Finding and retaining top quality talent is an ever increasing challenge, and businesses should look no further than recruiting apprentices in order to remain financially viable, while building a strong, committed workforce.

The latest in our series of case studies looking into the proven benefits sees us talk to Datamere Software Solutions, a Wilmslow-based software development and IT consultancy that launched an apprenticeship scheme in February 2013.

Datamere’s Managing Director, Simon Slater, says: “Our decision to set up an apprenticeship scheme coincided with a move to new, larger offices. We just felt this was the perfect opportunity to expand our workforce too. We started off by getting advice from Stockport College and it all flowed from there.

“We currently employ three apprentices, one of whom has been with us since the start and two of which started earlier this month [March 2014]. Each of our apprentices is from the surrounding area and it’s wonderful to be able to give something back to the local economy.

“Apprentices are a fantastic, untapped employment stream, which is often overlooked in favour of graduates. Our apprentices are eager, loyal and ready to learn and that’s what we love about them.”

For businesses that demand niche skills from their employees, apprentices offer a blank slate that can be filled to suit a firm’s exacting needs. Even if a university-educated candidate has a degree requiring them to know the theory behind a type of software, this becomes redundant if the business has developed its own niche technology, as is the case with Datamere.

Simon explains: “Our primary software, which is designed specifically for the gas sector, is called GMS V4 and it requires exacting attention from staff members, who are trained to the highest level on all our processes and procedures. We teach our apprentices by pairing them with existing employees and ensuring they get all the help they need to perform their tasks to the best possible standard. We always treat them as fully-integrated members of our team and once they’re up to speed, the sky’s the limit.”

There are various ways to recruit an apprentice, as our free eBook explains, but a popular route is to collaborate with a nearby school or college, like Datamere did. While this approach is popular with some employers, others might prefer to outsource the entire function to their existing agency or RPO.

Elliot Robertson, aged 18, joined Datamere as an apprentice in February 2013. He says: “I wanted to become an apprentice towards the end of high school, rather than continue my education in college. I thought the best option would be to learn on the job, which should give me a strong skillset, and hopefully a long-term position within the company.

“I looked and applied for a few apprenticeships, but they either fell through or didn’t get back to me. I ran out of time and decided to go to college instead. I never took to college and decided a few months later to try again with apprenticeships when I found a listing for Datamere on the National Apprenticeships website, applied and was accepted.

“The option of an apprenticeship seemed to me a much better option than college and university, which offered no sort relevant experience or a guaranteed job at the end. It just seemed the most logical thing to do.”

Elliot Robertson, aged 18


St Paul’s Catholic High School, Wythenshawe

Xaverian College, Manchester

8 GCSEs A* – C

OCR Level 2 National First Certificate in ICT
(Distinction) Equivalent to 4 A*s in GCSE (2012)

EDEXCEL Level 2 Award in Functional skills ICT
(PASS) Equivalent to C in GCSE

OCR Level 2 National First Award in ICT
(Distinction) (2010)

I have completed my apprenticeship and I’m currently awaiting the certificate. The qualification is an EDI Level 3 Diploma in IT User Skills (ITQ Apprentice) (2014)

Apprenticeship details:

My role requires me to be able to program software and efficiently meet deadlines. I also need to attend weekly meetings to keep up-to-date on progress with the system we’re currently developing and there’s an expectation for me to contribute my own ideas. Now that my apprenticeship is complete, I can also help to train employees that are new to the business.