Why online firms should employ apprentices, and why both sides can benefit.

Jane Field, founder of Jonny’s Sister, the award-winning personalised gift company, tells us why it's worth considering taking on an apprentice.

As a company, we employ uni graduates, people directly from within the workplace and apprentices. Each one brings different things to the table. However, in our experience, the right apprentice can be an excellent choice of employee. We have always found it to be a mutually beneficial experience and one that we are lucky enough to have had great success in.

Finding the right apprentice is key to success just as it is equally important for the potential apprentice to find the right employer. An employer who takes on an apprentice simply to benefit from the reduced costs rarely has a positive experience. Of course, their salary is lower than a regular employee, but the investment of time and effort on the employers’ behalf to really make it work can be quite substantial. A lot of the time the apprentice works in a super numeracy capacity and ideally they should have a mentor within the work place. Similarly an apprentice who joins a company due to parental pressure or simply because they could not find employment elsewhere, rarely succeeds.

The interview is key to both parties having a positive experience. We certainly do not take on every potential apprentice that we interview. As time goes on and our experience grows, we have learnt to look for key attributes that we know will contribute to a successful experience for both parties. We commit to offering a permanent position after their apprenticeship has been completed. If we do not want to employ them at the end of their course then we have not fulfilled our part of the deal.

FIVE REASONS A COMPANY SHOULD HIRE AN APPRENTICE

1) Hiring an apprentice means that we can train the person in the skills and techniques that we need right from the start rather than hire someone already skilled but not necessarily in our way. Going forward this can really strengthen the company’s workforce as you end up with highly trained and skilled staff.

2) We find that apprentices are more determined to learn and progress in their career. By taking a reduced pay, it shows that they have made a commitment.

3) By having apprentices work and learn alongside our regular staff (many of whom started with us as apprentices!) it creates a wonderful 'learning environment’ that benefits the whole team.

4) We have found that the right apprentice can revitalise and energise the rest of our workforce. By setting a good example to an apprentice, it improves the team’s performance, which in turn, improves productivity and creativity.

5) They come with no baggage in terms of business experience - a most refreshing approach to both life and work! We encourage them to question things the whole time. It can be surprising how often we will change a procedure due to a fresh pair of eyes than can see a better way of doing something.

SIX THINGS AN APPRENTICE GAINS

1) Apprentices can learn and earn at the same time (whereas University students end up with a load of debt).

2) Apprenticeships are a great ‘middle ground’ between university and going straight into the workforce. They give you an excellent qualification and lots of opportunities to gain additional qualifications all whilst working and earning at the same time. Indeed you can reach degree level as you progress through the different levels of qualifications.

3) An apprenticeship is a great plus to have on your CV and definitely makes you more employable. Personally, when hiring staff, I am always attracted to people who have done an apprenticeship. It demonstrates their drive and commitment to their chosen career path.

4) By being trained from the start by the company, career progression potential within that company can be greater. We always offer our apprentices a full time job upon completion of their apprenticeship.

5) As their courses can be quite broad they get the opportunity to work within lots of different areas of the business (at least they do with us!). Not only does this show them all aspects of how a company works but also gives them the opportunity to find out which area they are best suited to. This rarely happens when you take a regular job role.

6) They benefit from having a mentor during their apprenticeship. This particularly suits candidates who benefit from support as they learn; especially those that might find the transition from school to a job more challenging.

January 2018