Our view of modern apprenticeships

Modern Apprenticeships easyNetworks article

Over the last few years, we have found ourselves in the fortunate position of being able to offer opportunities to young people looking to start their careers. We wanted to grow our team, knew we had sufficient experience and knowledge to mentor and support young people, so we decided to explore modern apprenticeships and how they fit into our company.

It soon became apparent that the modern apprenticeship scheme does not fit all areas of our business, so we adapted our approach. For example, no apprenticeship scheme exists for our specialist data cabling department, so the training providers attempt to match the closest trade, which would make most classroom learning irrelevant for their day to day work.  I believe the training providers do this because accepting candidates generates revenue for them. However, the modern apprenticeship scheme works very well for more mainstream business areas such as, finance, IT and administration.

For easyNetworks specialist data cabling positions, we located a City & Guilds training course that supplemented their day to day work, and combined with our detailed on the job training, we developed our own programme.  We refer to these “apprentices” as trainees.  This approach does not qualify to remunerate at the reduced apprenticeship salary, but we always pay a higher rate, more on this below.

When we first started looking at an apprenticeship scheme, we decided to work closely with local colleges. We learned that early Spring was the optimum time for advertising as students were starting to consider their options after college.  The training providers do advertise positions on their respective websites, but we found it useful to also post on a recruitment site, social media and our own website.

We chose to pay a little more than the minimum wage to attract the talent we were seeking and it worked exceptionally well with responses from a very high calibre of candidates. Whilst this meant it took longer to assess the influx of applications, it was time well spent.

TOP TIP: Don’t be shocked if you have communication with the parents of candidates.  I say this because, having only recruited established professionals in the past, it was somewhat of a (lovely) surprise.

I quickly learned that telephone interviews were not useful and I’ve observed this to be the least comfortable way for some younger people to communicate.

Instead, I carried out group sessions, followed by one-to-one interviews and candidates on the final shortlist were invited back for a half-day of work experience, so they could be observed in action, (I would highly recommend this approach as behaviour was often very different from that of the interview.)

Something I observed was some candidates had chosen their apprenticeship based on a subject they were good at – rather than what they enjoyed doing. For example; I believe someone good at maths but not detail orientated could struggle and/or be bored in an account’s role.

I felt it important to give honest, constructive feedback to unsuccessful candidates, with gentle advice where appropriate, and that was generally appreciated and welcomed.

Careful consideration was given to which member of our team would mentor each apprentice and we created a detailed induction and training plan so that trainees, apprentices, staff and management were all aligned to give the new starter the best chance of success.

We were detailed in reviewing our company handbook as this was new to most of the new starters and it was important that they understood company policies (especially for things such as what is appropriate for them to post on social media regarding their work.)

Some candidates did not have the skills we generally take for granted, such as answering a phone appropriately, writing well-constructed emails/letters, filing documents (electronically and physically) or time management and this needed to be built into our training plan.

The creation of, and deployment of a detailed training plan was paramount. This took a lot of time and resource initially, but all the trainees we have taken on since have started adding value to the team quickly, so it was really worth that initial effort.

In the past two years, we have welcomed three apprentices and five trainees into our business, all are still with us and one was promoted to a permanent position within a year, and we are actively recruiting for new trainees to join our team.

Word-of-mouth and our reputation have meant we receive applications when we mention new opportunities directly on social media and online forums, and we simply follow the same procedures we created for our first appointments. We have highly motivated and energetic new talent in our business, qualification training enhances operations and this has been a major contribution to the growth of our business.

TOP TIP: Invest lots of time with your trainees when they first join – it will pay dividends both with their motivation and contribution.

We are always looking for fresh talent and, at the time of posting, are looking for new trainees. If this could be you, call 0800 1313 100 or email hello@easynetworks.co.uk.

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