Employers increasingly view apprenticeships as a rich source of future talent; securing the right candidate gives an organisation young learners who they can nurture into keen and loyal staff, eager to learn new skills from day one.
In fact, the value of an apprentice’s lifetime contribution to a company has been placed at £105,000 by researchers at Sheffield University, not only due to their cost savings but also their ability to increase productivity.
No business wants to spend time training and investing in someone just to see them join the competition. But by that same token, the best apprentices will want to take their experience forward and forge a prosperous career.
For any business to get the most value out of its apprentices, there are some key things to consider:
Be clear about what you want from the apprenticeship
The reasons for taking on – and keeping – an apprentice should vary according to the business’s needs.
Unsurprisingly, a measurable difference can often be felt most acutely – and most quickly – by a small business. At Oval Financial Management in Merthyr Tydfil, owner-manager Jonathan Williams needed to see more of his existing clients and accelerate the growth of his client base, but recruiting a large, permanent workforce felt like a step too far, too soon.
However, he is already starting to reap the benefits of having an employee. One of our Business Administration apprentices, Lucy, has now been with Oval for just three months, but already in that time, Jonathan has been able to spend more time with customers and grow his client base.
For another of our clients, electronics supplier GC Components, the fact they could mould their apprentices into the company’s culture and impress upon them the set of standards and expectations required was one of the best things about taking on apprentices.
Keeping them on soon became a natural step for the company, which has created several new roles for their apprentices over a number of years.
Look ahead to your skills needs
With one eye on future-proofing its workforce, a business can take a strategic approach to apprenticeships, plugging the skills gaps it is expecting further down the line with young learners now.
We worked with the Specsavers store in Barry, south Wales, who took this approach when taking on two apprentices with a view to becoming full-time members of staff at the end of their training.
The successful applicants are now working in permanent roles as Optical Assistants whilst the store trains up another apprentice.
Develop your apprentice’s strengths
Noticing and nurturing their talent – particularly when it comes from senior management – goes a long way in ensuring that an apprentice feels valued and part of the company.
This may take the form of encouraging them in a particular skill or area they have an aptitude for, or teaming them up with an effective and dedicated mentor.
And, just like regular employees, apprentices need performance reviews and a set of goals to work towards, with opportunities to discuss their progress and any areas they want to explore in more detail.
Talk to your apprentice about their ambitions
While the immediate imperative is gaining experience and a qualification, apprentices usually have some idea pretty early on of what their future ambitions are. To this end, pointing out career progression opportunities is crucial.
We’ve seen this ourselves with the team at Specsavers, who recognised their apprentice Nathan’s aptitude for lab work and consequently trained him to glaze glasses. It is likely Nathan will recognise this investment, and be more willing to stay long term.
Put simply, employers must make clear how the individual fits with the company’s own business objectives if they want to convert a strong apprentice into a permanent member of the team.
Continue to train your apprentices
Once an apprenticeship has finished, it’s worth investing in further training opportunities that will harness skills needed at a more senior role.
Higher level apprenticeship courses in team leadership or management will set them up for the future and ensure they are continuing to learn as they work.