The apprenticeship scheme was a no brainer for us at Serocor. We were involved in its creation and are aware of the quality of development and relevance of the qualification.
For me, an apprenticeship is an opportunity to professionalise the industry through a robust, external validation of the learner’s competence. It’s there, it’s good and it works.
Here’s what I’ve learnt along the way.
Get managers on board
Management engagement is absolutely top of the agenda. If managers see apprentices as low skilled, low paid, just here to deal with the stuff that nobody wants to do, the learner doesn’t learn anything, you don’t get an outcome, and it’s a waste of time.
The hardest lesson for me was getting that manager engagement at the outset – not just in terms of coaching, mentoring and developing the apprentice, but in terms of the manager’s perception of what the apprenticeship is.
Apprenticeships are for the long term
For us, the apprenticeships are a qualification route. Once an apprenticeship ends, that means that particular phase of training and development has ended, and you will move on to the next.
You have to think long term because otherwise it costs a lot of money. As an employer, we have to get a return on investment, and apprenticeships do require more investment. But it’s worth it because we see a reduction in the time to competence. They are more competent, more quickly than they would have been otherwise.
Make time for learning away from the desk
An apprenticeship often requires additional learning at home. They need to go away and practice, read and revise, particularly for their exams. When apprentices are doing really well with billings, placements and interviews, they can find that time away from desk quite difficult to fit in.
I work very closely with our training provider and assessor on a weekly basis. We have a meeting after they’ve assessed the learners. I ask, ‘Where are we at? Who’s on track? Who’s not? What do you need me to do?’ in order to provide the relevant level of support.
Make use of external assessment
Managers have the best intentions to be mentors and provide continuous development for staff, but they’ve got all sorts of pressures that don’t always facilitate it. We see the apprenticeship route as a method for independent continuous assessment over the 12-18 month period.
We value the opportunity for managers to sit down with the training provider and say: ‘Tell me objectively what you see. What do we need to do to close any gaps?’ You don’t get that without external assessment.
Change your mind set
We need to change the mind set about apprenticeships. An apprentice is not low-skilled, low-paid.
Our apprentices come in as junior recruitment consultants who happen to be on a programme of learning. They’re on a normal contract of employment, not an end-date contract. They’re not in a separate team and are fully integrated with all the other recruiters. They’re treated in exactly the same way as anybody else, in terms of pay, benefits, bonuses and commission.
Anybody that sniffs at apprenticeships because they see it as beneath them – whether that’s the manager, employer, or potential learner - they’re missing a trick. The apprenticeship is brilliant if managed properly.
To find out more about apprenticeships in recruitment, visit www.rec.uk.com/apprenticeships.
National Apprenticeship Week is co-ordinated by the National Apprenticeship Service to celebrate apprenticeships and the positive impact they have on individuals, businesses and the wider economy.