The world of higher and further education is changing.
Graduate unemployment rates are up and recent reports reveal that applications to English universities are down by 8.8% compared with 2010.
As a result, young people are looking for alternative ways to enter into a career and, after opening their A-level results today, more than ever are going to be looking beyond university and at other options.
Last year, we invested in an apprenticeship programme. Our motives were twofold: firstly, we wanted to give something back to the local community (as a registered charity, we are restricted from donating to other charities).
Secondly, we wanted to explore the possibility of growing our own talent from school leaver age onwards. Although we had a few hiccups along the way, one year on we are so pleased with the results that we’re in the process of recruiting another batch.
Here are some top tips based on what we’ve learnt so far:
1. Trainees need to have time invested in them
Time must be invested in school leavers not just by their managers, but also by the organisation as a whole. It’s a real commitment – our first year certainly was a learning curve and we were quick to realise that all of our apprentices would need to have a real support network in place, which includes line managers, tutors and work buddies, if they were to fully embrace working life with us.
2. Build good relationships with your training provider
Training is crucial to the success of your apprentice(s) and must be aligned to the job role that they will undertake. A positive relationship with a training provider should reassure you that the training they receive in college will benefit both the individual and the overall organisation throughout the period of their apprenticeship.
3. Don’t expect instant results
There is a saying that you get out of something what you put in. An apprentice will take time to add value to your business so be patient in nurturing them – it takes effort on both their part and on the part of the people who work with them in the wider team. But it is also important that the apprentice understands what is expected of him/her from the outset and that they are given work and responsibilities from day one.
4. Find ways to build confidence
Because we put all of our apprentices through a rigorous interview process, we knew that they had the capabilities to succeed. However, the work environment was new to them and so initially they were fairly quiet and timid. What helped was our ‘hot desking’ system, which allowed them to meet people and integrate. We also found that a simple ‘well done’ or ‘thank you’ often worked wonders in building morale.
5. Build in study time
Once your apprentices have been with you for some time, it’s easy to forget that they are on an apprenticeship programme and are studying and working at the same time. Therefore, make sure that they are allocated enough time to spend on their studies in order to pass their exams. At the end of the day, you want to make the process as stress-free as possible so that they can qualify – and you can get an employee with the skills required.