Case Study: Petra Kolar

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Petra Kolar

EMPLOYER: Meadowhall

LOCATION: Sheffield

COURSE: Customer Service Apprenticeship


After applying for over 100 jobs in one year without success, Petra Kolar’s spirit had been crushed.

She had come to Sheffield at the age of 19 from Zagreb, Croatia, in 2014 as an EU citizen with her sister Kristina.

Their lorry driver father had secured work in Stockbridge and his wife and daughters had to uproot, leaving behind their entire lives.

The sisters even had to leave behind their qualifications, which we not valid in the UK. Petra had completed studies in Business Administration. 

“It wasn’t an easy decision,” she explained. “When I arrived in the UK I felt like I had come to a completely different planet. I couldn’t understand people and it made me upset and sad. I wanted to go back to my country. I missed my other family and all my friends. I thought I would never have friends in UK.”

But she was determined to try to carve out a successful, independent life for herself in her new home.

She studied English for nine months, getting her language skills strong enough to head to Sheffield College to study full-time for two years.

I enjoyed college very much,” she said. “English is not my first language so studying here was very hard but I passed all my exams and all thanks to my amazing teachers.”

She gained City and Guild level 2 and 3 qualifications in business administration and GCSEs in Maths and English. But her qualifications seemed to count for little in the eyes of potential employers.

“I applied for over 100 business admin jobs but everyone said I just didn’t have the experience because I hadn’t worked in offices in the UK. It was really disappointing. I thought I was never going to find a good job. My life was going downhill. I really felt like giving up.”

She ended up working part-time in a local shop with her mum.

But her sister Kristina had found her way into a career - via apprenticeships. After contacting respected training provider The Source Skills Academy at Meadowhall, she had been supported into a business support apprenticeship role at Murray Steel Processing on Herries Road, a specialist steel stockholder.

She successfully completed her year-long Level 3 Business Administrator apprenticeship in summer 2019 and encouraged Petra to contact The Source.

Said Petra, now 24: “The person I talked to at The Source made me feel so much more positive that things could change for me. I felt so happy. Someone was supporting me and I didn’t feel alone.”

She took part in a Steps To Work programme with The Source to prepare.“Then they told me there was a customer service job available at Meadowhall Shopping Centre and I jumped at the chance of an interview.”Petra got the job in October 2019 and began her Customer Service Level 2 apprenticeship studies a month later.

She said: “I love my job. Good customer service is so important for every business. Plus I have lovely colleagues, I feel accepted by them and finally feel my life is on track. I am learning all the time, but earning a wage so I can support myself. I am absolutely determined to get my qualifications.”

“Through work I have met a lovely group of people who are now my friends. I am so thankful they accepted me and helped me with my English and being here, in different world.”

Petra’s boss Paula Windle, at Meadowhall commented: “We are really pleased with Petra’s progress. She is a great addition to our team and is learning both with us, and through The Source Academy. She has a bright future ahead of her.”

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