In April, during an entire week dedicated to promote hiring apprentices, businesses across the country announced their initiatives and shouted about their successes in moulding young talent through robust and rewarding apprenticeship schemes.
While these schemes offer a practical alternative to university for students looking to learn skills from the ‘real world’, businesses have a lot to gain in taking apprentices on board, especially as a way to counter UK’s talent shortage.
Bob Clift, head of higher education at The Tech Partnership spoke to GrowthBusiness on how growing businesses can implement the right schemes to give and get the most out of their apprentices.
Can SMEs keep up their growth while training apprentices?
Taking on an apprentice can be a very effective way for a fast growth business to get someone on board. Apprentices are generally enthusiastic and keen to learn, and their training can be tailored to match exactly the skills a business needs.
A Tech Partnership-accredited training provider is the place to start – the accreditation looks particularly at the amount of support employers receive, and everything is set up to ensure the apprentice becomes productive as quickly as possible. It’s also important to think carefully about exactly where an apprentice will fit into the business: what skills you want them to acquire, what tasks they will perform, which existing team members they’ll work alongside. This all contributes to a smooth start and early productivity.
What makes an effective apprenticeship?
Recruiting the right person is obviously important: a good training provider will help with this if you don’t have the right contacts and links yourself. You need to be sure the candidates understand your business and are committed to the time and effort involved – and that they have the right mindset and personality to work well within your particular environment. Time spent on the initial recruitment is never wasted, for either side.
The relationship with the training provider is important for both apprentice and employer. Again, it’s worth taking the time to establish that your training provider is experienced in supplying apprenticeships, understands your needs, and can offer the exact training you need. Look for evidence that the training provider offers a high quality service – Tech Partnership accreditation is only given to organisations that can ensure this.
Once your apprentice is in place, offer him or her plenty of support and ensure that they have a line manager who can be their first point of contact for any queries or concerns. Developing a good relationship with a mentor can make all the difference to an apprentice, particularly if they’re a recent school or college-leaver.
How can businesses avoid hiring ‘graduate divas’?
There are certainly some urban myths about over entitled graduates, but they’re largely untrue – most employers and new recruits have a positive experience. Once again, there’s no substitute for an open and in depth recruitment process, in which both sides understand what they’re taking on and what will be expected of them.
Graduates from courses that are focused on employer requirements – like the Tech Partnership’s IT Management for Business course, or its Software Development for Business degree – or which include work experience, are likely to be more readily attuned to the world of work.
But a tech apprentice can offer a real alternative to taking on a graduate – with a school leaver, you’ll have the opportunity to mould them, training them up in the way your business likes to work and ensuring that they develop the skills you value. Tech apprenticeships mean that the apprentice develops a rounded skills base and acquires well respected qualifications – and this can include academic qualifications like a foundation degree or a full honours degree.