Case study: Make Shift

“Our apprentice has been a very wise investment”

Social enterprise Make Shift is a community of entrepreneurs, architects and designers who transform underused spaces into amazing places that inspire community, creativity and enterprise. Its aim is to empower local people and independent businesses to grow stronger, together. They appointed an Accounting apprentice in September 2016, who now acts as the finance ‘number two’.

Its first project is Pop Brixton, a community project that has transformed an underused carpark into an exciting destination built with recycled shipping containers and home for 60 independent businesses, including independent restaurants, street food traders, retailers and start-up businesses, attracting over 400, 000 visitors in its first six months.

Make Shift is now preparing to launch several new projects, based on the same principles. These include Peckham Levels, a scheme to transform the iconic Peckham Town Centre car park into a new creative community for local people, artists and entrepreneurs.

The growing importance of the financial side made it essential for Make Shift to have good support.

The perfect solution
As a fast growing start-up with plenty of projects in the pipeline the finance role became more demanding and Bradley Warren, Finance Analyst at Make Shift, started thinking about recruiting support.

Bradley says, “As a social enterprise having a newly qualified accountant was beyond our budget and I was struggling to find someone suitable. I was keen to find someone who was eager to learn and keen to muck in and, in line with our ethos, we wanted to hire a local young person.

When I was approached by Step Forward I jumped at their offer as their accountancy apprenticeship programme was the perfect solution to my situation.”


Apprentice Ivelina Mladenova was appointed in August 2016 having completed her A Levels. The Step Forward Accountancy course prepares apprentices for an AAT Level 3 Diploma in Accounting and covers topics such as, accounts preparation, costs and revenues and spreadsheet software.

The more you put in…
Eve and Bradley work together to complete a wide range of tasks in the finance team. As there are various projects running across numerous sites, involving scores of businesses it is a busy and varied role.

Bradley says, “Eve is effectively my number two as we are together the finance team! It’s been a very successful experience. I was really impressed with the talented candidates available from Step Forward. I’ll be having another apprentice later in the year and would strongly recommend it to other organisations.

He recommends that with apprentices, the more you put in, the more you will get out, “Ultimately, they are new to an office environment. Step Forward helps with this transition as part of the training, but you should also expect to invest time to help them quickly become a useful team member.

For instance, Ivelina and I spend two hours every Monday talking about work, tasks, the business and quite frankly, everything and anything to help her understand the role and our business environment.”

…the more you get out
Aged 18, Ivelina is taking the apprenticeship to gain strong work experience before deciding what her next steps will be.

She says that real world experience has opened her eyes, “So far I have really enjoyed being exposed to the real world of work. I have learnt a lot about finance, business and problem solving from my manager, something I know I wouldn’t have been able to learn at university. I have been able to find attributes of myself I didn’t know existed.

“I would recommend Step Forward and completing a year’s apprenticeship to everyone leaving school as it makes you more mature, you earn while you learn, getting tons of experience from day one.”

Like her manager she also recognises the benefits of getting as involved as possible, “The more you get involved with the company and complete your tasks efficiently and accurately, the more they will trust you. You would be able to get a lot more from your job.

“It’s very motivating to know your boss is willing to take some time from their busy schedule to ‘train’ me each week, teaching me new things. It makes me feel valued which will makes me want to work.”

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