SME view: Why we hire apprentices


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Taking on apprentices has allowed Tiger Cardiff to fill skills and knowledge gaps

Tiger Cardiff is a Welsh joint venture partnership, and a part of the Danish homeware brand Flying Tiger Copenhagen. I co-founded the business and, together with my fellow director Helen Corsi-Cadmore, we have three stores in Cardiff plus six more across Wales.

Apprenticeships have become a hot topic in 2017. An apprenticeship levy was introduced in April, and means that companies with a payroll of more than £3 million must make payments towards funding training for apprentices. New trailblazer apprenticeship standards are also being rolled out over the summer to try and improve the effectiveness of apprenticeship schemes across different industries and sectors.

As part of our hiring policy at Flying Tiger Copenhagen we have been very keen to hire apprentices. One we have recently taken on, Olivia, is a finance apprentice who has been studying AAT (Association of Accounting Technicians) accounting qualifications while working with us. Myself and Helen don’t have a strong background with finance but we wanted the business to have skilled finance professionals, which we felt that Olivia could become through her training as an apprentice. She was 18 when she started with us in January 2016, became a full-time employee in August last year, and is a huge asset to our business.

Highly motivating

One benefit we have found from hiring apprentices is that they are extremely motivated and willing to learn new things. When you hire a school leaver, for example, they are often very eager to learn and keen to succeed as they start out in their career.

It should, however, be remembered that apprenticeships and training opportunities aren’t just for younger people. There is no upper age limit to becoming an apprentice, although funding levels can vary. Older workers are equally motivated when given the opportunity to learn and improve their skills. We’ve previously hired someone on an over-50s back to work scheme, with a salary part-funded by the government. This was not an apprenticeship as such, but she came to us as a sales assistant and has now progressed to become a supervisor.

Learning skills

Because they are working in the actual role they are studying for at the same time apprentices are able to relate their studies to real world scenarios, and pick up skills very quickly. We are also able to ensure that the skills they learn are tailored exactly to the role they are working in, and train them in exactly what they need to know to succeed.

Before joining us Olivia had started an accounting degree. However, she decided that she wanted a more hands-on route for her career. The apprenticeship scheme enabled her to get a great deal of practical experience and the opportunity to gain qualifications at the same time. As we are a smaller company she’s been able to get involved in all parts of the business – not just the finance team.

Make sure the apprenticeship works for all parties

We believe that if you want to take on an apprentice it’s essential to have a good-quality scheme in place. It’s important that you consider how the apprentice is going to fit in with your business, and how taking an apprentice on will benefit not only your business but also the apprentice themselves, and also how they can benefit existing employees. We haven’t got it perfect every time, but we’re always considering how to bring more apprentices through who are motivated self-starters, and who are proactive about their careers and their learning.

Kate Methuen-Ley is a director at Tiger Cardiff, the joint venture partnership for Flying Tiger Copenhagen for Wales and Bristol

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