners visited South Lakes Zoo to conduct an observation on the primates.

As part of their Animal Behaviour unit, the learners were tasked with conducting an ethogram on the primates, focusing particularly on instinctive and learned behaviour and aggressive and submissive behaviour.

Each learner listed and described the different types of animal behaviour they observed whilst at the zoo.

Animal Care tutor, Helen Murphy said: “It was beneficial for the learners to observe the primates behaviour first hand. The learners obtained a lot of data from observing the animals to help with their assignment.”


Veterinary nurse apprentices prepare for their final assessments

Our Level Three Veterinary Nursing apprentices have been preparing for their practical assessments to become qualified veterinary nurses.

A range of assessment stations were set up in the classroom for the apprentices to practice the practical assessments, which they will complete in the summer. 

Veterinary Nursing tutor, Emma Dalton, also timed the apprentices completing two assessments in order for them to practice completing assessments under timed conditions.

The practical assessments include:

  • Theatre practise task: identify surgical instruments.

  • Use a microscope and identify parasites.

  • Tube feed a cat and calculate the amount of food needed.

  • Sterilising surgical instruments.

  • Groom and handle a restrained horse.

  • Correctly put on sterile gloves and gown.

  • Apply eight different ways of a applying bandages

  • Dispense medicine.

  • Set up an x ray on.

In addition to the practical assessments, the apprentices will also complete a written exam.

ProCo is enrolling another Level Three Veterinary Nursing Diploma class in April 2015. For more details visit: Level Three Veterinary Nursing

ProCo raises awareness of teenage abuse

ProCo has raised awareness of the signs and effects of teenage abuse by organising a talk from Wigan Council’s young people’s violence advisor worker, Damien Munroe.

Damien spoke to ProCo learners about the signs and effects of teenage abuse and how they should report it.

Shannon Fillingham, Motor Vehicle learner at ProCo, said: "The talk was very informative; it gave lots of examples of different kinds of abuse and explained what you should do if you are being abused."

Helen Brown, ProCo’s Safeguarding Officer, added: "The welfare of our learners is paramount. It is vital that that our learners understand the different types of abuse and how they should report it."

Animal Care learners debate about animal ethics

ProCo’s Level three Animal care learners took part in an online debate about the ethics of keeping certain animals in captivity, as part of their Animal Ethics unit.

The idea of conversation vs. captivity is a major debate in the Animal Care industry and one which our learners have been studying about in their class.

Using our Moodle programme our learners were able to debate with class members about the topics and give reasons to justify their answers.

Helen Murphy, Animal Care tutor, said: “The learners enjoyed using a familiar and up-to-date media to express their ideas. Even the snow didn’t interrupt the lesson as learners who could not travel to cour centre due to the snow logged in from home to take part in the debate.”


Animal Care learners conduct behavioural observation

ProCo’s Level three Animal Care learners have conducted a behavioural observation as part of their independent research in Animal Behaviour.

The learners have been tasked with comparing the behaviour of a wolf with the behaviour of a dog. After completing online research on a wolf’s behaviour, the learners observed the behaviour of three dogs: a Chihuahua, a Papillion, and a Pekingese and will use their research to produce an ethogram.

The dogs were free to explore their surroundings whilst the learners were stood in a cordoned off area, away from the dogs, whilst observing their behaviour.

Learners took videos and made notes on the dogs’ behaviour which they will then compare to the behaviour of a wolf.

Helen Murphy, Animal Care tutor, explained that "the learners enjoy putting a practical slant on the science of ethology.”

This is the first year ProCo has run a Level three course and taught Animal Behaviour.

Sarah Gartland, Animal Care learner, said: “The observation was really enjoyable. It’s good to have a hands-on experience with animals and see animal behaviour first-hand.”

Steph Molyneux, Animal Care learner, added: “I found the observation was very interesting and it helped me so much with my assignment.”


Learners get an insight into life as an RSPCA Officer

RSPCA Animal Welfare Officer, Alison Wilford visited ProCo to speak to our Animal Care learners about her career journey and job role at the RSPCA. 

Alison, who studied a Higher National Diploma before working at the charity, explained her day-to-day jobs as an Animal Welfare Officer and some of the problems she faces.

She said: “You need a certain type of resilience and nature to do this job. It involves long hours and working night shifts.

“There can also be a lot of travelling on your own. One person can cover a very large area; my area of the North West covers Preston up to the Lake District.”

Alison also explained that paperwork and written statements are vital in her job role. “I always make notes when I have a call. It is very important to record everything to include in a written statement. I need to be accountable for everything that I do as the case may go to court.”

Despite the long hours and the travelling, Alison said that her job is very rewarding when rescue animals are re-homed.

Lucy Johnson, Information, Advice and Guidance Officer at ProCo, said: “It was great that Alison could speak to our Animal Care learners about her job.

“It gave our learners a good insight into what skills and qualities you need to be an Animal Welfare Officer as well as understanding what pressures a Welfare Officer may be under.”


Seddon Construction awards ProCo NW Learner

Construction Skills Learner, Kyle Golden has been awarded most improved construction learner at ProCo NW.

Kyle was nominated by plastering tutor, Dave Gee who said: "Kyle is a decent, honest young person who always does as he is told. He always gets on with his work and he is very trustworthy."

Ryan Jones, Project Manager at Seddon Construction, presents Kyle with a trophy and prize which was donated by the company.

Our picture shows: Project Manager at Seddon Construction, Ryan Jones, presenting Kyle Golden with his award.


Learner Forum launched

A Learner Forum has been launched at ProCo NW this month to help the training provider improve provision for learners.

Seven learners from different vocational areas sat with the Chief Executive, Carol Halford and Quality Manager, Jessica Nugent to share their views, opinions and discuss positives and suggest ways of improvement.

Each member of the learner forum has the responsibility of asking their classes views and suggestions and share these at the forum.

Feedback from the first Learner Forum is now being analysed by ProCo NW’s Quality team and will be fed back to staff and learners in the next few weeks.

The forum will take place every three months and the next forum is due to take place in February.


Construction bosses advise our construction learners

Leading figures in the construction industry spoke to our learners about their career path and future job opportunities in the industry.

Tony Costello and Ryan Jones from Seddon Construction, Tony Dougan from ISG, and Anthony Connor from LJ roofing, informed our learners about their career journey and how they progressed through the trade.

All four guest speakers started their careers as apprentices and have worked their way up and progressed through learning whilst working.

Our guests also gave advice about what qualities they look for in an apprentice and how to impress in interviews.

Lucy Johnson, Information, Advice and Guidance Officer at ProCo NW said: "It is a great opportunity for our learners to have a chance to speak to representatives from Seddon and ISG and learn how they progressed in the construction industry.

"Our learners found the speeches interesting and it was beneficial for them to see how completing one of our study programme courses can lead to job opportunities in large construction companies."


Animal Care learners awarded Health & Safety Certificate

Our Level 1 Animal Care learners have passed their health and safety certificate as part of their study programme course.

Shannon Lucas, Adam Curran, Liam Ashcroft, Alisha Turner, Dillon Prior, Megan Scrivens, Liam O’Toole, Lewis Gaskell, Bradley Dove, Jessica Hudson, Nicole Bamber, Katie Bladen all completed the certificate – a mandatory unit of their Animal Care course.

To achieve the certificate learners had to complete an online health and safety exam after attending theory sessions for the unit.

Congratulations and well done to our learners.

Our picture shows (left-to right) Lewis Gaskell, Liam Ashcroft, Nicole Bamber, Alisha Turner, Shannon Lucas, Dillon Prior and Adam Curran.


ProCo NW welcomes international partners to Wigan

ProCo NW welcomed representatives from international training organisations and businesses to Wigan in November.

Representatives from Malta, Spain, Portugal, Sweden, and Aruba travelled to the North West to spend a day with our learners and tutors to understand what ProCo NW offers Wigan’s young people.

ProCo NW works with a company called Everything is Possible and international training providers and businesses to give young people the opportunity to work abroad for two weeks in their chosen occupational area.

As well as showing them around of three sites we also took our guests around DW Stadium and Wigan Youth Zone.

Hosting this event for our international partners opened up more opportunities for our learners to work on international projects.

Last year, our joinery learners travelled to Sweden whilst our construction learners went to Estonia to build a skate park for Estonian youths.


Eco-Schools success

ProCo NW hosted Wigan Council’s Eco-schools event and welcomed more than 100 primary school pupils and staff at our Montrose site.

We held activities for the pupils during the day including showing the pupils our animals on the farm, organising an assault course and other games on the farm. Workshops were run throughout the day for staff and information stands were also set up around our site.

We received excellent feedback on the day, one school teacher commented: "the children loved visiting the farm; they especially liked holding the animals."

This is the second year ProCo NW has hosted the Council event.

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