Apprentiships

National Apprenticeship Week: how to run a successful scheme

By: Emma Wharton, head of HR, Sofa Brands International
Published: Friday, March 13, 2015 - 10:28 GMT Jump to Comments

The important thing to remember is apprenticeships aren’t new, in the UK they date back to as early as the 12th century. The apprenticeship model as we understand it today was introduced in the ‘60s.

Its main concern was to avoid the skill shortages in traditionally skilled occupations and for higher technician and engineering professionals.

After falling out of fashion, apprenticeships are once again growing in popularity and are starting to be seen as a credible alternative to university.

The promise of ‘earning as you learn’ and avoiding sizable student debts whilst developing skills in the workplace is very alluring.

If used properly by employers, apprenticeships can also overcome the skills mismatch that exists – where many jobs remain vacant as there isn’t a skilled workforce to fill them.

We believe that an apprenticeship scheme is without a doubt a great investment for any business. It’s a route that has been taken by many of our skilled master crafts team. However, before embarking on your own, it is important to understand what it takes to run your own successful scheme.

What are the benefits?

There are many benefits to taking on apprentices. Research has shown that implementing an apprenticeship scheme increases job satisfaction. This is because more experienced employees play a vital role in passing their knowledge onto apprentices, building personal pride and cementing their pride in the business. All of this results in reduced staff turnover.

From an employer’s perspective, as apprentices tend to enter a company at entry level, they are a more affordable investment than other employees. Advertising for apprenticeship vacancies is also more affordable than for other employees, as companies can publish adverts for free on the National Apprentice website.

In addition to this, apprenticeships are heavily backed by the government and they have significantly increased subsidised workplace training. Grants of £1,500 are often available to small businesses, with the aim of enabling them to take on apprentices.

I believe that there are a handful of elements which, when brought together, will guarantee a successful apprenticeship programme. There are many benefits of taking on apprentices, but it’s important to first understand what it takes to run an apprenticeship scheme.  

Do your research

Before you decide to start your own scheme, do your research. You may already be aware of apprenticeship schemes in your sector, but do not underestimate the time and effort required to run an apprenticeship programme.

That being said, these drawbacks are outweighed by the many benefits, such as increased employee loyalty and retention.

An investment in the future

Apprenticeships need to be a part of the long term business strategy. Apprenticeship schemes can’t be created in a silo, there must be buy in and support from throughout the business.

Although management may implement the scheme, its quality, success and longevity depend on those employees who will be guiding and teaching the apprentices each day.

Put the focus on the apprentices

It is important for an apprentice to understand that their role and contribution within your organisation is valued and not underestimated. 

Business must also provide clarity and support throughout. To do their job well, apprentices need a clear outline of expectations and scheduled check-ins to remain on track.

Business provides apprentices with a safe and supportive environment to learn and develop. Encourage them to take ownership of their own development by driving their own performance targets, seeking regular feedback and assessing their own performance at regular intervals.

Remember, recruiting an apprentice may mean your business has to deviate from its usual procedure - make sure you take this into account.

By deciding to become an apprentice, each person is actively choosing to learn on the job and is committing to a specific career. Look for individuals with a passion for your industry and a hunger to learn.

Your responsibility

Apprenticeship programmes must be developed according to each individual’s interests and ambitions. However, they are done so primarily for the business; whatever scheme you put in place must meet your business needs.

The training that apprentices receive on and off site must be high quality and with this in mind. Your apprentices should feel encouraged to grow and develop with the business, whilst feeling supported to find areas of the business they are really passionate about.

The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of The Information Daily, its parent company or any associated businesses.

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