Making the most of your apprentices
Sue Skinner, March 01, 2012
At Britvic, we have just opened our search for applicants to our 2012 apprenticeship programme.
As we start looking through the candidates' CVs, I started to think how important it is that both the potential entrant and the recruiting organisation put sufficient time and effort into the selection process, to make the most of the scheme.
We have been running our nationwide programme since 2010, as engineering skills are essential to our business. We make sure that our apprentices learn the vital skills that work best for our organisation, through a mix of on-the-job training, classroom learning and other development opportunities. So far we have taken on fourteen apprentices and we have just begun our search for even more budding engineers.
It's so important to make sure you recruit the right people; you will invest a lot in them over the course of the training. Before you start, think about the type of candidate that will help to take the business forward. Apprentices need to demonstrate, in their application, that they have a willingness to take responsibility, a desire to progress and a sense of loyalty. This means they need to have researched the market as well as your business, knowing exactly why they want to work for you. Finding people who have the potential to progress through the company means that, one day, they could end up running it. When recruiting, it's also important to remember that, as well as attracting outside talent, apprenticeships can open up a new career path to existing employees, increasing staff motivation and retention.
One of the major benefits of an apprenticeship scheme is that, when structured well, it tailors experience to your business' exact needs. In addition, you can train people in skills that may be few in the market, and developing them on-site means that you align them closely to your business' way of working.
For both the new recruit and the organisation, it's important to combine both on and off the job training. The requirements of the scheme need to be clear, including various activities and modules within the programme and providing exposure to different areas and people within the business. Marking progress, with clear milestones to be achieved over the course of the programme is also important, as is a defined support network of people to help recruits build their confidence. At Britvic, we give each apprentice a technical buddy and business mentor, which provide access to networks of people in similar situations. We have regular development days and social events where apprentices are encouraged to share their experiences in an informal environment.
It's important to think of apprentices in the long term; not just their initial training period. Those who meet your performance expectations must have a job at the end of the programme and a clear idea of how they will fit into the business moving forwards. Letting an apprentice go at the end of their training sends a very poor message about how your business values its people; it's a two way investment of time and commitment. The Warwick Institute of Employment Research shows that the time required for employers to recoup their investment is between two and three years. Keep checking in with your employees, making sure they continue to be happy and inspired. Monitor the work they are contributing to and you will see firsthand the positive investment which they bring to the business.
Sue Skinner (pictured), director of HR delivery at Britvic