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Lack of local candidates drives apprenticeships, says HRD

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Not being able to recruit talent from local competitors was a factor in creating an award-winning apprenticeship programme, according to language solution providers Thebigword HR director Karen Milner.

The company set up its apprenticeship programme in 2011, with 120 people going through the scheme over the past three years. Almost two-thirds (64%) have gone on to full-time roles in the company.

But one of the main reasons behind setting up the scheme in the first place was a need to save money by reducing the necessity to recruit from abroad, according to Milner.

"The thinking in our sector was often that if you wanted to recruit for the necessary skills you had to go to your competitors," she told HR magazine. "But in Leeds we didn't really have any local and direct competitors, so we ended up having to go overseas for people. The apprenticeship programme has meant that’s not as much of an issue now."

Training apprentices has also solved the problem of "long-term churn" that occurred with overseas workers, says Milner.

"Often they would decide, normally after around two years, that they wanted to go back to their home country," she said. "Apprenticeship programmes are a great way of reducing this kind of turnover and taking a long-term investment in people."

Thebigword was last year awarded 'Large Employer of the Year’ in the Leeds City Council Apprenticeship Awards, as well as being named a 'Top 100 Apprentice Employer’ nationally and congratulated by deputy prime minister Nick Clegg.

Milner puts the success of the programme down to having a "solid foundation" of core skills and making sure entry-level jobs exist for when people finish their apprenticeships.

"Our apprentices work on basic skills for about six months and if they show a particular interest in one area we will try to help them develop in that," she said. "But it's all for nothing if you don't have the entry-level roles aligned at the end."